Gulp! How do you handle it when someone spits out such fury? What do you say? What do you do? I’ve heard this too many times in my twenty-plus years ministering to the separated and divorced. Sadly, I’ve witnessed well-meaning but misdirected responses such as:
Oh, dear. You shouldn’t feel that way.
Tsk! That’s a sin!
You need to repent of that right now.
And probably one that makes the person ever angrier:
There, there. You don’t really hate him.
Oh, yes, she does! She’s wounded, angry, afraid, and probably feeling powerless to bring any justice into the situation. She sick of everything to do with the separation or divorce. She doesn’t need to be corrected; she first needs to be affirmed—not in her sin (yes, hatred is a sin, but hold that thought) but in her pain. A better response would be:
I hate him, too. Let’s pour some wine. (Clink!) Here’s to us and to hell with him!
Of course, I’m just kidding . . . but that, too, is a common response of someone who wants to help but doesn’t really know how.
There’s a better way—and it’s the Church who shows us.
THE WAY OF MERCY
In this YEAR OF MERCY I plan to remind as many people as I can about the oft-forgotten Spiritual Works of Mercy. Most people know the Corporal Works: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, et al. Both were formalized about the time of St. Thomas Aquinas but they are all rooted in Scripture and have been in practice in the Church for thousands of years. What the corporal works do for the body, the spiritual works do for the soul.
And they usually work best when approached in this order:
Comfort the afflicted.
It’s a great comfort to have someone affirm what we’re feeling. Deep down we usually know the way back to sanity, we just want someone to be there with us.
“Wow. Hate? Hell? You must really be hurting. I’m so sorry. What can I do for you right now?”
Counsel the doubtful.
Even when we know what’s right we can doubt and lose our way. We are comforted when we have someone help us home.
“Are you sure you want to let all that anger eat you up? Let’s find a better way to deal with things. I’ll help!”
Instruct the ignorant
Comfort and counsel are great but we also need practical steps to take; real-life techniques that work. Show us. Teach us.
“When I get angry, I try to remember to take a deep breath, get a drink of water, go hit a bucket of balls, or throw myself down on my knees in prayer. After the emotions are calmed a bit I try to make a plan. Do you want to talk about it? Let’s work on this together.”
Admonish the sinner
Don’t try to set us straight without first showing you love us. When we know you will comfort, affirm, counsel, teach, and walk with us, we’ll be more open to your correction. And don’t hold back on the truth; we need it!
“You’re kidding. You’re still angry at him? Stop! You know that will only eat you up inside and, actually, it’s blocking your heart from God’s grace right now. Don’t do that to yourself! I’m going to confession on Saturday. Want to join me for lunch and then go with me?
Bear wrongs patiently.
We’re so obsessed with ourselves sometimes. Thank you for being patient while we let God work in us.
“Um-m-m…it’s me, your best friend. Remember? This anger thing is getting out of hand and I’m worried about you. I’m here for you. I’m not going anywhere—even when you’re crabby at ME!”
Forgive us; we know not what we do!
“Of course I forgive you. I love you.”
Pray for the living and the dead.
Pray for us! We need your prayers.
“Dear Lord, please pour out your blessings on my friend and draw her heart closer to you. Thank you and bring good fruit from her problems. Amen.”
Now those are some practical ways to show mercy.
And that’s how to “Put RELIGION into your RELATIONSHIPS”.