SPEAK KINDLY BUT BE HONEST
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time ©
My dear encountered couples:
Do you ever feel that people are watching you when you go out in public, especially when you go to a social function? Do you find yourself staying home when you don’t have the right thing to wear, when you’re afraid you won’t know the right thing to say, when you suspect you’ll be out of place in the presence of certain people? Those sorts of fears come to most of us. Some days we can face the world, other times we’d prefer to stay in the safety and privacy of our homes. I wonder if Jesus ever felt that way.
Our gospel reading tells us that one day “When Jesus came on a sabbath to eat a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees, they observed him closely.” I imagine Jesus was always observed closely; I imagine he was always the center of attention. Do you suppose it made him uncomfortable? We usually figure he was as brave and smart as they come and was able to take control of any situation. The gospels lead us to believe that. And since Jesus is God, the Son of God, then we aren’t surprised if he felt at ease wherever he was. Whether or not that is true we know it is not always the case with us, is it? After all, none of us is God, though there are some people who would like to fool us into thinking they are.
To get along with people I would like to offer a few words of advice. First, let us try to keep in mind to always do our best to treat people kindly. We should not treat them like they’re stupid. We all have had different experiences in life and those experiences color our ways of seeing things. We must be aware of that and honor each other’s differences. We must show respect for one another’s viewpoints and beliefs no matter how wrong we consider them to be. But we should never do so by being untrue to ourselves. We must never compromise our own integrity nor our own convictions.
In other words, God wants us to be honest with others in expressing our ideas and viewpoints. We are not to agree with others when we really don’t. We are not to water down our principles just to keep peace. God has never commanded us to please people, only to love them. And love requires us to say and do what is really best for others, whether they, or we, find it agreeable and enjoyable at the moment or not. Jesus said what he knew was the right thing to say. He usually tried to say it kindly; he had a knack of expressing himself without directly putting any individual person in an embarrassing position. But if he had to put them on the spot and embarrass them for their own good, he did, for his love for people’s good was stronger than his desire to make friends. His mission was to spread truth, not to see to it that people were left comfortable in the midst of erroneous ideas. Should we not all try to do the same for one another?
I sure would not want you to let me go along in my own ignorant ways of thinking and doing things not good for me when you could set me straight - but I ask you to please do it kindly. It takes me awhile to get over the shock of being shown I’m wrong about something. And I will try to do the same for you if perchance I suspect you are in a state of ignorance about something important. We are all here to help each other, which means we cannot always agree with each other.
A good example of agreeing with people just to please them can be found in Shakespeare’s play of Hamlet. In that play we find Hamlet and Polonius talking together. Says Hamlet to Polonius, “Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?” “By the mass,” says Polonius, “and ‘tis like a camel, indeed.” “Methinks,” says Hamlet, “it is like a weasel.” “It is backed like a weasel,” agrees Polonius. “Or like a whale?” suggests Hamlet. And Polonius consents, “Very like a whale.” After a day spent in being agreeable, Polonius felt satisfied; he had pleased Hamlet, he had made him happy, he had maintained peace between them. A friend like Polonius I can do without. How about you?
Though arguing over the shape of clouds is trivial, expressing our opinions about important things in life is demanded in order to be helpful to one another. We just might lead a few others to thinking things they wouldn’t have thought about without us, we can open doors to others that will remain closed if we don’t speak up. We might introduce others to a whole new world they may never have suspected even existed.
Please do not be afraid to be with people and speak your ideas. They might need to hear what you have to say. They might need you to take the risk. What you have to say can be of as much value as what anybody else has to say, even more so. What you know might be needed to be known by someone else who, if you don’t speak it, might never again have the opportunity to hear it.
When Jesus told his stories to crowds on the street, to people seated with him for a meal in someone’s home, when he talked privately with individuals, to his apostles and disciples, he tried to get across what he knew they needed to hear. You might not always know what people need to hear, but by allowing yourself to be present where people are, by gathering the courage to enter into a conversation, you might just say the one thing that becomes very valuable to someone else. You might even be the one who someone needs in order to be saved. None of us is on this earth to be hidden away from everybody. None of us is insignificant or unimportant. We are all to be seen and our words listened to and respected. We are also to listen to what others have to say. It might be God speaking. For he speaks through all of us, at least once in awhile.
Jesus went to the home of a leading Pharisee for a meal. While there he observed what others were saying and doing. He learned about them and their needs from paying attention to them. Then he spoke what they needed to hear. I hope you take example from Jesus and enrich our lives and the lives of other people by being courageous and speaking your mind - as kindly as you can.