The Necessity of Kind Listening

Father Faber observes: “Many persons whose manners will stand the test of speaking, break down under the trial of listening. But all these things ought to be brought under the sweet influences of religion. Kind listening is often an act of the most delicate interior mortification, and is a great assistance towards kind speaking.” Moreover, “those who govern others must take care to be kind listeners, or else they will soon offend God and fall into secret sins.”

“Weak and full of wants as we are ourselves, we must make up our minds, or rather take heart, to do some little good to this poor world while we are in it. Kind words are our chief implements for this work. A kind-worded man is a genial man; and geniality is power. Nothing sets wrong right so soon as geniality. There are a thousand things to be reformed, and no reform succeeds unless it be genial. No one was ever corrected by a sarcasm, crushed, perhaps, if the sarcasm was clever enough, but drawn nearer to God, never.”

“Men want to advocate changes, it may be in politics, or in science, or in philosophy, or in literature, or perhaps in the working of the Church. They give lectures, they write books, they start reviews, they found schools to propagate their views, they coalesce in associations, they collect money, they move reforms in public meetings, and all to further their peculiar ideas. They are unsuccessful. From being unsuccessful themselves, they become unsympathetic with others. From this comes narrowness of mind; their very talents are deteriorated. The next step is to be snappish, then bitter, then eccentric, then rude, after that they abuse people for not taking their advice; and, last of all, their impotence, like that of all angry prophets, ends in the shrillness of a scream. . . . Without geniality no solid reform was ever made yet. . . . Nothing can be done for God without geniality. More plans fail for want of that than for the want of anything else. A genial man is both an apostle and an evangelist—an apostle because he brings men to Christ; an evangelist because he portrays Christ to men.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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