31 January 2010. 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jeremiah 1, 4-19; Psalm 70; 1 Cor 13, 4-13; Luke 4, 21-30
It is easy to understand what Jesus means and feels when He says, “No prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Who among us feels that the people closest to us do not listen to what we say? Parents complain that their children do not heed them; and on the other hand, children whine about their parents who do not understand their situation. Friends grumble about not being given the ear when they speak. And yet, when we speak out our opinions or offer an advice among people who are not within our inner circle, we find them attentively hanging on to every word we say.
Especially when what we say is actually true. And the truth hurts.
There are different factors that explain this phenomenon. Let me offer just two.
Foremost is overfamiliarity. We do lose credibility among our families and peers because they know too much about ourselves. They believe that they’ve been to every nook and cranny of our lives that they take us for granted. They know our mischief and our secrets. They know our weaknesses and our sins. They saw us when we were growing up and they were used to treating us like little children, as if we never grew up. And even if we tell the truth, they dismiss it right away. It’s an old habit.
We also believe in the myth that the most credible person to correct us should be perfect and unblemished. A perennial liar cannot convince us that lying is not morally acceptable; a smoker cannot tell us that smoking is dangerous to our health; an alcoholic cannot advise us to control our alcoholic intake.
But the reality is, whatever we are, we have the ability to see what is true and what is right. The liar knows that lying brings harm to a relationship. The smoker experiences the effect of a cigar in his lungs. The alcoholic knows how the chemical controls his life. And thus, the sinner can tell us what is acceptable. All of us can teach others about the truth. To tell people the truth is what prophets do. The thing is, who among us is perfect and unblemished so as to be credible?
How do we make the people closest to us listen to the truth we say? Let me offer just two elements that are also essential to love relationships.
First, we must build good memories. In order for people to listen to us, they must have memories of our kindness. They must be able to remember instances when we fought for the truth, when we did our work well, when we have been more hard-working than hardly working.
This is the same thing in leadership. We vote for the people we have memories of their concern for our welfare. Despite their many failures, we still listen to our parents because we can coax out many instances of them being loving. We listen to our friends whom we’ve experienced genuine friendship.
At least, the good memories overpower whatever faults they have of us. Memories strengthens the loving bond we have.
Second, we must be affectionate. Our affection strengthens every single individual in a relationship because it is how we care.
People listen to us because they can remember our acts of concern. How we visited them when they were sick. How we sent them gifts on their birthdays and anniversaries. How we spent quality time with them on a regular basis. How we listened patiently to their rants and rumblings. How we make ourselves available when they needed us.
By doing this, our loved-ones might lend us their ears when we begin talking to them even if what we have to say is hurting.