One of the things about dying is that I do not have time for games. I find myself sometimes biting my lip because of well-intentioned comments and trying to decide exactly how much grace I will need to get me through my last days. I think I need to supersize my order or return to the well much more often than I count on. This can be really tiring at times. I fail miserably, falling short of what I think I should be behaving like. Sainthood is far off in some moments.
On the other hand, I also believe that sometimes certain things can be said because I want to shine a light in a dark place. I proclaimed the First Reading tonight at mass as a last-minute substitute and each word seemed to strike me in the heart. The line that I have been thinking about even as I read it earlier in the day was you shall reprove your neighbour or you will incur guilt yourself. Some days, I do just want to break through the craziness and call people on their stuff because I may not be able to procrastinate on saying what I might say in a different way at a later juncture.
For example, the other day in a group phone call, I challenged someone on a statement that was made because I believe it was untrue and I am tired of hearing the negative Nellie assessments. The third person affirmed me. I had not meant to start a kerfuffle but I suspect that I did. What I really wanted to say to that person is leave me out of your negative perceptions about people whom I love and think positively about. I did not manage that particular conversation well but I suspect that the person will think twice about the comments.
Other times though, I am clearer. I have challenged people on unhealthy behaviour or encouraged them to think about how their faith informs their discernment. In a recent flurry of text messages, a friend asked me about a decision she was trying to reach. I was very excited to see her looking at her life passions. I had in a sense reproved her earlier and in thinking about what I had said, she came back with a fabulous plan that was life-giving. She sought out my opinion because she knows that I love her unconditionally and will tell her if she is off-base.
Recently a dear friend told me a story that has really helped me to see my behaviour with new eyes. In conflict resolutions studies, students are asked to move from judgment to curiosity. Ask why the situation is happening rather than decide without the facts. We do not always have all the information we need regarding our neighbours before we can reprove them. What my friend said reminded me of this stance of choosing curiosity over judgment. She had been to a conference where the speaker was fairly young. The woman admitted to the participants that she needed to stop judging herself against all of the people who had years of experience in the field or in life. She needed to be patient with herself. My wise and beautiful friend made an observation that I needed to hear. As the “elder” in the audience, she heard it differently. My friend needed to stop judging the young, upcoming folks who did not yet have the life experience that she did. In 2o or 30 years, these people might look more similar to what we want them to be like. By then, they would have bound up some of their woundedness, strengthened fragile egos, nurtured relationships, had life-changing experiences, settled into their own souls, and learned to be their best selves. I told my friend that this was such an enlightening outlook that I was claiming it right along with her. Her gentle reproach to a story I had told has already had a remarkable metanoia effect on me.
We are a community and our best growth comes from helping each other stay on the good path. My neighbour and I must live together in harmony. We can learn from one another if we point to the way in which God desires us to live. God does not want us to stand by and watch as our neighbour falters. That is not an act of love. As my friend who loves me dearly reached out to me tenderly and gently, so must we all love one another in ways that we want to be loved. I would want someone to tell me if I was heading down the path to Hades instead of Heaven. In fact, more than ever this is important to me. I hope that I also find the courage to reprove my neighbours with love if I need to.
Have you been reproved for something that needs changing? How did you accept it?
Have you mustered up the courage to lovingly reprove a neighbour?
Teach us, Creator, to walk in harmony with our neighbour, to look for their wisdom that may draw us closer to You. Give us ears to hear what needs to be changed in our life for the sake of our souls. Grant us courage to speak the Truth to those who are faltering so that they may remain on the path of Goodness and Life. Amen.