Here Comes the Shun

imagesI’ve been think­ing about writ­ing this post since that last time I was ill and had immersed myself in many inter­est­ing blogs. So many things to think about.…

A few days ago, I went to Mass and the Gospel was  about fra­ter­nal cor­rec­tion. Our priest focused on what Jesus said about those who did not accept the correction:“Treat them as you would a Gen­tile or tax col­lec­tor.” The priest stressed that though these peo­ple were pret­ty much shunned in the soci­ety of that time and place, Jesus hung out with them all the time. So the mes­sage of the Lord was real­ly to stay open-mind­ed about these peo­ple, to not close the door on them. Be avail­able, be hope­ful, be kind-con­tin­ue to seek them out.

That brought to my mind an old blog arti­cle I’d read, extolling the “wis­dom” of Catholics reviv­ing the lost prac­tice of shunning.The rea­son­ing was that, in these days of peo­ple open­ly liv­ing lifestyles con­trary to church teach­ing, shun­ning is an obvi­ous way to point out their sin (or as seems to be the pop­u­lar ver­nac­u­lar now-their ‘error in judg­ment’). The post cit­ed this scripture-“shake the dust from your sandals”-as the Bib­li­cal basis for shun­ning.

Well, the blog post was one thing, but the com­ments were quite anoth­er. I was sur­prised at how many peo­ple jumped in the dis­cus­sion with enthu­si­asm for shun­ning. Most word­ed their com­ments care­ful­ly, and avoid­ed sound­ing impos­si­bly self-right­eous. Yet, as I read these words, I felt some dis­ap­point­ment that so many saw a spe­cial authority/wisdom/grace in dis­play­ing dis­ap­proval.

The blog dis­cussed the mer­its of com­plete­ly ignor­ing oth­ers, kind of a cold turkey cut­off of all fel­low­ship, friend­ship, sharing.Whatever evil the sin­ner was prac­tic­ing, that took pri­or­i­ty over any ves­tige of good­ness that they might pos­sess. It seems way too extreme to me. I think, as hard as it may be to do, peo­ple respond bet­ter to direct address. No, not read­ing them the riot act, or lec­tur­ing them, but ask­ing ques­tions tact­ful­ly, express­ing con­cern, being engaged, hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion. I envi­sion it as a very kind con­fronta­tion. Cold turkey cut­offs are a step back­ward, cru­el­ty dis­guised as bad man­ners.

Inter­est­ing­ly, think­ing about shun­ning in the extreme gave me an insight into a prac­tice that is far more com­mon. It’s kind of like a selec­tive shun­ning. Peo­ple choose to selec­tive­ly ignore some­thing, a rela­tion­ship, a per­son, an event, a con­ver­sa­tion, that is an inte­gral part of another’s life. They cut con­ver­sa­tions off, they look the oth­er way, they change the sub­ject. And these folks who do this are not cold-heart­ed or mean. Nor­mal­ly they are kind, open peo­ple; some even claim to be friends. But some­thing has con­vinced them to pass judg­ment on anoth­er . So they delib­er­ate­ly ignore this item of another’s life — some­thing that is mean­ing­ful to that oth­er per­son. Their log­ic and best judg­ment is ‘it’s for his own good. Don’t give it any respect or atten­tion, bet­ter to ignore it’. And they actu­al­ly believe that they are being lov­ing. This is where I real­ly appre­ci­ate the Lord’s advice-to per­son­al­ly con­front the per­son. He doesn’t play any stu­pid games. He’s not into manip­u­la­tion. He does not cal­cu­late. He states that He is always in our midst when “two or more” are gath­ered . Who wouldn’t want Him there? He wants us to talk.

But that takes courage, to be forth­right and hon­est yet gen­tle in your con­fronta­tion. And it involves a real risk as you speak your truth to your friend. You could be wrong. Your view may be skewed. You may receive enlight­en­ment from your friend that embar­rass­es  you. But you also could be right. And you may enlight­en your friend . It is also pos­si­ble that when all is said and done, you may lose that friend.

Selec­tive shun­ning is the manip­u­la­tive tool of choice these days,especially by ama­teur psy­chol­o­gists. I can see where it is ide­al because it will wear some vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple out, those unable to assert or explain them­selves . I can also see where those using it delude them­selves that they are being kind and Christ-like. But I can’t imag­ine the Lord ever refus­ing to have the con­ver­sa­tion.…