Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Gossip and Correction

Most of us are a little uncomfortable correcting one another.  This topic comes up a lot, because we're confused about the right course of action.  Until now.  I attended a Morning of Reflection two weeks ago; Gossip 2.0 - Fraternal Correction was the topic.  Fr. Michael Sullivan, LC deftly led us through this touchy subject.  Following are my notes from that morning, based on Fr. Michael's presentation, which he compiled based on St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa:

Matthew 18:15-17

If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

~  Fraternal correction is the antidote to gossip

~Gripes should always go up the chain of command, not down.

~How do you correct a brother/sister?  Fraternal correction is charitable.  Sin is harmful to the sinner and conducive to harming others.  The first goal is improvement of the sinner by driving out evil to procure good (protection from himself).  The second goal is to safeguard justice for the common good.

Note:  Negative precepts DO NOT have exceptions.  ie.  Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not commit adultery, etc..  For any act: consider the object, circumstance, and purpose.  If any part is wrong, it is ALL wrong.

~Can one sinner correct another?  Yes!  Sin doesn't deprive us of all right judgment.

~When we have to find fault with anyone, consider if you have also committed the same sin and that we are all weak.

~Should you correct a person who will become worse for the correction?  No!  If the person will not heed warning, omit the correction.  It is no longer a good.

~Secret correction should always precede public correction.

~Practice prudence:
1.  Counsel - Seek advice from the wise.
2.  Judgment - Make the call.
3.  Action - Do it.

~Speak of someone as if they were present.

~Believe all the good you hear, and only the evil you see.

~Avoid being triangulated.  Take yourself out of the position of authority if two friends are using you as a referee or mediator.

~All truths do not have to be communicated in all circumstances.

~Be wary of neglect and micro-management.

~When we correct peer to peer, it is charity.  When correction takes place from the top down, it is justice.  (end of notes)

I hope this helps you.  It was a great morning, and clarified many things for me.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments section, if you need further clarification.  We covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time, so I hope my notes are sufficient. 

A few other quotes on gossip to keep in mind the damaging potential of this easy-to-engage-in sin:

The slanderer commits three murders:  his own soul, the soul of he who listens, and civil death to the object of his slander.  When you hear evil of anyone, cast any doubt you can.  If that is impossible, make any available excuse for the culprit.  If not possible, be pitiful and compassionate, and remind those you are speaking to, that such as stand upright do so solely with God's grace.  Do your best to kindly check the scandal bearer, and if you know anything favorable to the person criticized, take pains to mention it.  - Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis de Sales

When I want to speak, let me think first.  Is it kind?  Is it true?  Is it necessary?  If not, let it be left unsaid.  -Babcock

Let thy words be few.  -Ecclesiastes 5:2

A good test for conversation:  If you wouldn't write it and sign your name to it, don't say it.

Dear Heavenly Father,  Thank you for this beautiful day.  Thank you for giving us many helps when we try to apply Your Word to our lives.  Please grant us wisdom and prudence when we see our brother sinning or are privy to gossip.  Lord, we do not want to be an obstacle for anyone in their walk with You.  Help us to act out of love, pure intention, and humility.  Amen. 

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