Ever Tried a Toad?

Pope Francis

My brother put fried frog legs on my plate once at a Chinese Restaurant. No – NOT because I like delicacies, but to laugh at the disgust on my face. Needless to say, the frog legs never made it into my mouth. I can only imagine how much worse my reaction would be to a toad.

In his daily homily on January 24, Pope Francis said the following: “Humility, meekness, becoming all things to everyone and also – but this is not written in the Bible – all of us know that to do these things you have to swallow so many toads. But, we must do it.” Thank you, Pope Francis, for making me laugh, while getting across a VERY true message. Point well taken.

The Pope proceeded to talk about the importance of dialogue and building bridges, rather than building up walls and resentment.

Perhaps his talk rang so true partly because of my location. The Middle East has been renowned in the past decades for unrest and division due to the many different religious, political and cultural factions that coexist in a relatively small region. It’s going to take a lot of toad swallowing, dialogue and bridges to break the cycle of violence that continues to plague the region, most notably through the Syrian civil war.

That being said, the Pope’s message wasn’t for the Middle East – it was for East and West, and for all of us as individuals.

All of us face people that differ from us on a daily basis, regarding faith, morals, politics, parenting styles and much more. All of us therefore have opportunities to dialogue and build bridges, or to get our back up, reaffirm our superiority, and leave an already massive wall even higher. Unfortunately, when discussions come up, it’s easy to focus more on our ego than the issue. Bottom line: I’m right – deal with it. And to prove it, I’ll use scripture, the saints and a lot of morality or alternatively the tolerance or “rights” talk. Unfortunately, this places religion in the wrong place, as a weapon defending our own point of view at the expense of often unnecessarily wounding others.

Ego – that desire to be first is hard to get over. I’ve never heard it described better than as swallowing a toad! The idea of not having the last word or proving that we’re right is repugnant, and when we even begin trying to get over it, we gag. After all, we ARE right, aren’t we? So why shouldn’t we push our point? We wouldn’t want the other person to remotely think we might be unable to defend our position to the max.

Usually, that won’t happen – if anything, the other person would probably be edified by your gentleness, willingness to listen to their side of things, and willingness to refrain from forcing your view on them. Sort of like the world has reacted to Pope Francis – edified that while his position is the same as the Church as always held, he’s more focused on loving individuals, Christian or not, than on forcing any position of the Church on them.

Here’s to hoping many people take this advice to heart, and are willing to swallow big or little toads to reach out to others to heal, build and spread God’s love!

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