About this blogger:
Ronda Chervin received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Fordham University and an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute. A widow, mother, and grandmother, she currently teaches philosophy at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Write to her at chervinronda@gmail.com.
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“Today the Church has made a big mistake, turning the clock back 500 years with guitars and popular songs. I don't like it at all. Gregorian Chant is a vital and important tradition of the Church and to waste this—by having guys mix religious words with profane, Western songs—is hugely grave, hugely grave.”
— Maestro Ennio Morricone (10 Sept 2009)

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Day 8: The Challenge of Engaging in only Loving Conversations
published 27 November 2011 by Dr. Ronda Chervin

What you will read now is part of a series of 100 spiritual challenges. Each blog can be viewed separately, but for maximum benefit a reader needs to start with the introductory blog of November 18, 2011, and then continue step by step. Day One begins on Sunday, November 20, 2011.
    [ Click here for 100 STEPS ]

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)

(Note to reader: This is the start of a new theme. Each first day of a new week begins with a short teaching.)

A most fundamental question raised in the Scripture passage is what our real intention is in conversation. Do we enter into it prayerfully, eager to build one other up by affirming the good things you see in him or her and benefiting others by helpful ideas, or do we use conversation often mostly to “vent,” enjoy feeling superior to others through gossip? How about anecdotes about the doings of the “enemy” such as the “boss” or politicians? Kierkegaard, the great Danish Lutheran existentialist, wrote that “the sins of others should make us weep rather than gossip.” Ridicule isn’t loving either, is it, even if the person isn’t present?

When we talk are our voices so low that others (especially elderly people with hearing loss) have to strain to understand us? Do we fail to show interest in others by remaining mostly silent spectators? Or, do we talk too much, dominating most conversations? Are our voices loudly annoying or raspy? On the positive side, how about telling funny jokes to lighten others up, or to change the topic from something that is not so good?

Is our conversation always full of “I” and “me” instead of lovingly drawing out the thoughts, feelings, and wisdom of others?

Does the name above all names, Jesus, come up often in a day’s conversations?

How about the “conversations” we rehearse in our heads? In our quiet time, who is our secret “friend,” God or evil spirits? (For instance when evil spirits help us imagine vengeful, sarcastic, words we could use to ‘annihilate’ someone who hurt us or, better, when the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom about how to help someone who needs our consoling advice.)

The challenge today is just to observe yourself and others in conversation and check to see whether your conversation is truly wholesome and positive or tearing down, gossipy or unloving in some of the other ways mentioned above in the teaching or in other ways.

Dr. Ronda’s examples: At table at the place where I teach, this morning I told 2 edifying stories about graces people got to convert or reform. Then I bubbled over with jokes. This led to everyone lightening up from fear of exams and telling their funny stories. Empathetic conversations with friends in dire circumstances. I had good fairly loving conversations at dinner but at lunch I made a big mistake that is probably a warning. I was talking about the wonderful conversion of a man from alcoholism to becoming a Catholic leader, only to find out that one of the people at the table knew this man, but hadn’t known he was a former alcoholic. I think that when we try to becoming more loving with the help of the Holy Spirit, He takes the opportunity to show us things we never thought of.

Your examples of engaging in loving or unloving conversation:

Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit of love, take over my undisciplined tongue. Move my heart to want to use conversation to build up rather than to compensate myself for feeling hurt by demeaning others. May even the sound of my voice reflect gentle loving kindness.

Read more blog entries by Dr. Ronda by visiting RONDAVIEW. Dr. Ronda Chervin has many free e-books and audios on her website rondachervin.com. If you go to her website and read or listen and then want to correspond with her she will be available. Her schedule does not permit, however, responding to comments on the Blog, though she enjoys reading them. Dr. Ronda’s newest project is spiritualityrunningtogod.com.