There’s a meme that has been going around. The idea that they are trying to capture is that someone is acting extraordinarily rude and wants to see the manager instantly. If your name is Karen, I first of all apologize to you. I love you. It is nothing against you personally. The meme is basically suggesting that you don’t act like a Karen. There is actually a researcher who studies memes. She describes a Karen as the following, and I want you to think about the Gospel as you hear this. She says the characteristics of a Karen are entitlement, selfishness and a downright desire to complain. A Karen demands that the world exists according to her standards with little regard for others. She is willing to demean others to achieve her end. Karen sees no one as an individual. That feeling of entitlement is what makes her undeniably a Karen.
These memes videotape somebody that is really, really ripping into somebody. It might be a lady in a supermarket grilling the manager, somebody at a restaurant who is yelling at the manager or demands to see the supervisor. She just tears that person apart. She just can’t wait to get to them. This video is then put up on the Internet for everybody to see. People will actually say in the background, ”Hey, Karen, how are you?“ while she is screaming.
I was with a friend a couple weeks ago, and we were at a restaurant. She is kind of a Karen. I love her dearly, but she is kind of a Karen. My friend asked to see the manager over something that happened. It was bad service. She asked to see the manager, and she just lays into the manager. I am just sitting there because I’m a priest. I’m thinking about what I could say or what could I do. I didn’t know. As she is screaming, I realized that someone took out their phone and was videotaping her. I got a panicked feeling inside because I was worried about the possibility that this could become viral. I remember wondering if I should I go over and stop this, or would it be scarier if a guy went over there. I am going back and forth about what I should do. I didn’t know, and I just froze. I just watched the scene unfold before me.
It wasn’t until after we were done and were walking away that I realized she was being a Karen. I thought she was being a Karen, and I didn’t do anything. I just watched it happen and stood there. It only got to me because I realized somebody was videotaping. That is what made me realize what was going on. This behavior that was happening was not appropriate. No one wants to be screamed at and grilled outright. I remember working at McDonald’s as a kid and people would just tear you apart for something over the drive through that you did not do. I worked at a gas station, and I realized how person after person was so mean. I realized that it’s my duty to say something. I remember pulling my friend aside and saying to her, “You probably shouldn’t have. Do you realize that was being videotaped? What would happen if that went viral? People would probably begin sending nasty emails or torching your house or who knows what would happen.” She didn’t have a mask on either, so it was even worse because she was right up in his face.
But in reality, everything we do is seen before God. Everything we do is viral before God. God sees everything that we do. When we catch others doing something wrong, it is so important that we actually intervene or try to correct the person. This is where I will talk about the Gospel. One of the laws or commands of our the Church is to correct people. It is called fraternal correction. It is a long-time tradition of the Church. We are to correct our brothers and sisters. But that’s tough, right? It is tough to do. Even in that moment, it was tough for me.
If you really like that person, it is even harder because you’re afraid they might get mad at you.
Jesus said that we are supposed to do it. We are not supposed to be a Karen either. This means we are not supposed to go directly to the manager. We are supposed to deal with the person right in front of us. I love to review this Gospel because so often I think we forget about it, and it is good for us to hear it every once in a while. If your brother sins against you, what is the first thing you do? You go to your brother. You don’t go to your spouse. You don’t go to your friends. You don’t go to your parents. You don’t go to your children. You don’t talk about anybody. Don’t say one bad thing about that person. Go first to your brother. That’s a huge step right there, isn’t it? What do we usually do when someone else upsets up us? Usually we vent. We go to somebody else, and we vent about how mad we are about that person.
Jesus says first go to that person. Now this is difficult because going to that person is going to mean we will have to encounter intimacy. It will expose us. I was embarrassed by what you were doing there, or whatever you said really hurt. What you did hurt me. This breaks down the tendency we have to vent and also to ruminate on things. This then stops us from getting angrier and angrier and angrier; separating ourselves; and then playing the silent treatment and engaging in passive aggressive behaviors. Jesus says don’t do any of that. Go to your brother. The other reason it is difficult is because you might be wrong. It is hard sometimes to go to our brother and know and hear their side of the story. We might actually be wrong if we go and talk out the situation as opposed to talking to somebody else about the situation. So, it is very hard.
Jesus says something very beautiful at the end. Jesus says, ”Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am present among them.” So, if you go to your brother, you are one and your brother is two. You come together. Who is with you? Jesus. He is present with you in the midst. That would be my encouragement. If you have to confront somebody, and you might be afraid of doing or anxious about doing it, realize that Jesus is there in your midst. Consider meeting up with that person and beginning by saying a pray together. Say, “I have something I want to talk to you about. It’s hard. Can we pray about it, and ask God for his wisdom and guidance?” Pray together. Talk it out. The wonderful thing is that if we do that in love, it usually gets resolved.
Sometimes you might come to somebody, and you might say, “This is really a problem.” You try to correct them, and they continue doing it. Now what do you do? What do you do now? You get two or three like-minded people together. Now you begin to talk to other people, and you say, “I’ve had this problem with so and so. Have you observed this? Have you experienced this?” They might say, ”No, I haven’t.” You realize this is just my problem. Or, they say, ”Yes, I’ve seen that.” Then you say, “Can you think of anybody else who may have seen it?” Then you find somebody else. Then you go and you take two or three people. Again, this is very hard.
You go to that person in love, and you sit them down and you say, ”Let’s pray together. Let’s talk.” Then the two or three of you share what is going on, and you hope for the conversion of that person.
That usually resolves it. It is called an intervention. I’ve done it a few times with people in my life that I love. It is a powerful way of conversion. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. What do we do next? We go to the Church. Don’t come to the priest right away if you have a problem. Try to work it out first. If that doesn’t work, then you come to the priest. Same thing with me. If you have a problem with me or Fr. Paul, you would come to us first. Then you would gather two or three people and come to us. If that doesn’t work, then you go to the Bishop. If we do it in love, and we gather together in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we find that conversion will happen. Something wonderful will happen. Instead of that person becoming more and more and more of a Karen they become more and more and more of a Karen, a good Karen.
Then we hear the final line. If none of that works, then you say hit the road. We don’t go to this as the first step. If we tried all of those other steps, we can actually say, as the Gospel says, treat them as you would a gentile or a tax collector. In Church terms, that would mean excommunication. When somebody is doing so bad or so horribly, we actually do excommunicate. They actually do it to themselves because of their sin. They take themselves out of the community or outside the Church. There are times when that is what you have to do. When you have somebody that is so toxic, stuck in evil, don’t want to change, and sucking everybody else into it that would be when you would do that.
So, first of all, don’t be a Karen. Don’t be the one that goes and asks for the manager, reams the manager out, or talks behind the backs of people. Be a Karen, a good Karen. If it becomes a bigger problem, take one or two like-minded people. Then you might need to involve the Church. Just remember those steps are crucial. What we will find is that we don’t have the energy to take those steps. We might say, “Alright, that’s a problem. That’s okay. It’s not really that big of a deal.” But if it is a big deal, it’s important that we reconcile.
I just want you to take a moment in your heart right now and think about your life and if there is anybody in your life right now that you may need to reconcile with or anybody you may need to correct fraternally. This is done with love and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and it is done with two or three people gathered together in love for the salvation of that person, but also for the good of the Church. I invite you to think about that person. Pray for that person at Mass, and then have the courage to confront that person with fraternal charity and correction.