We protect community by resolving disputes quickly, directly, and compassionately. This involves both a willingness to both forgive and to seek forgiveness.
“Whoever has injured another by open insult, or by abusive or incriminating language, must remember to repair the injury as quickly as possible by an apology, and he who suffered the injury must also forgive, without further wrangling.” (The Rule VI, 42)
“If you have hurt a person by abusing him, or by cursing or grossly accusing him, be careful to make amends for the harm you have done, as quickly as possible, by apologizing to him. And the one who has been hurt should be ready in his turn to forgive you without wrangling.” (Rule Chapter 6 Paragraph 42)
Perhaps nothing is a greater threat to unity, harmony, and the common good than unresolved conflicts and hurts. Jesus made it clear that disputes must be resolved quickly: “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). In a community of humans, it can be easy to offend or hurt others with our words, our actions, and/or our inactions. It can be especially easy to do offend or hurt without ever intending to. A joke or comment that was taken differently than how you intended it to be taken. Someone who has a different opinion about what is best for the common good. Someone whose contribution or effort was not recognized.
Augustine urges us to be sensitive to how we may have hurt or offended another and to seek resolution as quickly as possible. Otherwise, “anger may grow into hatred, making a plank out of a splinter” (The Rule VI, 41); a plank that can easily blind us to the joys of unity and harmony and what is necessary for the common good. Likewise, Augustine urges those who have been hurt or offended to quickly forgive, so that reconciliation can be achieved and unity and harmony restored.
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Reflection written by Jeremy Hiers, O.S.A.
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