Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Deal and Converse with others in the Lord

Years ago, Shakespeare grumbled about the shortcomings of young men in their teens. He was quite intolerant, unless it was only on that particular occasion when it seemed that boys were more interested in socializing than taking life seriously. I am not sure that the Bard meant it to be a humorous piece of writing, but it was. His complaints, now 400 years old, could just as easily have been written today. I thoroughly regret that it is something that I’ve never since been able to find, because I would love to re-read his grumbles.

Really, people do not change over time. Our ways of feeling, acting and reacting bear a remarkable similarity through the centuries.

All this is by way of introduction.

It was hard to believe that the contents of the e-mail that arrived this morning dated back to 1538. They were actually from a letter written by St. Ignatius of Loyola to two of his companions, Salmerón and Broët, when he sent them to Ulster, but it seems to me that they are every bit as relevant today as when they were first written.

Perhaps, across the centuries, Ignatius still has something to offer as good advice in relating with others!

God bless,
Sr. Janet
“In all your dealings be slow to speak and say little, especially with your equals and those lower in dignity and authority than yourselves. Be ready to listen for long periods and until each one has had his say. Answer the questions put to you, come to an end, and take your leave. If a rejoinder is required, let your reply be as brief as possible, and take leave promptly and politely.

In dealing with men of position or influence—if you hope to win their affection for the greater glory of God our Lord—first consider their temperaments and adapt yourselves to them. If they are of a lively temper, quick and cheerful in speech, follow their lead while speaking to them of good and holy things, and do not be serious, glum, and reserved. If they are shy and retiring, slow to speak, serious, and weighty in their words, use the same manner with them, because such ways will be pleasing to them. I became all things to all men [1 Cor. 9:22].
You must keep in mind that if someone with a lively disposition does not deal with another who is likewise lively, there is very great danger of their failing to come to any agreement, since they happen not to be of the same mind. And therefore, if one knows that he himself is of such a lively disposition, he ought to approach the other, possessing similar traits, well prepared by a close study of himself and determined to be patient and not to get out of sorts with him, especially if he knows him to be in poor health. If he is dealing with one of slower temper, then there is not so much danger of a disagreement arising from words too hastily spoken.

Whenever we wish to win someone over and engage him in the greater service of God our Lord, we should use the same strategy for good that the enemy employs to draw a good soul to evil. The enemy enters through the other's door and comes out of his own. He enters with the other, not by opposing his ways but by praising them. He acts familiarly with the soul, suggesting good and holy thoughts that bring peace to the good soul. Then, little by little, he tries to come out of his own door, always portraying some error or illusion under the appearance of something good, but which will always be evil. So, we may lead others to good by praying or agreeing with them on a certain good point, leaving aside whatever else may be wrong. Thus after gaining his confidence, we shall meet with better success. In this sense we enter his door with him, but we come out our own.

We should be kind and compassionate with those who are sad or tempted, speak at length with them, and show great joy and cheerfulness, both interior and exterior, to draw them to the opposite of what they feel, for their greater edification and consolation.

In everything you say, especially when you are trying to restore peace and are giving spiritual exhortations, be on your guard and remember that everything you say may or will become public.

In business matters, be generous with your time; that is, if you can, do today what you promise to do tomorrow."