Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Guidelines for Fraternal Correction, pt 2

The last article discussed when to fraternally correct, and this second one will address how. As in all things, the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12; Lk 6:31) applies.

First, consider how we would react if someone, even someone we liked and who liked us, came to us arrogantly making demands and threats. It probably wouldn't go over well, and if we complied, it would be out of fear or guilt, and resentment would accompany our compliance. True?

So as a matter of sheer practicality, it is best to take the opposite approach once we've decided that someone must be fraternally corrected, and that we should be the one to do it. An attitude of humility and concern for the one corrected is key. The attitude must not be fake, nor should it be a ruse or a cover for other motivations. If we have more personal reasons for wanting a change, we should be honest with ourselves and the other about that.

To humble our heart, I have found a few reflections helpful. I try to think of ways I have contributed to the negative situation. I consider times when I have harmed the other, or done the same thing to another person that I want to challenge the correctee about. "He lives dirty dishes all over the house," should be balanced in our mind with, as applicable, "and I leave laundry in a big pile in the basement." This balanced recollection should be part of the discussion we have with our correctee. In such a situation, the correction is also a self-correction.

"Hey, dude. I've been thinking. Our house is trashed. I'm not blaming you at all - all those clothes piled in the basement are mine. I don't know how you feel about it, but I'd like to live in a tidier place. Maybe we could each resolve to straighten up our stuff in the next day or two. Would you be willing to clean up these dishes and put them away? I've definitely got to get those clothes to where they belong."

Another approach, rather than simply making a demand, "You have to stop doing X," is to show how the other's actions affect us. "Buddy, I don't think you know, but last night, I had a hard time falling asleep because of the music you were playing. I was useless at work today because I was so tired. Do you think you might be able to turn it down on weeknights, to help me out?" By temporarily abandoning the language of rights and justice, and simply sharing our heart and mind with our brother, we will often move him to compassion and sensitivity, building our community. If that doesn't work, then we may need to take stronger action, but usually easy does it, and a mild approach is more effective.

In cases where there are wrongs done in both directions, we must be willing to take responsibility and apologize for our share of the hurt. The killer thing about being a Christian, and the nature of a sincere apology, is that both are free. That is, we Christians make our apologies for our sins without regard to any sort of recompense. We apologize for our faults as they negatively impact others because that is the right thing to do, the thing that reflects our true role in the situation. It is not our concern whether the other accepts our apology or responds in kind. Often, he will not. He will feel he is righteous and that our apology has vindicated him and proven that aching spot in his conscience to be wrong. So be it. It may often be that, for the sake of doing the right thing, we must tolerate harm done to us or a justice left undone. I apologize to try to make amends, and he responds arrogantly. I cannot affect his response. I only know that I have at last done the right thing; any harm that comes to me as a result, even a mild one, is a harm that makes me more like Jesus. And that is a very good kind of harm to endure.

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