Justifying the Means

The other day, I was with a few of my friends talking about who our patron Saint was going to be in this new group we want to form (#CatholicProblems). At one point a few of them got bored, so they decided to play a game while we were talking. The game?

Cards Against Humanity.

If you don’t know what it is because you’ve never played it, my hat’s off to you. All you need to know is that it’s more or less the mature content version of Apples to Apples (probably more mature content and less Apples to Apples). With this in mind, you can imagine my disgust when my friends decided to play it… when we had just been talking about Saints.

When I asked the aforementioned friend about this seeming contradiction, I was informed that the game is “just for fun” and, because of that, it’s not that bad. But here’s the thing: the end doesn’t justify the means.

For my friends, the fact that they were going to have fun was enough to negate the fact that the game was practically an invitation for a dirty conversation. And their belief in their inability to be affected by such a conversation was enough to negate their knowledge that no one is above temptation.

Now, don’t get me wrong- my friends are good people. They’re the kind of people who get up way too early on a Saturday morning so we can all go to Mass and then plan middle school youth group nights for the upcoming month. But that just goes to show how much a little “justification” can do when someone who is otherwise a decent person wants to do something, but the way in which it will be done is somewhat questionable.

Or here’s another example: There was this book trilogy that I absolutely loved. I loved the characters, and the mood of story, and simply everything about it. But it had several scenes in which the characters acted in ways that went against everything I had ever learned. In spite of this, I continued to read it. I told myself that I knew what they were doing was wrong, and it’s not like I was ever going to do that, and -most of all- because I liked the story, it would be okay to keep on reading.

It took me a lot of thinking to realize that my happiness from reading the story didn’t justify the fact that I was leaving myself open to bad influences because I was searching for the wrong kind of happiness. And that’s really the root of the matter- it’s not just about justification, but it’s about our warped idea of happiness.

You see, if we were searching for true joy, we wouldn’t have to worry about justifying ourselves. Why? Because God is the source of true joy, and if we’re truly seeking Him, we wouldn’t do anything that would offend Him. In short, we wouldn’t do anything that would have to be “jusified.”

My point is simply that we need to be more aware of the means by which we attain something. It’s like a math problem- it doesn’t matter that you have the answer if you have no idea how you got that answer. So when you’re choosing a book to read, or a movie to watch, or a game to play, make sure the happiness you will gain by doing it is worth the cost.

To wrap up, I’ll offer a few practical tips on choosing entertainment that doesn’t require justification:

1) If a book has profanities, sexual scenes, or witchcraft (or all of the above) it doesn’t matter how good the plot is. (I just did a recent post all about choosing good books, so you can check that out if you want a more in depth explanation.)

2) Same thing applies to movies, although in movies you also have to watch out for general themes (such as provocative clothing) as well as explicitly bad scenes.

3) If a song has profanities, references to inappropriate behaviors and/or drugs, or if it evokes emotions such as anger or depression, it doesn’t matter how catchy the tune is.

4) If the entertainment in a game relies on suggestive, obscene, or otherwise immature content, (we’re looking at you, Cards Against Humanity) then you shouldn’t be playing it.

Hopefully you find this useful, and if you have any other tips on discerning between something truly good and something that has to be justified, don’t hesitate to tell us in the comments! 🙂

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