Time for some humble pie
While most of the explanations about today’s Gospel (Matthew 18:15-20) focus on the person who was wronged, I was more drawn to the person who committed the offense. What makes a person not listen to his friend (or two or three friends) and then an authority figure like the Church? What makes a person so confident that they’re right that they refuse to see the other side of an argument or to even consider another person’s perspective?
Humility is a trait that some equate with low self-esteem, or a low opinion of oneself. Rather, it’s an accurate assessment of our importance in the world. It’s a quality that allows people to admit that they could be wrong.
A young man came from a small family. As he got older, he had only his father and maternal uncle that remained. He considered it important to stay in touch with what family he had left. The problem was his maternal uncle regularly talked about his dislike of pretty much anyone who didn’t look, or act like him. While the young man asked the uncle to stop making derogatory comments, the uncle didn’t seem to understand the problem. He was voicing his opinion and “what was wrong with that?”
Distraught, the young man sought his friends’ advice. One friend said, "every family has a bigoted uncle, just ignore him.” Another friend said, “try to avoid topics that might stir up a rant” from his uncle. Most of his friends, however, thought he should completely stop communicating with his uncle. The young man told his uncle about these conversations, and of the majority opinion that he should stop talking to him unless the uncle could change. His uncle refused, and neither has spoken to the other in several years.
I wonder which is more difficult to say to someone:” I am wrong,” or,” I’m sorry.” Both take humility. The uncle couldn’t do either, even if it meant losing a relationship, of which he had few.
Today’s gospel reading reminds me that the grace of humility does not detract from our friendships but can only strengthen our relationships with those around us and with God, and hopefully with time give us the wisdom to change.