WE need to figure out how the exclusivity of truth can blend with the inclusivity of charity. Truth and charity should go together, not one without the other. St. Paul says it to us very clearly: “Do the truth in charity.” (Eph 4,15)
He says that it is by this guideline that we will become like Christ. He reiterates this point when in another letter, he says: “Let all your things be done in charity.” (1 Cor 16,14)
And that’s simply because charity is the mother of all virtues, the summary of all goodness, and, in fact, the very essence of God in whose image and likeness we are. Nothing is genuinely good and proper to us unless it is infused or motivated by charity.
Truth, of course, is about what is objective, real, right, fair. It is more about how things ought to be which may not coincide with how things are at present. In the end, truth is Christ himself, his whole self, his entire teaching and example. He himself said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (Jn 14,6)
Our difficulty starts when we understand truth simplyas an intellectual affair, divorced from its moral requirements. That attitude restricts the essence of truth, making it abstract, projected only in the ideal world of the mind and desires, detached from the concrete and real world where many other considerations ought to be made.
Truth understood and lived in this way is actually not truth, since it would miss the entire picture of reality. And so we must disabuse ourselves from the indiscriminate reference of this term when what we are referring are actually principles, doctrine, dogmas, opinions, and even popular consensus only.
If ever we have to use that term, we need to qualify it accordingly as principles, doctrine, dogmas, ideologies, opinions or some consensus. It still has to pass the test of charity, which means that it has contend with the concrete data on the ground, the facts and conditions, that would determine whether such truth as principles, doctrine, etc. would be applicable or not, and also the way such truth ought to be presented.
We have to be most wary to impose the truth on others. That’s not the way Christ did it. He was willing to be misunderstood, to suffer for the truth and eventually to die for it. Even in the strongest terms in which he presented the truth, he never imposed it on anyone by force.
This is something that we have to learn to do, since very often our tendency is that even in matters of opinion where any view can have more or less the same weight as any other, we like thrust ours to others. We feel hurt when we encounter disagreement.
Yes, we need to foster the truth, especially the gospel truth, in season and out of season, as St. Paul says. But it should be done with charity always. We have to try to avoid humiliating others, especially those who are clearly in error.
As much as possible, the transmission of truth should be such that the audience or recipients would feel that they get to know the truth by their own accord, instead of being told, or made to arrive at a certain conclusion because of how the truth is framed.
Priests who by office preach should try their best that their words drip with charity, compassion, understanding and mercy. As much as possible, they (we) have to avoid sounding domineering and lording it over. This will require nothing less than a vital union with God
No matter how sure we are of our doctrine or how relevant the point we want to make is, there is no basis for us to sound scolding and controlling. The tone should always be kind and warm, positive and encouraging, hopeful and optimistic even if we have to issue some suggestions, warnings or corrections.
We should remove any trace of bitterness, sarcasm, irony. These only leave a bad taste in the mouth, and can be more destructive than constructive. Rather, there has to be a more dialogical character of any communication. This is how we can more effectively blend the exclusivity of truth with the inclusivity of charity.
To reach and to adapt to us, God had to become man, and the man-God, Jesus Christ, did everything humanly possible to make himself understood. He used parables and his teachings were accompanied by appropriate actions. He was willing to go all the way to die on the cross to make his point.