St. Basil’s Sage Advice

My good friend, Michael Strong, sent me and excerpt from St. Basil’s letter to St. Gregory, and it is so helpful. Let those of us who are serving Christ as parents, teachers and mentors, take a moment to consider it:

5. On the proper manner of speaking, giving and receiving knowledge and criticism

This, too, is a very important point to attend to: knowledge on how to converse; to interrogate without over-earnestness; to answer without desire of display; not to interrupt a profitable speaker, or to desire ambitiously to put in a word of one’s own; to be measured in speaking and hearing; not to be ashamed of receiving, or to be grudging in giving information, nor to pass another’s knowledge for one’s own, as depraved women their supposititious children, but to refer it candidly to the true parent. The middle tone of voice is best, neither so low as to be inaudible, nor to be ill-bred from its high pitch. One should reflect first what one is going to say, and then give it utterance; be courteous when addressed; amiable in social intercourse; not aiming to be pleasant by facetiousness, but cultivating gentleness in kind admonitions. Harshness is ever to be put aside, even in censuring. The more you shew modesty and humility yourself, the more. likely are you to be acceptable to the patient who needs your treatment. There are however many occasions when we shall do well to employ the kind of rebuke used by the prophet who did not in his own person utter the sentence of condemnation on David after his sin, but by suggesting an imaginary character made the sinner judge of his own sin, so that, after passing his own sentence, he could not find fault with the seer who had convicted him.

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