Self-Appointed Therapists: When correcting others becomes a form of abuse
Abbot Tryphon in The Morning Offering (11 June 2016)
When focusing on the sins of others, we set for ourselves the mission of correcting them. We see ourselves as called to help this poor, unfortunate one by pointing out their sins, and telling them how they can be a better person. We are not being critical, but helpful, we tell ourselves. “Don’t take offense”, we say, for “I am only trying to help you see your flaws, so you can become a better person. I am only pointing out your error because I love you, and as a caring person want what is best for you”.
In truth, the spirit of judgment is likely to be counterproductive, as our corrections can be like hitting the person, and our critical analysis of their behavior, or personality, or even their sins, can cause more damage than good. If we truly wish to help them, we will offer good and kind thoughts, speak with words of love and encouragement, and pray for them. We are not doing them a favor by serving as their self appointed therapist, passing judgement on their behavior, and correcting them as though we were an official, appointed by the court. Words of encouragement are far more likely to help the person, than negative and critical feedback.
Imaging the love of Christ is far more profitable for those we’d like to help, for when we live Christ, grace abounds. Others see the love we have for them, and are in turn drawn to that which we have. Only Christ can change the heart, lead the sinner to repentance, and bring about healing. We can be the agent of this transformation by allowing Christ’s love to shine through us, and by demonstrating His transformational grace by how we live, and how we love, and how we do not judge.
That said, there are certainly times when people need to be corrected for their own good. When these occasions arise, we must make sure the correction is given in the spirit of love, so the delivery does not get in the way of the message. Priests, parents, bosses, and sometimes, even friends, may be called upon to offer such counsel, but the spirit of love must always remain central to the message.
It is the Holy Spirit Who gives us the power to live in Christ, and to love others. Only the grace of God can change hearts, and we must not allow our own critical spirit to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit, in others.
With love in Christ,