If Your Brother Listens, You Have Won Him Over

Confrontation is uncomfortable. Settling a perceived wrong with the person who has done it takes us out of our comfort zone. Far easier it is to complain about it to someone else or to brood over the wound on our own. Yet in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus exhorts his disciples to take the other person aside and to speak to him directly about the matter. Awkward? Certainly. Such conversations might even make things worse. Yet these encounters, when anchored in real love, have the potential for abundant fruit.

Let in the Light

A few years ago, while going to the gym for my morning workout, I noticed that the place was darker than usual. The shades were all drawn. I wavered for a minute, wondering what to do. I looked around. No one else seemed bothered by the lack of sunlight. Should I say anything? I finally approached the person at the front desk and asked if there was a reason for the closed shades. When he said no, I asked if he could open up the shades where I was to exercise, and he readily agreed.

Remarkably, as he began to open up the shades of every window along the wall, the whole room was transformed. People looked up from their machines and noticed the light coming in. They began to look at the scene outside with interest. And one could feel that there was something abundantly right and true in the influx of so much sunlight.

So, too, when we muster the courage to speak with the person who has wronged us, and when we do so in love, we can experience the cleansing power of truth. Jesus, though He calls us to forgive, knew that in order for healing to take place within a broken relationship, that the wound needs to be exposed. Indeed, how often have we discovered that when we gently confront the other person, many times he does not realize what has happened?

Love is Based Upon Truth

Simple as it is, Jesus’ command reveals extraordinary insight. Firstly, as Thomas Merton once wrote, “Love is based upon truth.” To love is to will the good of the other, and therefore must be grounded in truth. When we try to look away when one of our loved ones has seriously wronged us, we are no longer truly loving that person. In a way, we are simply trying to ‘close the shades.’ That brings neither true peace nor true love. What Jesus calls us to is a deeper and more wholesome love that is purified by truth. Like the cleansing of any wound, it will involve some initial discomfort, yet in the long term the relationship becomes far more sincere, no longer simply a feeling but a will towards what is good.

Secondly, this exhortation to speak truth to the other person underscores the dignity of the human person. Consider how we would wish to be treated, were we the one who had done the wrong. To find out later through other people that we have been complained about is often crushing, particularly if based upon some misunderstanding. Far better it is to receive the truth directly and out of goodwill from the other person, than through the crooked lens of gossip.

If He Listens, You Have Won Him Over

Of course, our Lord knew as well that many times the other person may still reject the truth. Nonetheless, the principle remains clear: when a person has wronged us, we must first take the matter to him privately. How do we do this? Let us first pray for clarity in the issue. Let us then pray for the grace of real love toward the other. In this spirit of love, then, we may take the bold step of approaching him and laying forth what has happened, always ensuring that we do so out of genuine love and respect for him. After all, he is no mere stranger but your brother. If he listens, “you have won him over”! And even if he does not, you have at the very least, done the work of love.

[Readings: Ez 33:7-9; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.


  1. Rita on September 11, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Beautifully written. I especially liked the comparison of closed shade exposing the light when opened.

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