Fans of the venerable TV program, the “Andy Griffith Show” will immediately recognize the names of the principal players: Sheriff Andy Taylor, Deputy Barney Fife, Opie Taylor, and Aunt Bee. They were surrounded by a motley group of colorful characters including Floyd the Barber, Gomer, Goober, Helen, Thelma Lou, and, of course, Otis Campbell.
Perhaps the most lovable character was Barney Fife. Barney was hilarious, as inept as he was sincere. Barney was excitable, prone to high drama. He was the caped-crusader railing against bad habits and social evils, real or imagined. And whenever he sensed danger coming down the road, he warned one and all: “You’ve got to nip it; nip it in the bud.”
Barney’s famous battle cry has become a fixture in pop culture, often found on t-shirts, posters, film clips, memes and now, even face masks.
While Barney’s crusades were quixotic, I wonder if his words can also serve as a useful tool in our spiritual toolbox. “Nip it in the bud,” is a good strategy to employ as we confront evil and strive to grow in holiness.
Are you neglecting your relationship with God; getting lazy about attending Sunday Mass; arguing with your spouse; flirting with a co-worker; spreading gossip; cheating on your taxes; viewing pornography; experimenting with drugs; drinking too much? Whatever your vice, you’ve got to “nip it in the bud” before it causes real and lasting damage.
In other words, we need to recognize and remove evil at the very beginning before it takes root in us and grows, like a bad weed. Classic Catholic spirituality cautions us to “avoid the near occasions of sin.” Thomas á Kempis tells us, “The man who only shuns temptations outwardly and does not uproot them will make little progress; indeed they will quickly return, more violent than before.” And one proverb warns, “He who chooses the beginning of the road also chooses the place it leads to.”
How do we resist temptation and sin? Our Catholic Faith gives us the answer. It’s through personal prayer, devotion to the saints, regular Confession, and the frequent reception of Holy Communion.
And if we had Barney Fife as a spiritual director he’d show us exactly how to deal with any moral weakness: “You’ve got to nip it; nip it in the bud!”
Something to think about: Is there anything in your life that you’ve got to “nip in the bud?”