By Frank Wessling
It’s a very good feeling when we realize that someone is listening to us in a friendly and sympathetic way.
We sometimes speak carelessly. Thoughts aren’t fully formed. Bad moods affect us. Political passion and distaste for certain persons make us more interested in partisan advantage than a search for truth and common goals. We delight in juicy gossip. We slander others with glee.
But some people will overlook these faults and keep their own compass pointed toward the best interpretation of what we say — assuming the best of us even while we may behave in the opposite way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points to those people and that habit as models of the “good Christian.” Kyle Eller, managing editor of The Northern Cross, monthly publication of the Duluth, Minn., diocese, drew attention to this in his July issue.
In Number 2478 the catechism says, “To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way.”
It then goes on with a quote from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola:
“Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”
Imagine what could happen if that attitude spread. Imagine a world of trust. Imagine the peace. Imagine ourselves behaving this way.
And try to imagine more inclusive language that makes “she” and “her” as important as “he” and “him.”