[OPINION] Collaborate and compromise for the common good
“For many of us, no presidential candidate ticks all of our boxes”
Community discernment is a spiritual practice and a resource for all constituents, grounded in the common good. We vote in solidarity, for the good of all, especially the most vulnerable.
However, for many of us, no presidential candidate ticks all of our boxes: a candidate may have a good plan to respond to the pandemic but has a questionable stance on mining and the environment. Another might have a strong platform against corruption, but has plans that will continue to harm the LGBTQ+ community. With the many conflicting options before us, our discernment must be done in a spirit of collaboration and compromise with the common good in mind.
I. Enter into community discernment
Ignatius of Loyola and the first Jesuits themselves encountered difficulties of discernment. Their community discernment took place over several days of prayer and discussion, with many disagreements. As one of the first Jesuits recounted, “When it came to knowing what means would be most effective and fruitful, both for us and for our neighbour, there was a plurality of points of view “. Likewise, even our own revolutionaries encountered a plurality of views on how to combat Spanish colonization. While we may all want the common good for this country, how the common good takes shape and the means to achieve it appear from many different perspectives.
In community discernment based on the spiritual exercises, the early Jesuits emphasized the need for self-examination, meditation, and directed prayer to attain certain attitudes that free the mind and heart to seek truth and let go of disordered attachments and prejudices. This is at the heart of Ignatian spirituality – an inner freedom that allows the person to make decisions not out of fear, anxiety or anger, but out of love.
A discerning person must be knowledgeable about the issues surrounding their discernment and truly understand what the alternatives really mean. They then consider these options only “in so far as they contribute to its end”, and in a community discernment, only towards the common good. It was with these dispositions that the first Jesuits entered into dialogue with each other and made decisions together – an inner freedom informed and listened to alternatives.
In highlighting them here, we view these provisions as invaluable for collaboration and compromise in our own community discernment for the upcoming elections – compromising in their drive to achieve the common good, not compromising in dictating their own good. Our invitation is for you to enter into discernment with these provisions in mind – to vote not out of fear, anxiety or anger, but out of love and for the common good; to vote with an inner freedom that has got rid of the attachments that obscure our view of the truth; see beyond misinformation and actually take the time to learn about the many issues that inform our vote; and to actually listen to other voices beyond our usual echo chambers.
II. Choice of weighing
With the plurality of points of view available to us, we must discern with this interior freedom and in the light of the common good. We choose platforms and leaders only to the extent that they help us achieve the long-term common good. Discernment invites a person to choose what truly considers the well-being of all – to understand that goods are interconnected and that the work to build the common good depends not just on one person but on the participation of people, and that this work is a continuous work process taking into account our limits and our human insufficiencies. Using the measure of the common good, we ask some questions to help assess which disagreements are non-negotiable and which we can still compromise on:
What disagreements violate the common good (which includes individual flourishing) irreparably: disagreements that demean life – human or non-human – or promote vices rather than virtues and values? What disagreements create systems and structures that encourage us to think and value “what brings me” without thinking about how our decisions would affect others? These disagreements, these forms of compromise in the face of injustice, must be rejected.
What disagreements require us to sacrifice in the short term, but can be worked together in the long term? This is perhaps something we can compromise on, provided the risks and sacrifices are assumed fairly and not just imposed on a group of people, especially if that group is vulnerable or marginalized. And so we have to ask the following question:
With whom can we work and dialogue on these disagreements? Who allows this dialogue to take place? Who will listen and truly consider the different needs in a healthy compromise where the long-term common good is achieved? When we listen to the candidates, whose vision makes it possible to have a “we” and not just an “I” when they talk about plans to move our country forward, since the common good passes through these linked interests? What are the political positions that leave room for dialogue and conversation, rather than just having the last word on the issue? What platform allows collaboration in dialogue between diverse groups, rather than a concealment of injustice and truth, under the guise of respect and unity?
Discernment as a spiritual practice prepares the ground for everyone to enter into useful dispositions, to face important questions and to vote freely for the common good. Our listening and careful consideration of the many visions before us are invaluable in how we vote in May and how we continue to work for a better country beyond the election. – Rappler.com
Stephanie Ann Puen, PhD is theologian and ethicist at Ateneo de Manila University. She has taught and researched economics and business ethics, Catholic social thought, sexual ethics, theology, and popular research at Ateneo de Manila University and Fordham University in New York. . Follow her on Twitter @profspuen.
Raphael Yabut is a graduate student in theology and education at Boston College, USA. He taught undergraduate theology at the Ateneo de Manila University. Follow him on Twitter @yabsyabuts.