Mother Angelica on Receiving Correction with Love

Receiving correction hurts us right in the heart, but it’s the secret of holiness. I don’t mean you need to go around griping at people and letting everybody gripe at you. What I’m saying is that God Himself allows us to be corrected. What do you expect love to do? Love corrects! When your parents do not correct you, that’s when you should worry. People — kids or other family members or friends — need to know that you love them enough to say, “Hey look, this is bad. You’re going to hurt yourself,” without taking away love.

That’s the point: When I correct somebody because I’m angry, I do not correct with love. I’m just getting something out of my system. But if I correct out of love, I can say it in the strongest way, and they know the difference.

Your family is never going to be perfect, but it can be happy and holy. So parents have to correct, but sometimes children also see things in you that are not just right. I had a young postulant come to me one time, and she sat down and I said, “Can I help you?” She looked at me and she said, “Don’t you feel well today?” I said, “Well, now that you mentioned it, not too well.” I said, “Why?” “Well, you’re so irritable,” she said, “I just thought you might have a lot of pain.” And I looked at her and I said, “Well thank you, honey. I’m sorry I was irritable. I didn’t realize it. But I don’t think my pain is great enough to account for that.” And I thought, “That child, even a postulant, loved me enough to tell me that something wasn’t right today.”

“Receiving correction hurts us right in the heart, but it’s the secret of holiness.”

Again, I’m not saying you should go around and correct each other willy-nilly. Criticism, for example, is not correction. Criticism destroys. The media is all geared toward criticism. I want you to think of your neighbor, your children, your husband and try to cross off in your head all those things that you find wrong about them. I want you to look at your spouse and begin to see the very beautiful things that you have lost sight of. Only from that perspective of love and adoration can we correct well.

You see, husbands and wives can get so accustomed to each other that they become like wallpaper or old chairs — just around, there when you come home, useful for this or that. You get in these little ruts and take each other for granted, so when something goes wrong, you don’t have the ability to see it and correct it with love.

The best form of correction is love. Yes, punishing a child for disobedience must sometimes be part of correction, but we must not do so out of anger. Children should know that we want them to be good out of love for the good (because we love them), not out of fear.

“The best form of correction is love.”

So, I wake up with a temper, and I wake up impatient. Either the alarm went off too soon, or it didn’t go off at all, and I don’t have time and there’s just a thousand little things to annoy me. But do you know what corrects me? When one of my sweet sisters comes in and says, “Good morning, Mother,” and she’s smiling and looking at me with love. You know, something happens to me. Nobody has said anything to me like, “Why are you so impatient over your dumb shoes?” In fact, they probably didn’t even notice yet that I was impatient. But love is a kind of force, and it has the power to heal.

Think about the sun. You go outside, lie on the beach, and even on a cloudy day those rays hit you. That’s the way love is (except it doesn’t make you hurt). Sometimes it works unseen and unnoticed, but it has tremendous healing properties. If you’re having trouble in your families, some­times what you need to do is just sit down and look at each other and say something very simple: “I love you.” And do something for each other that says, “I really want you here!”

See, correction isn’t just a matter of mouthing off. Anybody can correct that way. And when you correct that way, you get a lot of your inner anger out, but you don’t always accomplish anything. Do you ever think, “I’m hollering at my kids all the time and nothing ever changes”? They don’t pay any attention to you because they’ve shut you off. They know that even though the correction is justi­fied, there is a personal anger mixed in, so they are not interested. That means, in that moment, they have not felt loved. And as a result, we go running around in a vicious circle. Our families never change; they’re always full of fussing and fuming. Most people in families talk at each other on the way in or on the way out. They lack that community of sharing.

“Each one of us must go back, way back sometimes, to remember the good and to be able to say, ‘I love you just as I did before.’”

I remember talking to a couple who were going through a rough patch. They sat down in my office as far away from each other as possible on the sofa, glaring at each other. Finally, I said to the woman, “Why did you marry him? What was it about him that you liked?” She was shocked and didn’t know what to say. See, she had filled her mind so much with everything that was wrong with him that all the good things had been blocked out. Finally, she looked at him and said, “He was very kind.” And he looked as if a big light went on. And I said to him, “Why did you marry her?” And he thought a minute, a long minute. It was the same thing: Everything in the front of his mind was bad. But finally he said, “She’s kind of homey. You know, she’s motherly, and I loved her because she was just always there, always faithful.” And I said to them, “Well, I want you to see again what you began to see long ago.”

Each one of us must go back, way back sometimes, to remember the good and to be able to say, “I love you just as I did before.”

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Mother Angelica’s Guide to the Spiritual Life. It is available from your favorite bookstore or online through Sophia Institute Press.

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image: The roof of Maderno’s Facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica, features statues of Jesus and the Apostles / Shutterstock

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Mother Angelica (1923-2016) was a Franciscan nun and founder of Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). She remains one of the most popular figures and personalities on Catholic television as well as a powerful witness for Christ.

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