Remember to check Pope Francis’ Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on this link at the Vatican site. Chapter Nine continues on the theme of listening and accompaniment. Discernment with another, at root, is about asking, “What is going on here?” and being prepared for the honest answer.
293. The second kind of sensitivity is marked by discernment. It tries to grasp exactly where grace or temptation is present, for sometimes the things that flit across our minds are mere temptations that can distract us from our true path. I need to ask myself what is it that the other person is trying to tell me, what they want me to realize is happening in their lives. Asking such questions helps me appreciate their thinking and the effects it has on their emotions. This kind of listening seeks to discern the salutary promptings of the good Spirit who proposes to us the Lord’s truth, but also the traps laid by the evil spirit – his empty works and promises. It takes courage, warmth and tact to help others distinguish the truth from illusions or excuses.
Three things I see here. First, the importance of asking questions. It’s not necessarily a Socratic method, but it does help if we find ourselves confused by what we hear. Second, we can take care to differentiate between thoughts and feelings. “I think I’m angry.” No, the person likely is feeling anger. “I feel you don’t like me.” No, that’s not a feeling; it’s an interpretation of the brain, and a thought which may or may not be the reality. Third, I noticed the word “tact” in the last sentence. That ties in with the virtue of prudence. We can ask ourselves, “Will our input be helpful?” It may be a true message, but until the recipient is ready, it may have no effect. Any thoughts?
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