Correcting with love
No one likes a reprimand or even a mild correction when the effect is to make him feel ''put down.'' Aside from the question of whether the one rebuking has his facts straight, it's the tone of condemnation that's hardest to bear.
If you're the one doing the correcting, it might seem difficult, sometimes, to keep a note of blame out of your voice. And even when you think you're calm and collected, others can misjudge you and react with anger.
We may not be able to foresee the exact response of others. We can, however, always be at our helpful best. And we can keep from undermining the individual worth of others.
All this may not be very easy. Human ingenuity can fail in the face of agitated feelings. We really need a spiritual approach in order to produce results of lasting benefit.
To see another in his true identity as God's child, and not as a mistaken or sinful mortal, is the key. To separate the wrongdoing or the mistake from our concept of the individual is essential. In the Bible we read, ''God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.'' n1
n1 Genesis 1:31.
When we have to correct somebody, do we see his true nature as ''very good''? We can hardly afford to do otherwise. To hold in thought God's man - spiritual and perfect - is not to ignore evil; certainly we can't do that. But our correct view can go a long way toward helping that person to improve his own view of himself. Reacting to the mistake or wrongdoing as if it were a part of the individual and blaming him for it can stand in the way of his growth and improvement, as well as our own.
A ''put down,'' even a clever one, gives a false picture of man. It does nothing to help bring out the truth that man is God's expression and can't be blamed any more than God can.
When I was growing up, we children often hurled aspersions at one another. But when I was sent to a Christian Science Sunday School, I learned that God is Love and that each of God's offspring reflects Love. I learned that what God creates is true and real. Whatever denies or opposes the perfection of His creation is illegitimate, untrue, though it may seem otherwise. I learned that I could refute prayerfully what was not true. Prayer would change my own behavior and experience for the better.
Gradually, I began to cast wrong concepts of others out of my thought before I opened my mouth. Then I could say something constructive to the other fellow, and my relations with him would improve.
Christ Jesus taught us to forgive but implied that it could take some work. We might have to forgive our brother man ''until seventy times seven''! (See Matthew 18:22.) We need Christly patience in dealing with repeated mistakes or prolonged habits of carelessness - patience with ourselves as well as with others.
In its truest sense, forgiveness is the ability to discern the real, sinless man, the reflection of God, right where there seems to be a faulty or disobedient person. It is the expression of spiritual love, the love that comes from God Himself. ''Divine Love corrects and governs man,'' n2 writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 6.
Any other motive for reproof than love for the one corrected fails to measure up to the Biblical precept taught by Christ Jesus: ''Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.'' n3 And to love is to express qualities derived from God, divine Love, such as brotherliness, compassion, patience, forgiveness.
n3 Mark 12:31.
But again, how much prayer, preparation, and attention it takes! We need to be ready to refuse to be angry and condemning! ''The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord,'' n4 says Proverbs. This can be the motive of our prayer. Then we'll be able to put into practice more effectively throughout the day the spiritual power of correcting with love.
n4 Proverbs 16:1.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits ... James 3:17