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June 22, 2019June 22, 2019  0 comments  Uncategorized

Correcting Others

Is it okay to correct others that you have just met on spiritual matters? Sometimes I think it is okay, but this question is difficult and has different layers. The answer is not completely black and white.

 

I think most people do things and behave in certain ways because, misguided or not, they believe they are behaving in a correct way. It takes a certain level of humility to, despite believing that what you are doing is correct, still listen to the other party. That being said, you can almost guarantee the other person will not be receptive and in many cases, may be quite hostile towards anything that challenges their current way of behaving or thinking. What can one do in a circumstance like this? Shouldn't we just correct them anyway, because it's better than confirming them in their error.

 

Yes,but only if we are sure that we are doing it for the sake of God, our basis of assesment of error is not based on our own opinions and conclusions but on teachings of trusted clergy (past and present) in our Church, and not to please ourselves or to exert control over the other person. It is also very, very important to state that one may not have the authority to be correcting the other person. It is not the place of a lay person to try and spiritually school a priest and it is also not the place of a wife to spiritually school a husband. This would violate divine order.

 

Also there are different ways of correcting others and we can't just assume everyone is extremely humble and can take that directly. If someone seems like they may not be receptive, rather than just confirming them in their error, or blatantly correcting them and causing them to recede further in their sin, we can try and make them more receptive by pointing out a few things and educating.

 

We can point out that we must keep Our Lord's commandments if we are to show our love for Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ commanded that we be perfect like our father in heaven is perfect How many of us can say that we are that perfect? Not many, if any of us at all in these times. It follows, then, that until we are perfect like our Father in heaven is, we have to be open to correction, humiliation and teaching from others that may come our way. We can also point out that St. Paul thought he was doing the will of God by slaughtering Christians, and if Jesus had not have come to him, he (Saul/Paul) would have continued sinning in the name of God. This shows that there are objective moral standards, there is objective truth, and that even though Jesus Christ died to redeem us, we do not have a free pass to sin no matter if we think we are doing what God wants or not. These points can be made to help others and even ourselves realize that we need to be open to correction and teaching.

 

Turning an eye towards ourselves, that does not mean, however, that if someone corrects us we immediately change without a second thought. We should not do that. That may be acceptable in certain cases such as when the correction is coming from a very trusted and very humble priest or from someone that we know is more wise than us on a specific virtue or vice, but what we should at least attempt to do is use our logic and tried and true tools to discern whether or not the correction is valid. One simple way is to ask yourself, "If I take this advice, will I be led closer to God or further away?". If the answer is closer, it can be assumed that the correction is valid because it is unlikely that anything other than the Holy Spirit would inspire someone to request that you behave in a way that brings you closer to our Lord. Of course, there is still a problem here because this method assumes that the discerning individual has a true grasp of what closer to God is. To learn that, one has to look towards a knowledgeable priest, one who studies doctors of the Church, the lives of saints, and tradition. (Fr. Ripperger is a safe choice, and you can know this because he is an exorcist and would not be as successful at exorcising demons if he was unable to die to himself to be an instrument of God) In any case, all of this is very difficult to navigate. What I do know is that most of us are the worst judge regarding our weaknesses and where we are going wrong, and it makes sense since we all want to believe we are doing the right thing.

 

There is also a blury line between correction and criticism and If I had to say correction is more active, whereas criticism is more passive. Criticism seems to only point out the problem, and leaves the correcting to be done by the individual. Criticism seems to be an attempt to help the other build virtue on their own, rather than teaching them how to do it. Light criticism may be a good way to help those whom we do not have authority over since it allows the criticised individual to retain their autonomy and place in the divine order. That being said, it would not be good to criticize an other for one's own sake, only God's, and again there has to be a good foundation to base your assesment of the individual. If criticism leads to virtue, and there is no such thing as being too virtuous, criticism is a very helpful and loving thing to do. Many of the saints would actually quite enjoy being around others that would criticise them. They recognized that as long as they were being pushed to be more humble, more modest, more chaste, more prudent, etc, they were being prepared for heaven. All criticism is good as long as it leads one to build virtue and not vice, ultimately. One can never be too virtuous and the more virtous one is, the higher the rank in heaven one will merit and also the more good one will do for others. So what can we learn from all of this.

 

Correcting others on spiritual matters is good but certain considerations have to be taken such as you are doing it for God's sake and not your own (meaning it would have to lead them closer to Him), you are not usurping divine authority to do so, and that you are not basing your assessment of error on your own beliefs and conclusions but rather those of the Church. The same can be said regarding being corrected by others. Criticism should not be confused and grouped with correcting others on spiritual matters since one points out a vice, and the other tries to fix an error.

 

This is, at least how I would answer this question. Please let me know what you think, I am always open to the ideas of others.


Jacob

 

 


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