Published in Church and Life (1843) 7.11.2012 – 28.11.2012 No 17 

If we are thinking about getting out of any “mess” we might be in, we need the advice of those who have already survived the “mess” themselves.  If someone has not seen the dark side, they will never help anyone back to the bright side.An insecure community or group can never tolerate criticism.  A community that can accept self-criticism is a community which has much hope for the future.

For instance, the church, during the Second Vatican Council (1960-65), started to realise that something was wrong in the church itself.  The Council was a very healing moment in history because it allowed the church to rethink itself.

Correction or making things right comes from a realisation that something wrong can or has happened.  This is a positive thing.  It is a sign of a mature person or group.

The reaction of the churches to the recent sex abuse issues is a case in point.  There are various responses to the sins of the clergy and others.  There are those who absolutely denied that it happened or could have happened because they claim that it was not possible.  Others admit that there is cause for concern, have worked with the authorities and have taken steps to make sure that a culture like this does not exist in the future.  Darkness or the negative should be used as a conversion experience.  That is what God does with all of us when we criticise ourselves and repent.  Throughout history God has made repentant people better.

That is why Jesus has always said ‘love your enemy’.  The enemy carries our dark side.  What we hate in the enemy is usually what is troubling us.  The enemy reflects our own grave sins and these are probably worse than what the enemy has.  “Why do you try to take the speck out of your brothers’ or sisters’ eye when you cannot see the log in your own” (Mt.7.5).

We love to criticise people or communities instead of realising that God can use our own faults to teach ourselves.  When we become very suspicious or argumentative we should immediately turn the attention to ourselves.  What is God saying to me about me?  How does He want me to change?

Unfortunately overly critical people cannot sort themselves out of predicaments.  They need someone as it were to guide them and show them God’s plan.

We tend to seek friends who will support us 100%.  They make us feel good and unfortunately help our pains to grow.  We need a God like person who can point out the hope and vision when our criticism comes from love not hate.