In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis calls dialogue “essential” for family life. Family is the “domestic church” (no. 67)—the place where parents teach faith, love, justice, concern, and respect for others. Family is where we “foster a culture of encounter” and where we help “each person to see fellow human beings as brothers and sisters” (no. 183).
In our families, we are called to teach and model respectful and civil dialogue, even when we disagree with one another. Here are ten tips from Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia for practicing respectful and loving dialogue in families. We can help family members approach conflict and disagreement differently in relationships, in the neighborhood, at school, in the workplace, and in every other setting. We can contribute to building a more respectful and peaceful world.
- Recognize the real “importance” and dignity of the other person. Recognize others’ right “to think as they do and to be happy.” Pope Francis challenges us to acknowledge the values of the other’s “deepest concerns” and what he or she is try to say (no. 138).
- Try to understand where the other person is coming from: his or her pain, disappointments, fear, anger, hopes, and dreams (no. 137).
- Put yourself in the other’s “shoes”; try to “peer” into his or her heart. This is the starting point for dialogue (no. 138).
- Be ready to “listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say.” Dialogue requires the “self-discipline” of waiting until someone is finished speaking before responding. And, it means truly listening to what someone else is saying—not planning a comeback before the other person has even finished speaking (no. 137).
- “Keep an open mind.” We need not stick to our own “limited ideas and opinions,” but we must “be prepared to change or expand them.” Our goal is “synthesis” that enriches everyone involved in the dialogue. We don’t seek unity in diversity, Pope Francis says, but rather “reconciled diversity” (no. 139).
- Our goal is to advance the common good. Respect and appreciation for the “other” are necessary prerequisites (no. 139).
- Try not to offend, and don’t vent. We must choose our words carefully, be sensitive to how others feel, and never seek to inflict hurt. We must also avoid a “patronizing” tone, which “only serves to hurt, ridicule, accuse and offend others” (no. 139).
- Love everyone. “Love,” Pope Francis writes, “surmounts even the worst barriers.” When we come from a place of love, we can better understand others (no. 140).
- Base positions on beliefs and values, not on the desire to “win” an argument or be “proved right” (no. 140).
- Pray! True dialogue, Pope Francis reminds us, “can only be the fruit of an interior richness” nourished by our quiet time with God through reading, reflection, prayer, and “openness to the world around us” (no. 141).
These are challenging words from Pope Francis. How might our own families be different if we took his words to heart? Our parishes? Our neighborhoods? Ourselves? Our society?
This reflection is adapted from 10 Tips on Dialogue from Pope Francis: A Challenge to Families…and Candidates? on JPHD’s ToGoForth.org blog.