To be read: April 26, August 27, December 27
Care must be taken that on no occasion one monk try to defend another in the monastery, or to take his side in a dispute, 2even if they are closely related by ties of blood. 3In no way should the monks presume to do this, because such conduct may give rise to very grave conflict. 4If anyone breaks this rule, let him be severely punished.
Do not take the side of, nor the side against, one of your brothers or sisters in Christ in any conflict. Neither defend nor strike. Why? Because you cannot see the big picture. You do not have the perspective of the abbot, nor of the parish priest, nor of Christ Himself. It is quite possible that when defending a brother or sister in Christ, or taking one side over another in a dispute, we may find ourselves opposing Christ. We cannot know what is best for our friends, our brothers or sisters in Christ. Benedict says that “In no way should the monks presume to do this.” Why? “because such conduct may give rise to very grave conflict.” Conflict within the community, yes. But also, conflict within the spirits of those involved in the dispute.
We each must individually stand before our Lord and allow Him to direct and rule our hearts. No one can do that for us. Jesus addressed this concept in the parable of the ten virgins. The oil for the lamps represents the Spirit. The five wise virgins were full of the Holy Spirit, whereas the five foolish ones were not. But the wise virgins could not give to the foolish ones something that the foolish had not sought out on their own. We can bear one another’s burdens, but we cannot bear one another’s relationship with Christ. No one else can take the essential steps of the spiritual life for us. No one can carry the lamp oil for us (Matt. 25:1-13).
When we step in where we do not belong in the life of another we risk inhibiting their redeeming interaction with the Lord. Are we trying to do for others what they need to do for themselves? Are we robbing them of the opportunity to grow and become stronger in their faith and life in Christ? Conflicts and difficulties are always opportunities to choose Christ. If we interfere in someone else’s struggles we interfere with their ability to choose Christ. John Michael Talbot notes that when we champion the cause of another, “We think we are doing well, but we may be doing harm instead.” (Blessings of St. Benedict, ch. 69) It is also possible that if we were to take a long and careful look at the reason behind our interfering in another’s life we may find that we are doing so to avoid dealing with our own issues.