Giving and Receiving Loving Correction
(This post was inspired by Amoris Laetitia by Pope Francis)
St. John Paul II wrote that we know, love and accomplish moral good by different stages of growth. Sometimes the growth we experience is gruelling, painful and taxing. We advance gradually and it varies based on our social life and our ability to address our weaknesses. Every gradual process involves the freedom to be challenged and stimulated since correction by itself does not ensure growth or maturity.
It takes great strength and humility to accept criticism and gracefully receive support when we need it. Doing what is right is more important than judging what seems best. A thirst for good that outweighs our fears and hesitance helps us realize our good in this moment. We need to teach others with love, and show the other that is in his/her best interest to improve or do what is right. When correcting others, we need to speak about the benefits of improving, and how those benefits will be worth all the effort and sacrifice.
Giving others correction is a delicate task that requires sensitivity, prudence, empathy and compassion. Imposing your truth with just reason will not work but inspiring another to strengthening their will to be more offers optimism and encouragement. Seek to encourage! Use analogies, and strive to live by example. Educate others by using hope - reach them where they are at.
As friends, we have to say things that will cultivate freedom through encouraging ideas, practical solutions, dialogue and a constant rethinking of our way of doing things. There is always room to improve. We also need to realize that everyone's story is a story of inner healing and that brings both darkness and light. We are all frail and have limitations that are based on our upbringing or lack of love. Certain inclinations develop as children and become ingrained in our identity that they remain throughout life as a desire or repugnance to certain things. Growing up, people deemed certain things as good or bad based on their childhood because that is how they were taught. We have to be acutely aware that our correction might go against everything this person has ever known. Be prudent. Be vigilant. Be loving. So for example, if someone grew up with a domineering parent and is afraid of authority and correction, be mindful of that wound and use deep sensitivity and love when speaking to the person.
It is important to encourage the one you are correcting to put themselves in other people's shoes to acknowledge the hurt they may have caused. Acknowledging the wrong allows one to humbly recognize their limitations and make amends to improve. A person who does wrong must be corrected but must never become the "enemy" or a pawn on which to take out your own frustrations. When we lovingly correct another, it makes them feel cared for,and shows them that their actions matter and have consequences. Loving correction shows people that they have recognized potential and that you see them and want to know them in their brokenness.
Receptivity is the opposite of service as one accepts a service from the giver. The greatest thing one can do for the giver is to receive the gift of advice or loving correction. Like Mary who pondered things in her heart, we too, must receive the greater service of welcoming self-direction. Sometimes we feel like the correction is unwarranted or unnecessary but if the advice will help mould you and help you grow in virtue, then always strive for virtue and surround yourself with people who will help you cultivate your character.
As I grew up, when I gave gifts (monetary or words of advice) I subconsciously expected some kind of eventual return. I felt like relationships involved being obligated to give gifts as if I was paying my dues for the relationship. My "gifts" became a source of bartering and so easily my "gifts" degenerated into payments. But receiving or giving a true gift needs no counter-gift, no strings attached. With total freedom, a gift is given and received. When we receive, we not only receive the gift but we also receive the person. Love is not conditional on contingencies - love is not a transaction but is a free choice that sees, accepts and it is your choice to receive or reject the gift.
At the end of the day, "a virtuous life builds, strengthens and shapes freedom lest we become slaves of dehumanizing and antisocial inclinations" (Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis). So let us be challenged to act out of free choice, moved by a personal conviction to uphold goodness and dignity! I am praying for you.