I lost my cool recently at the dinner table and caused a scene. It reminded me of something Pope Francis wrote about in his magnificent reflection on Saint Paul’s hymn to love (“Love is patient, love is kind,” etc.).
Saint Paul says that love “bears all things.” Pope Francis observes that this means “more than simply putting up with evil; it has to do with the use of the tongue. The verb can mean ‘holding one’s peace’ about what may be wrong with another person. It implies limiting judgment, checking the impulse to issue a firm and ruthless condemnation: ‘Judge not and you will not be judged’ (Lk 6:37)” (Joy of Love 112).
So a friend was over to dinner. I’ll call him Bob. There’s been a history in our relationship of my not “holding my peace” with regard to ways in which Bob and I see the world differently. Although I firmly believe some of his views are damaging and wrong, there has been a history of my being in the wrong with Bob because of the immoderate use of my tongue when discussing those views. I’ve injured our relationship as a result.
Knowing Bob was coming over, I consciously prepped myself a bit so as not to fall into my pattern of loosing my cool with him. So there we were at the table – my wife, my kids, and our friend Bob – and he started talking about the topic of “looks” and physical “attractiveness” in a way that is utterly contrary to everything I want my children to think about their own and other people’s bodies. I responded initially with some calm challenges to his thinking, but, as he persisted, I lost my cool and caused a scene. Something got tapped in me and up rose an impulse to issue a firm and rather ruthless condemnation of what he was saying. Despite my desire to do so, I did not check that impulse, as love demands I do. Instead, I let it rip.
I had a right to challenge what my friend was espousing in front of my children, but not in this ruthless way. In trying to spare my kids the bad example offered by my friend, I became a bad example myself. Mercy…
Love bears all things. Sometimes I find certain things unbearable and let loose my tongue in hurtful ways. Forgive me, Lord. Please, teach me how to love.
Image: Antonio Guillem/iStockphoto
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