Augustine on Tough Conversations

augustine.city of god

As I mentioned last week I’m trying to work my way (slowly and deliberately) through Augustine’s City of God. I’m sharing some snippets here as I go, so here’s one on the importance of having those difficult conversations:

“we hesitate to instruct, to admonish, and, as occasion demands, to correct, and even to reprehend them. This we do either because the effort wearies us, or we fear offending them, or we avoid antagonizing them lest they thwart or harm us . . . At times, one hesitates to reprove or admonish evil-doers, either because one seeks a more favourable moment or fears that his rebuke may make them worse, and further, discourage weak brethren from striving to lead a good and holy life . . . some, fearing to offend, shut their eyes to evil deeds instead of condemning them and pointing out their malice . . . they fear that a possible failure to effect reform might jeopardize their security and reputation. It is not that they are convinced that these latter are an indispensable means for the instruction of men. They are merely victims of that human infirmity which loves the flattering tongue and earthly life, and which dreads the censure of the crowd . . . For this reason, overseers or rulers are set over the churches, to reprimand sin, not to spare it . . . He is blameworthy if he fails to do this out of fear of hurting feelings or of losing such things as he may licitly enjoy in this life, but to which he is unduly attached.”

– Book 1: Ch. 9

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