“Ask a Priest: What If My Well-Intentioned Act Was Criticized?”

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Q: I recently made a Christmas donation in honor of my family doctor to a charitable organization. I thought this would be a nice way to say thank you to the doctor for all he has done for me. So, I was shocked when he had his office manager call to say that while the doctor realizes that my intentions were good, he would prefer that I do not do something like this again, that he feels he is simply doing his job as a medical practitioner and is not seeking any type of special recognition. I am stunned by his reaction to my gesture of appreciation. I’m hurt, embarrassed and, as the days go by, becoming increasingly angry. All I meant to do was say thanks to the doctor for looking out for my health and well-being. I wasn’t expecting anyone to build a statue in my honor for what I did, but I certainly wasn’t expecting a slap in the face either. I know that God doesn’t want me to hold a grudge against others, but I am having a hard time making peace with what happened. Please advise. – L.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Sometimes our best intentions can be misinterpreted or even rebuffed. It is part of life. Even Jesus wasn’t exempt from being misread.

The doctor might have had his reasons for not wanting his name publicly connected with any organization without his prior knowledge. His name is his trademark, so to speak, and he has a right to a certain amount of control over it.

Perhaps his name was manipulated by groups in the past. Perhaps his name was associated with an organization he himself didn’t support (such as a pro-abortion group).

Or, if people see his name associated with donations for one group, they might wonder why he doesn’t support their favorite groups. It can get messy and stir up bad feelings.

Then again, maybe he is a humble man who simply doesn’t want public recognition for his work. That should be respected. Whether the office manager could have relayed the message in a different or gentler way is another question.

In any case, there is no need to fan the flames. This is the kind of situation the devil loves to exploit and use as a wedge to cause disunity among people.

Perhaps it’s better to simply let this go. Forgive and forget. Otherwise, the alternative could be that this incident starts to simmer in your memory and to produce all kinds of toxins that poison relationships. The devil would love that.

It might be helpful to remember that Jesus himself tried to do good things and was rebuffed. This might be a moment to unite this particular cross with the cross he carried for us.

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