Dare to meet the truth
Abba Barsanuphe: “Mrs Aga is a friend of the family. During my holidays she brought a hearty meal and six bottles of beer to welcome me. My mother informed me, and at lunch time, she gave me a bottle of beer. At dinner, she sent the cousin to the fridge to get another bottle for me. But to her surprise, there were no more beers. My mother got up to check the damage: the fridge was empty. Disappointed and perplexed, she asked me if it was me who had “smashed” the other remaining bottles. I answered in the affirmative. She let me know her disapproval. But it was not over yet. The next day, at 5 am while I was sleeping it off, she knocked on my bedroom door, sat down on my bed and told me “I’m starting to get more and more worried about the way you drink. And I have wanted to tell you this for a long time. I wouldn’t want to die with this in my heart without ever having told you.”
As a good alcoholic I defended myself. Still, a part of me questioned myself and became uneasy. Mad with rage, I decided on the same day to travel. When I arrived at my little brother’s house, the first thing I asked him for was beer. And he said, “Hmmm, couldn’t you find a better thing to ask for when you got out of the car? Honestly, I’m worried about your drinking habits.” Two identical confrontations coming from two members of my biological family was too much and too much. I felt terrible and awful for days. And even if I didn’t stop drinking immediately, I admit that these two shocks were a big part of my questioning and desire to get help.
One of the characteristics of us who have a problem with the bottle is denial, over-rationalisation. We end up giving ourselves logical reasons, which justify and explain our sickly consumption. I can tell you that there is not a single person ill with alcohol who will say to you “I stopped drinking or stopped going to therapy as soon as one person questioned me”. That would be too easy!!! It takes a lot of questioning and questioning, even reaching the bottom (realising that you are really “dirty”) to dare to change, to return to sobriety. Here again I can affirm from myself that this questioning coming from a significant person, or from a confrere who does not do it to humiliate the other in difficulty or from his stepladder (I am Ok but you are not ok) or from moralisation, has more chance to succeed and make the person suffering from alcoholism grow. Yes, it is necessary to dare, in my personal experience, to ask a brother about his approach to alcohol, but I insist on a frank, direct but respectful way. I sincerely believe in fraternal solidarity in every way; not only in prayer and the apostolate… but also and above all in the area of self-behaviour and integral personal health (this is what it is all about for an alcoholic brother). Yes, one can tell me everything in my suffering with regard to alcohol, but true love, in respectful firmness. Apart from love, everything becomes a lie, a complex Pharisaic superiority and a desire to debase. And I do not have the right to give free rein to that this is how my AA brain works.”
“If you must correct a small defect in the other person, first of all, think that you have much bigger ones. Fraternal correction is an action to heal the body of the Church. There is a hole there in the fabric of the Church which must be stitched up. And we must sew back up in the manner of our mothers and grandmothers who, when they take a garment back, do it with great delicacy. If you are not capable of exercising fraternal correction with love, charity, truth and humility, you risk offending and destroying that person’s heart, you will only be adding gossip that hurts and you will become a blind hypocrite, as Jesus denounced. We cannot correct a person without love and charity. We cannot carry out a surgical operation without anaesthesia: it is impossible because otherwise, the patient dies of pain. And charity is like an anaesthetic that helps to receive the treatment and accept the correction. Therefore we must take our neighbour aside, gently, lovingly and with love, and talk to him. It is also necessary to speak in truth, not to say things that are not true. It happens so often that in our environment we say things about other people that are not true: this is called slander. Or if they are true, we take it upon ourselves to destroy the reputation of these people. When someone tells you the truth, it is not easy to hear it, but if this truth is told with charity and love, it is easier to accept it. One sign that can perhaps help us is to feel “a certain pleasure” when we see something wrong and think that we need to correct: we must be attentive because it does not come from the Lord. When it comes from the Lord, there is always the cross and the love that carries us, the gentleness. Let us not become judges. We Christians have this annoying temptation: to extract ourselves from the game of sin and grace as if we were angels Well, no! Paul tells us: “We must not be disqualified after preaching to others. And if a Christian, in his community, does not do things – also fraternal correction – in charity, in truth and with humility, he is disqualified! He is anything but a mature Christian. Let us pray, therefore, that the Lord may help us to exercise this fraternal service, so beautiful but so painful, to help our brothers and sisters to become better, and that He may help us to do it always with charity, in truth, and with humility. So be it. »
This is our own translation, the note taking during the pope homely can be found at the following address:
A few questions to think about
- How do I feel when I perceive that a confrere is drinking one glass too many in succession?
- Has someone ever told me, or have I ever felt myself, that I have had one too many drinks?
- Have confreres, parents or acquaintances ever drawn attention to my attitude towards alcohol?
- Have I ever gotten “drunk”?