Hypothetical love thy neighbor sort of situation


Note, I am 17 and a Catholic novice, so if this sounds, weird, inarticulate, stupid, offensive, etc. please do not be too harsh on me. I am sorry if I cannot articulate the problem well, but this has been bugging me for a while now. I have read Ratzinger’s Introduction to Christianity not too long ago and there was this point repeated constantly that man does not live and cannot live by himself or for himself. Even God is a mutual exchange of Persons, and so mankind must exist in a relationship with one another and with God. It is hard to explain; that book was pretty dense and took forever to read and I hope there are people here who know what I am talking about. I do not disagree with any of his arguments, but that got me thinking about a certain scenario when leading a good Christian life would be extremely difficult based on the principle of this inter-connection.

I am not sure how common this is, but I was wondering how can someone grow in holiness, love thy neighbor, when he or she has some sort of deep flaw or disorder of the personality or mind that not only keeps them from being able to maintain relationships, but can easily do massive damage to the lives of anyone who gets close to him or her. This person can hold down a job, but cannot have friends or a spouse because of certain tendencies that are fixed or, at least, appear fixed. Yet, this person recognizes that potential damage he or she could do. And let say, out of love for others, he or she isolates themselves or socializes only casually but keeps others from getting too close in such a manner that no one know him or her well as a person.

I know this is kind of weird and sorry if I am not being articulate, but what is there left for someone in this situation? It is out of love that this person avoids closeness with others as if he or she is carrying the plague, but how can they continue to love his or her neighbors, to give selflessly of him or herself to others, the rest of his or her life after that point? Sure, he or she can still have a relationship with God, but, at least in my experience, God is very difficult to pray to, talk to, or even have a clear idea of if one has difficultly with relativity on the human level. Maybe there would be less difficultly without the Trinity, but that is not the case.

So this person cannot make close contact with others in order to love according to his or her faith, nor would it be easy for him or her to pray. Does such a situation actually exist or , do people who have such serious problems generally are not aware they have a problem and try to go about normally? Or, if people do actually feel as though they could emotionally, socially, spiritually, but not physically harm others unintentionally and easily are mistaken in thinking they are like a land mine or something. I am not talking about potential physical damage. When this comes to mind, I often think of the times when there is a thread on which someone asks for help with a problem relative or friend that makes the lives of those around him or her hell without violence. That would be closer to what I am thinking of, but in my hypothetical scenario, the person knows his or her tendencies and takes preventative measures via isolation.

I hope I am being clear and this was not a waste of a thread. This scenario has been on my mind a while and I figured I will never get over it until I present it to someone. I hope I did not break any forum rules. I did not intend to do so. I am not asking for mental health advice, this goes more along the lines of person cannot do A and B and what can he or she do or has C and D that pose as a challenge towards living his or her Faith what can he or she do? Or, if this is not an actual problem occurring in real life let me know. Thanks.


It would be unwise to take everything literally in every sense. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger seems to be speaking in normative language. Obviously someone stranded alone on a deserted island is not forsaken by God simply because they can’t live in a community. If a person must live alone because of necessity or prudence, God will work with that love for the good of others. That person may be alone in one sense, but deserted island or not, they are still mystically united to the body of Christ which includes all Christians here on earth and in heaven/purgatory. Draw strength from this union.

Also, we can always change for the better. You must have hope of that - for yourself, for others - even if it seems unlikely. Don’t despair, which can be sinful. You, or your hypothetical person, can still find companionship. Still, the person needs to work on the relationship with God, even if it’s hard, since that will be the foundation and blessing of every human relationship entered as well.


This is an interesting question you pose, and it seems to me you are pretty mature for a 17 yr old.

I don’t understand why people might just totally disappear on you. From a sensitive person’s perspective, this is very hurtful and the lack of being able to understand why the other person did it makes it all the worse. But people most of the time do not intentionally cause harm to people, so maybe they just think what they are doing is the best thing to do.

Many of us have deep flaws. Some of us are very wounded but God loves us all and He alone is able to truly see the totality of a particular soul all the way in, to, and through the core of their very being. He is merciful and loving and the perfect judge of all souls.

So, yes, in many of us, wounds run deep and only God can fix them, if he wills, and it will be in his time. I guess to sum things up and try and give you some answer:

These souls find ways to love their neighbor that we may not see or understand, but God sees and he will reward them.

Still, I hope such souls as you have spoken of, do not run away from friendships out of fear unless they really 100% believe that is what God would want them to do. I think we should try to remember to treat others as we would wish to be treated, that idea comes directly from Jesus.

We should not expect too awfully much from creatures when they disappoint us, though, they are weak and flawed, as we are. Our main vocation is simply to love to the best of our ability. Being loved is something that lies more within our abandonment to His Divine Providence.

Sorry for maybe not answering your question as clearly as you would have liked.

God Bless!!


I am that person that you speak of. I have managed to find a job where I work alone and I of course, live alone. Not sure that I can provide much for you other than, this situation does exist. I live it. It is difficult to pray. I keep trying. I argue with myself about choosing to isolate and am beginning to think that because it’s an extreme and those are to be avoided, that it’s bad for me to do this even though I’ve talked myself into believing it’s for the benefit of others. I’m rambling, sorry. I’m just honestly kind of in shock right now because I’ve been struggling very deeply for the last week or so with this very issue and tonight with your post, it’s like you read my mind.


If I may, I’d like to suggest that you keep praying no matter how it feels, difficult or not. A bodybuilder gains muscle mass by working against the resistance of the weights. In much the same way, we are called to persevere in prayer. This is how to strengthen a prayer life: Keep at it even when you feel absolutely awful. Pour your heart out to him. God won’t let you down… sometimes we can feel that way, but it’s important to look at prayer as one way of “Building up your spiritual muscles”. Remember, the Devil HATES us, but God’s LOVE is with you and his love is far, far stronger than Satan’s hate.

Hang on to this: God loves you utterly. :slight_smile:


I must ask, is the person’s loneliness or lack of sociability caused solely by himself, or was it caused by the sinful nature of others?

If it is in the case of the latter, I think you should still love them as they love you. It’s not their fault that they have fallible qualities. After all, we are not perfect by the very definition of that particular word. If there is something we do not like about them, we should try to improve them to higher standards.

But in the case of the former, I suppose that is normal too. Sometimes, there are some things about people we do not like for moral reasons. Often, it usually has something to do with their actions. In my opinion, the best course of action on this one would be to disassociate oneself from those whose actions will give yourself the appearance of decadence.

On a side note, I should also note that there is also nothing wrong with the idea of growing in holiness through solitude.

That’s my two cents.


Some saints have chosen to isolate themselves by becoming hermits. This does not make them any less in God’s view.

It is not necessary to have interaction with a person in order to pray and/or offer up penance for him. Even a person stranded on a desert island is a member of the Communion of Saints. One can pray for the souls in Purgatory without having a clue who is suffering there. One can pray for a person read about in the newspaper or seen on television. You can pray for the person crossing the street in front of you while you are stopped at a red light and never have any other interaction with that person, ever.

That’s one of the wonderful things about prayer: it can be done anywhere, at any time, and for anybody. :thumbsup:


That is very true. God only requires our good will- St. Therese of the Child Jesus said something like that. And I’m sure she’s right.


Just so everyone knows, I did not have a particular person in mind when I posed this scenario. The person in question is not me nor any of my neighbors, friends, relatives, etc. I have been thinking about this before I read Introduction to Christianity, but reading it has made me wonder more about what has previously been lingering in the back of my mind.

I am not talking about someone that has been badly hurt by others and distrusts people or someone on a deserted island. I have more of a personality disorder in mind, something present as long as the person could remember, but it is not relevant whether or not one was born like that or it was caused by a certain parenting style or whatever. However, this person comes to recognize his or her anti-social/negative tendencies as he or her matures and makes the choice. And those tendencies can be anything that can make relationships anywhere from difficult to painful like having difficulty with trying to empathize, connect, control one’s temper, etc., so the there are plenty of possibilities. If I am not clear, maybe take the Imagine Dragons’ song “Demons” for example if anyone is familiar. This song about sheltering someone from personal demons out of love is usually reminds me of my scenario, although I am sure there are many other ways to interpret it.

Thanks to Throw Away for letting me know that this situation exists in real life. Now, all that is left is figuring out what this person could do after making that decision. I am not asking how to relate to such a person. It is just, prayer will be hard if it is to be understood in terms of relativity. And, if this person is to give selflessly, it would probably fall under the radar because he or she cannot get up close and personal to people in a Mother Theresa-type way. This person is not isolating his or herself to grow in holiness, but out of necessity and needs to figure out how to grow in holiness when talking to God is difficult and, with people, nearly impossible.

And, I should probably mention that I a smaller motive in mentioning this. I have had an idea for a story for a while that centers around a protagonist that has a personality disorder like this and comes to realize the potential damage she can cause and leaves town after an incident and goes on to live alone. This person is a devout Catholic and becomes well-read on her Faith and well-read in general, but still struggles with a relationship with God. However, years later she will have to return to her home town to solve a murder and take down the killer who has a similar disorder, but is less hot-tempered, less empathetic, and more charismatic. In the process, the protagonist would end up sacrificing her life. Well, in the course, of the story, she will have to interact with people more than she cares to and that is what I am having difficulty with.

Thanks for the previous responses, but some where not what I had in mind. Anyway, what I primarily want are answers to the hypothetical scenario and the story idea was an offshoot from thinking about it. But, nobody has to take the story into account, I just hoped that it might illustrate more what I had in mind and that I am not using this thread for personal therapy. Thanks.


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