Friday was the feast of St. John Chrysostom. He advises:
When your enemy falls into your hands, do not consider how you can pay him back and let him feel the sharp edge of your tongue before sending him packing; consider rather how you can heal him and restore him to a better frame of mind.
Continue to make every effort both by word and deed until your gentleness has overcome his aggressiveness. Nothing has more power than gentleness. As someone has said: A soft word will break bones. And what is harder than bone? Well then, even if someone is as hard and inflexible as that, he will be conquered if you treat him gently. There is another saying: A soft answer turns away wrath.
It is obvious, therefore, that whether your enemy continues to rage or whether he is reconciled depends much more on you than on him. For it rests with us, not with those who are angry, either to destroy their anger or enflame it.
Thanks to Magnificat (as is so often the case) for the excerpt.
That’s why I love the Catholic Voices project I’ve been working on with an ever-expanding group of friends. Treat people with love and mercy. Justice and truth. And don’t raise your voice, as Austen Ivereigh puts it in his book title How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice. It can be done. And it can be quite powerful.
Just a little more on St. John, from a homily from Fr. Steve Grunow from Word on Fire, important as we are so often distracted by status and celebrity:
Yet St. John was not flattered by the presence of celebrity, nor was he impressed by wealth. He saw himself as a servant of God’s truth in Christ and therefore repeatedly called for the transformation of the society of his day, reminding the wealthy of their responsibility to aid the poor, and all Christians to remain faithful to the Lord in whom they had been saved.
His preaching enthralled, captivated, puzzled and offended the Church of Constantinople.
For his tenacity in truth-telling, he received a prophet’s reward — he was deposed from his office and sent into a punishing exile.
We learn from St. John Chrysostom the importance of authentic and bold witness to Jesus Christ, but we also learn that such witness may cost us dearly.
John Chrysostom, pray for us! That we may destroy anger and help in the healing.