August 11, 2021
Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.
Instructing His disciples, Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” (Matthew 18:15-16)
GO AND TELL HIM: Today’s gospel takes us in an interesting direction. Are we being called to judge our fellow man?
Being judgmental seems to fly in the face of foundational Christian ideals – hospitality and welcome to all, celebration of the diversity and unique gifts of others. Didn’t Jesus say, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged”?
It is important to note that today’s readings focus not on judging others, but rather on holding others accountable for their decisions, words, or actions. The readings tell us it is our responsibility to hold others accountable. In addition, Jesus told us to be direct in our approach: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” You go and tell him his fault.
Holding someone else accountable, especially a loved one, is challenging. We don’t want to appear to be self-righteous or judgmental. And if you are anything like me, you have enough trouble holding yourself accountable, much less anyone else.
For most people, it is an uncomfortable thing to do.
A direct approach comes with risk and makes us uncomfortable. We have no problem with sending a letter to a government official about bad policy or an e-mail to a television station about inappropriate programming. We can even manage critiquing someone who works for us, pointing out areas of their work that need improved.
However, we struggle when it comes to speaking directly to people we care about regarding their behavior or lifestyle. Holding someone accountable is risky.
It can also leave you feeling guilty, wondering if you have overstepped your responsibility. There are three simple questions you can ask yourself to determine if you have done the right thing:
*One – “Were the behaviors I addressed harmful to that person, to others around him, or to his relationship with God?”
If so, you not only chose to do the right thing, you had an obligation to do so.
*Two – “Was my intent to bring that person into right relationship with himself, others, or God?”
This is a critical question and you need to be honest. You have done the right thing if your intent was pure. You have not done the right thing if your intent was to demean or ridicule that person, or assume a stance of moral superiority. Was it about him or about you?
*And three – “Was there love in my heart?”
Here is a beautiful definition of love I came across: Love is willing the good of the other.
If we remain indifferent or uninvolved for fear of hurting someone’s feelings, that is not love, that is protecting yourself. In other words, if we acted with love in our heart, we did the right thing. Notice that one of my questions was not, “Did I get the result I wanted?”
Even if you did everything perfectly, you may not get the result you wanted. You may in fact lose a friend, alienate a child, or anger a spouse. As I said, holding those you care about accountable is risky.
However, it’s not as risky as not holding them accountable.