How we communicate truth is the starting place for how to admonish the sinner while remaining unscathed. In this Year of Mercy, I write about a different corporal or spiritual work of mercy each month. This month we address the spiritual work of mercy to “admonish the sinner.”
Perception of truth – wait a minute! Isn’t truth simply truth, and considered undeniable? Yes; but how we communicate the truth makes all the difference. If you come from the corporate world, like I did, then one of the first things you learned about dealing with conflict, is that one’s personal perception cannot be denied. So, how a person sees a given situation means seeing truth through their own personal lens.
How to Admonish the Sinner
We can apply a similar stance when we admonish the sinner. Let’s take the example of contraception use, and apply the lens of truth. Rather than saying, “You use contraception? Why that’s a sin!” and then huff away in a high and mighty manner, try this type of response: “Have you ever given any thought to the statement you make to your partner when using contraceptive devices?” You have opened up room for a discussion with an inquiry that is sure to generate a willingness to hear your next thought. Then speak the truth: “What you are saying to your partner, without using words, is ‘I love you, but not enough to have a child with you.’”
You will have successfully admonished the sinner, by subtlety informing them of how contraception robs the relationship of full self-giving love. You also give the person some food for thought. You expressed your opinion from your perception of truth as you understand Church teaching. You will most likely exit the conversation unscathed.
How you admonish the sinner is of utmost importance. If you choose the high and mighty manner, expect confrontation! However, if you seek to communicate truth through inquiry, understanding and reasoning, you’ve got a better chance.
If you give my suggestion a try, let me know how it works out.