When I’m talking with older kids about morality, I try to emphasize the difference between the Commandments and the Beatitudes.
I observed a terrific lesson about this in a class at St. Joseph’s High School in Greenville, SC, several years ago – I just wish I could remember what texts they were using. I think maybe the Dominican Series from Priory Press. Anyway, the teacher explained to the class that the Ten Commandments are the “moral floor” that we have to stay above, while the Beatitudes are like the “moral ceiling” we should try to reach.
Well, to start with, I’m not going to cheat on him, steal from him, lie about him, be jealous of him – lots of “shalt nots” included in the Recommended Daily Allowance for our marriage. But that’s not what makes a good marriage – just the absence of doing bad things to my husband. Same with being a mom – although I certainly have days when “kept children alive” is all that’s crossed off on my checklist. I really show my love through the things I do that go above and beyond not-sinning-against-them. That’s what the Beatitudes are akin to – how we really grow in holiness; how we really cultivate a relationship with God.
I find that kids just “get it” if I keep coming back to this idea. Plus, it gives me the chance to talk realistically about marriage as a vocation, which I think kids need to hear about; so many of them either feel like marriage is BS because they’ve seen so many marriages fall apart, or have this very unrealistic “marriage is for soulmates” idea that real love means never having to suffer because you’re so happy all the time.