43. Mutual Support and Encouragement
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Each day brings fresh opportunities to fulfill the commandment of Christ, “that you love one another as I have loved you.” We need one another’s support at times of special stress, disappointment and weakness, but we also need it as the daily bread of our life together. Encouragement is expressed not only through serious concern for one another but also through the free play of our God-given sense of humor.
Honest and direct communication help us strengthen one another. We create the setting for mutual disclosure about how we are experiencing our life in regular meetings from which we exclude the discussion of business. In these, and our other sessions for planning and discussion, we are called to engage one another openly. A brother can frustrate that openness if he shuts himself off or does too much talking. On the other hand, insensitivity in the gathering can inhibit a brother from sharing from the heart. We shall need to invite the Spirit constantly to build up our trust and show us how to speak the truth in love.
We can lift one another up through celebration and the practice of courtesy. We value the opportunities which birthdays and anniversaries present for celebrating a brother’s life. And we seek to sustain a climate of courtesy in which each of us receives assurance day by day that he is appreciated. We need to be generous in expressing delight in one another’s achievements.
We express our regard for one another not only in words, but in gestures that give our bodies a part to play in the interchange of affection, as is natural for men who believe whole-heartedly in the incarnation. We are free to cheer one another with open arms of welcome and to show our care and sensitivity through touch.
Like Jesus, we will be especially attentive to those who could easily become isolated or overlooked. Newcomers to our life, the older brothers, those who are in pain from illness, sorrow or spiritual trial, have particular claims on our hearts. The Superior of the community bears burdens for us all that can become intolerable if brothers neglect to express their care for him regularly and explicitly, or fail to cherish him when he is under pressure.
Above all, we are to open our hearts to any brother with whom we are in conflict. Breaches of trust, injuries, and even enmity are bound to happen, since communities of love are special targets of evil forces. These forces will tempt us to defer reconciliation, or even to pretend that the fabric of our common life has not been torn. But the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ spurs us to seek out the one from whom we feel estranged in order to establish communion with him again through a mutual change of heart.
It’s a lot of work to seek out ones from whom we feel estranged or to speak up when it is time to speak a difficult truth in love. It’s seems easier to pretend that we do not see that the fabric of our relationship is tearing. Moreover, it isn’t always clear what needs to be said, just that remaining silent will harm the relationship. To establish communion through a mutual change of heart may not be possible, but knowing that Christ wants us to establish communion directs us to communicate and be open to mutuality.