As this year begins, I’ve been making myself write down a few reminders in my planner each week. One of them is a simple but powerful three words:
ASSUME GOOD WILL.
This is something St Ignatius asked spiritual directors to do – to assume good will of the person they were directing.
“To assure better cooperation between one who is giving the Exercises and the exercitant, and more beneficial results for both, it is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.” (Spiritual Exercises #22)
If the director doesn’t understand where the person they are directing is coming from, they are to ask questions to understand better. And only then, if needed, correct in kindness.
This is such a difficult thing to do, isn’t it?
Especially in real life.
A package of mine gets dropped at the wrong address and my brain assumes all sorts of ill will before my heart can catch up and remind me that often – it’s just a simple mistake.
It’s a daily challenge to remind myself of my desire to commit to Ignatius’ Presupposition of Good Will.
I know I’ll fail again and again.
I already have.
… but I desire to recommit again and again.
… because there is far more joy, compromise, effective conversation, and good communication when this is the posture I take.
What about you?
Will you commit to assuming good will today?
Let’s try to do what Ignatius recommends:
- Assume good will.
- Ask for clarity if needed before arriving at a conclusion.
… and if still necessary…
- correct in kindness.