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Telling someone off July 13, 2012

Posted by daniel ayad in Behaviour.

 It’s interesting to hear the views people have regarding the right to tell people off….and how to go about it. In an earlier post we discussed whether to scream or not to scream (found here screaming) and perhaps we can build upon this to explore the right to tell people off.


As we said earlier there is a big difference between holy and unholy anger. Sometimes a holy anger happens for God’s sake, BUT it does not have nervousness and loss of temper.


I believe it is very important for every Christian not to lose his cool. There are times when it is extremely difficult no doubt to remain calm, but you cannot be an aggressive Christian. Being aggressive is offensive to the name of Christ. Christ was never aggressive in His life on earth. He certainly never rebuked without love.


So are you allowed to tell people off? Well yes (Christ rebuked people), but it cannot be done aggressively or harshly.


What if somebody was offended by your telling off? Are you justified? Was it done in love? Are you in any way wrong?


I’ll repeat a story mentioned previously which may help you answer the above.


I recall a story once of a servant who finally brought a man to church after a 17 year absence. When the man came to church he worked for hours with a rekindled love. After the long efforts he decided to lay down in the church and take a rest on the chairs. Suddenly the priest walked in and saw the man lying on the church chairs. The priest yelled aggresively and said something to the effect of “why are you lying like this in church, who made you disrespect this place!”. The servant then said “the man didn’t come for 17 years, and I don’t know if he will come for another 17 years. I’m not worried for the man, I’m worried for the priest”. And just for the record the servant who told this story later became a priest.


Answer: The man was offended by the telling off of the priest. I don’t think the priest was justified because it did not appear to be done in love. While the man should not have lied down on the church chairs, the priest was definitely to an extent in the wrong. Remember, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (Js 2: 10).


Wrong is wrong, and two wrongs do not make a right. You cannot justify somebody’s error for your error.


What about if screaming at a person is the only way it will get someone’s attention? …. Then surely screaming is only a temporary solution and will hinder long term. If you have to continually scream to get somebody to do something for you, then surely that the relationship is not as loving as it should be.   


What about holding a grudge? Is there ever a situation when you are never at fault?


I heard a priest speak at length about this before. He emphasised that there is never ever a situation of grudging where one person is 100% at fault. Even still “Go and reconcile with the one whom did you wrong before he comes to apologise to you and steal your crown”[1].


I aim to be the first person to say sorry whenever a conflict has arisen. While saying sorry may not be easy….if nobody says sorry the situation will just get worse and worse with time. The longer the standoff, the more difficult it will be to rectify the relationship.


Don’t be critical of the apology. Accept it and move on….


Approach your brother in conflict. Go out of your way to approach the person. Don’t intentionally wait and blame the other person for not approaching you. If you do wait…the other person may never approach you…and nothing is rectified.


If you stay away from the church (i.e. ignoring the person and problem) you do not help the situation. Instead you have to assume your responsibility toward him, that is to treat him with love and prayers (which is very effective) for him and with fasting for the good of the ministry[2]. “So that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” (2 Cor 2:7-8).


It doesn’t matter what position you are in (clergy, laity), you do not have the right to tell someone off unfairly. Being a higher rank doesn’t give you a pass to do this. All humans are dust (and sinners!), and there are no exceptions to the rule. It’s not ‘but it’s different’ for a high ranking person.


Do not expect too much from people if you ask something from someone. Nobody is superhuman and can perform the way you want all the time. In the end every person is responsible for himself. If you get screamed at, think twice before screaming back. And if you’re doing the screaming reflect back if it was really worth it.


You cannot be best friends with everybody, but you can live peaceably with everybody. It’s not my way or the highway.


May God help us to live peaceably with all men and hold no grudge against our brother lest we be guilty of all


See the amazing sermon that inspired the post http://orthodoxsermons.org/sermons/jesus-president-part-6


[1] Pope Cyril VI, Saint Mark Festival 2012, pg 92, 2012

[2] Fr Bishoy Kamel, From the fruits of paradise: sayings by Fr Bishoy Kamel, pg 61



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