Give Yourself a But Check

Today Little Girl was finishing her flip-book for the Ten Commandments lessons we’ve done in religious education. (We have been schooling year-round now, taking breaks when we travel – which is frequently.) Her book from Seton explains what each of the Commandments means to a child of five or six. We read each commandment and what it meant, and Little Girl illustrated her book to show the meaning “for her.”

Well, today was the last page of her book. When we talked about the Tenth Commandment (“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods”), I started to give an example by citing Shiloh, the movie based on the book. We’d watched the beginning of the movie yesterday, leaving off in the middle to watch the rest today. In the story, a boy finds the new hunting dog of a local man. The boy believes the man is abusing the dog and tries to find a way to purchase the dog from him. However, the dog runs away, and the boy winds up hiding the dog and practically stealing it. I told the girls that it was an example of coveting. The boy was willing to steal the dog in order to “save it from its cruel master.”

This progressed into a discussion of the meaning of “the ends don’t justify the means” and “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”

Big Girl did not like the idea that the hero of the story was committing a sin. Not. One. Bit. I actually had her in tears over it. “He didn’t mean to covet! He just wanted to save the dog!”

But, still, it’s a hard lesson to learn. In big things, the girls understand that they should not sin to get to something good. But when they look at this story – a boy hiding someone’s animal from him because he believes it’s being mistreated – they have a difficult time accepting that it would not be right for the boy to act the way he did.

It’s going to be tough going to help them to understand that even this is not right in God’s eyes.

But, then again, it’s tough for adults to see it, too. And none of us are innocent in this regard.

“I know I’m speeding, but I’m on the way to church.”

“I know the cashier gave me too much change, but it was such an aggrivation to do the return that I won’t say anything.”

“I know I shouldn’t gossip, but I really think she needs to know the details of this.”

“I know we aren’t supposed to contracept, but I have such a hard time when I’m pregnant.”

“I know we’re supposed to go to Mass every Sunday, but we’re on vacation and we don’t know where the church is.”

One thing that can help us in discerning if something is, indeed, morally right is to give it the But Check.

If you start off with “I know I’m not supposed to [fill in the blank] ” and then proceed with “…but…” then you really do know what you are to do. It would be morally right to not do the thing before that But.

So to do what’s right, just check your But.

One thought on “Give Yourself a But Check

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