Al – you have put your finger on the very difficult dilemma many of us find ourselves in regarding personal relationships – to speak up or not?
Fr John hopes that your participation in this year-long exercise will give you, and us, some of the tools we need to engage in these VERY difficult situations. I’d like to offer a couple of thoughts:
- You have to be authentic and let love and the Holy Spirit be your guide. People can spot a phony a mile away. If we “speak truth”, but don’t authentically show love and care at the same time, we are a banging gong. Haughty attitudes and nagging never won anyone over.
- We are “our brother’s keeper.” Jesus gives us a guide for how to address difficult issues in Matthew 18:15-18, but this is primarily for someone who is a professing believer. Ezekiel 33 offers some more guidance, but again this is primarily for people in the Church. Someone outside of the Church would require a somewhat different approach, you have to be much more sensitive and kind.
- In our fallenness, our desire to help often comes across as judgment, nagging, or a desire to conform people to our image. Humility and love help considerably. We must always see the other as “one made in the image of God”, never as an enemy “to be convinced.” We should not wait until “we are perfect” to speak, otherwise nothing will ever be said. Love and relationships are messy – that’s ok.
- I try to pray often, ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and look for those times where God may lead me to have the hard discussion. At other times, I just try to love the person where they are, which is not always easy. It’s ok if your talk is not well-received, sometimes people take a while to process. Sometimes they reject what you say, but that too is ok, you’ve acted out of love.
I have many people in my life where I try to apply these principles, not always with success. But I try to keep in mind other people who loved me enough to say hard things to me. They have made all of the difference.