So I have this neighbor, we shall call him Bob (not his name). Bob is in his early 70’s and lives alone. Bob invites me over to his place quite often, he’s obviously lonely, and I feel bad so I oblige. We share a passion for reading, sports, etc. I’ve been having a problem lately though. The reason why I’m at confession every couple of weeks is that I tend to use the Lord’s name in vain when angry (like when I stub my toe for example). I’ve been trying and trying and praying that I can stop this. The problem is every other word out of Bob’s mouth is, how do I say this, “GD” and “JFC” (ugh I don’t even like typing that). He also tends to criticize (to put it lightly) our parish, our Priest, Pope Francis, our Bishop, etc. If I even mention going to confession he has to bring up that he hasn’t in 20+ years because the last time the Priest apparently scolded him for (something I won’t mention). I feel horrible but lately, I’ve been under a lot of stress with an upcoming surgery and other health issues and I’ve actually begun ignoring him when he knocks on the door or calls. I’m kind of wondering what you would do in this situation. I have attempted to express my feelings about this without outright saying “Stop saying this, that, etc” but it doesn’t seem to get through as he’s very stuck in his ways. Uhg, I’m so frustrated and feel awful.
Tell Bob you are unwell due to your health issues and your doctor has ordered you to rest and spend more quiet time for the good of your health, so you will not be able to visit him as often.
Also tell Bob that his constant use of the Lord’s name in vain and his constant criticism of your parish, the Pope, the Church etc. is difficult for you to listen to because you love Jesus, the Church and the Pope and you get stressed hearing his constant criticism, and your doctor has ordered you to avoid stress. So that is another reason you will not be able to visit him very often going forward.
Then cut off contact with Bob.
Sometimes tough love is necessary. It unfortunately sounds like Bob is probably lonely because he has built a wall of hostility. You should pray for him. And continue to see him in limited doses like around holidays or when you feel up to it, but just don’t be constantly available for him.
I’m not sure but from the little that you tell us, it seems you have a heart that desires personal holiness but you probably have a problem with anger. With a disposition like that, you would make a good spiritual person but you should try to be close to God - go for mass, personal prayer life, reading the Bible and spiritual books will help.
As for Bob - don’t worry about him. He seems to like you, so that is a good thing. People usually will adapt to our character and things that we are passionate on.
If he is quite vulgar and critical of the Church in your presence, it’s probably because he thinks it is ok with you.
You can take that opportunity to talk about God and the Church - there’s much to talk about.
Other than the things about your conversations that bother you, do you otherwise enjoy talking to him when the subject is sports or something else? If so, when he starts to talk about religion or church, maybe try changing the subject and see how that goes?
I also am trying to stop swearing, so I understand this struggle. It can be a difficult habit to break out of.
You have an opportunity to be a good example to Bob and to grow in holiness. You can view him as a temptation or an opportunity for growth.
Take all I say here with a grain of salt.
I do not swear. I do not participate in vulgar humor. I hang out with a group of guys. None are Christian. I noticed that when I’m around they stop swearing, they don’t make vulgar jokes and in general they ‘behave’. This isn’t a phenomenon isolated to the male/female dynamic. When I hang out with my female friends they, at first, swore like sailors but after awhile they started to watch their language, stop with the vulgar talk and just in general began to behave in a ‘cleaner’ way when I was around.
I never once spoke up and said: Hey, I don’t appreciate that language. All I did was remain steady in my OWN language and they eventually caught on and adjusted their behavior accordingly.
Now, the part about disparaging the Church and priests and the pope and etc… that’s trickier. What have you said when he brought up his confession problem? Was he upset for a valid reason? In my experience people are this hostile towards the faith for two reasons: hurt or misunderstanding.
A method I use is when my mother begins disparaging the Church (she’s a staunch anti-Catholic) I just say things: “Well, I personally believe that teaching of the Church is true and I don’t really care to debate the issue.” or; “I really think you’re misunderstanding… a common issue with this pope. This is ACTUALLY what he said.” or even; “Did you see that episode of such and such last night?”
Another thing you can try is not to acknowledge or give attention to the things you find problematic and redirect to things that are more positive and less stressful for you.
You are NOT obligated to maintain contact with this man though. If you are truly seeing him only out of pity and you glean no enjoyment from his company than I would agree with those who said to cut off contact for awhile and give yourself a break.
However, if you want to save the relationship, then the only one you can control is you.
In re: the use of profanity and vulgarity: I also am rather sensitive to this. However, I have a feeling we are a little over the top in our reaction to it here in the USA. I didn’t use to feel this way, until I opened a book of Italian invective. There was a chapter on specifically religious profanity, and the Italian curses were enough to curl your hair. I won’t even write them down, they were so incredibly filthy and blasphemous. This woke me up to the fact that not every culture is as prim about cursing as we are. I am not defending this state of affairs, but merely trying to clarify that Bob’s level of profanity is nowhere near as black and evil as it might be, and to urge that, if this is his outstanding sin, it might be throwing out the baby with the bath to completely cut off contact with him. I would like to think even a dyed-in-the-wool cursing addict could be rehabilitated.
It seems Bob is a cross given by God for you to bear. Just be patient with him, say hi whenever you see him, and talk to him whenever you feel up to it. Anything more would be excessive. You’re his neighbour, not his mother or his carer. You need not give him any thought beyond basic human- and Christian- compassion, so long as you do not start to feel resentful. It’s all anyone can ask.
How I know it.
I wonder how difficult I am to put up with.
Maybe you can excuse yourself politely every time he starts using the words or the criticism and suddenly remember something urgent you need to do, yet be sure to remind him what a great guy he is & how glad you are to be his neighbor. He may eventually get the message.
Say a prayer for him.
Just some random thoughts to take or leave as you see fit.
It is hard to bring up some thing that offends you when it has been going on for sometime.I will often give someone the benifit of the doubt,time for them to realise I don’t swear,use Our Lords name in vane and many times they just automatically apologise and refrain when they realise,and fairly soon after we meet.
But then there’s others much less sensitive and that becomes a problem when my frustration builds internally and I kind of feel like blurting my feelings out…it would be better to say up front early on how I feel.All the best MattN.
Invite him to come to Mass with you! He will probably start avoiding you in the future! Or he might just come along, and that would be even better, right?
He goes to Mass on Saturday night at our parish. I prefer Sunday with my wife.
Oh - - how did I miss that he is currently a practicing Catholic! : ) I thought he was fallen away…
You know, people like this are maybe not so sensitive. It’s tempting to say “quit trashing my religion! I’m sick of it!”
Why don’t you outright tell him instead of pussyfooting around? Some people just don’t pick up on subtle hints, and need to be told directly. Sounds like your neighbor is one of them.
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