We continue the 52-week plan to grow in Catholic Manhood by becoming a better Catholic Son and Catholic Father.

Last week, we continued reflecting upon the eighth major habit: Major Habit 8 – Build Unity with your bride and reviewed Habit 26 – Make Daily Sacrifices for your bride.

We turn our attention to Habit 27.

Habit 27 – Lovingly Give and Accept Correction

Lovingly Give and Accept Correction, prudently and courageously practicing the Spiritual Work of Mercy of Admonishing Sinners and humbly admitting your own errors and making amends with your bride.

What is the Spiritual Work of Admonishing Sinners?

Through Christ, the Church has passed down the Spiritual Works of Mercy (CCC 2447), works which in charity help others to spiritually grow in holiness and happiness.

The word “admonish” comes from a Latin word which means to “bring a debt to mind” and to “warn and urge.” Admonishing Sinners is the Spiritual Work of Mercy by which a man helps another recognize one of their sins, warn them of the damage sin causes to others and themselves, and urges them to repent.

Repentance from sin is necessary for a soul to be forgiven of sin and to receive the Grace of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin in a soul’s life; Jesus says, “”No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:3).

What is the source of the Spiritual Work of Admonishing Sinners?

The call to Admonish Sinners is based on Jesus’ actions and teachings which have been passed along by the Apostles through  Christ’s Holy Catholic Church:

Jesus frequently Admonishes Sinners – While some in the modern Church are hesitant to mention sin, let alone admonish it, Jesus Christ and His Apostles vehemently call sinners to repent so that they might be saved. The early words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels are a call to repent from sin (Mt 4:17, Mk 1:15) and the Gospels records dozens and dozens of times when Jesus admonishes sinners.

Jesus commands men to Admonish Sinners – Jesus specifically calls on His Apostles to admonish sinners multiple times (Mt. 18:15-17, Lk 17:3-4).

The Apostles Admonish Sinners – The Apostles emphasize the need for sinners to repent including St. Peter (Acts 2:38, 3:19, 5:30-31), St. Paul (Acts 17:30, 26:20; Rom 2:5, 2 Cor 7:9), and St. John (1 Jn 1:8-9Rv 2:16, 2:21).

St. James offers a blunt admonishment of sin and the call to repent: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you” (Jas 4:8-10).

The Apostles call for men to admonish sinners – The Apostles instruct Catholic men to admonish sinners including St. Paul (1 Cor 5:12-13; Gal 6:1; 1 Thes 5:14; 2 Thes 3:14-15; 1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 2:24-26), St. James (Jas 5:19-20), and St. John (3 Jn 1:9-10); in addition there are dozens of additional examples of the Apostle’s call to admonish sinners throughout the New Testament.

The Church continues to call men to Admonish Sinners – The Church confirms repentance from sin is both urgent and necessary so a soul can receive God’s mercy (CCC 1432, 1435, 2447) and through Christ, the Church continues to offer the Sacrament of Penance which requires recognition of sin, deep contrition and firm resolve to turn away from sin (CCC 1440-1449).

What is the criteria for Admonishing Sinners?

Knowledge of the types of sins which lead to unhappiness and death must be clearly understood by the well-formed Catholic husband so he can battle against sin in himself and lovingly and accurately help his wife recognize and repent from her sins.

The criteria for Admonishing Sinners can be described in two ways :1) Sins which are explicitly taught by Jesus Christ and His Church, and, 2) various types of human failures which lead to sins against charity, conflict and the breakdown of marriages:

What are Sins described by the Church?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers a deep reflection on the types of sin which wound and kill the soul and provide a basis for the kinds of sins which men are called to admonish in others (CCC 1846-1876).

There are various ways of describing the sins which every Catholic is called to battle against and which form the basis for the admonishment of sin for those ignorant or stuck in sin: The 10 Commandments, Vices, the 7 Deadly Sins, sins against the vows of matrimony, sins against the duties of fathers and mothers, etc; see here for an overview of the types of sins. Sins are forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance.

What are common sins against Charity in marriages?

In addition to the explicit types of sins which Christ and His Church calls the faithful to avoid, there are also various common types of conflicts and disagreements which many married couples experience that can become sins against the Virtue of Charity (love) and contribute to the breakdown of marriages.

Lack of Charity can take many forms, including:

Failing to uphold Catholic religious duties by ignoring personal faith life, being disengaged or uninvolved in the practice of the faith, disagreements about religion, or failing in the duty to draw one’s spouse and children to Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church.

Failing to frequently express gratitude for the sacrifices a spouse makes (e.g. work in home or vocation, little favors, caring for family, advice, contributions to marriage, etc.), leaving the spouse with feelings of being taken for granted.

Failing to express and physically demonstrate affection can leave a spouse to feel unloved, unattractive, and isolated.

Failing to communicate by not listening, not speaking with clarity and honesty, excessive bitter arguing, or being unwilling to work through problems and disagreements in a loving and mature way.

Being unreasonably emotional by being moody, sad, fearful, worried or pessimistic, causing stress and uncertainty.

Failing to support a spouse due to a lack of commitment or unwillingness to care for a spouse in times of emotional, mental or physical illness or suffering.

Failing to find shared interests, leading to lives which are increasingly lived separately.

Having bad or embarrassing personal habits including poor hygiene, poor grooming, disrespectful clothing, uncouthness, sloppiness, ill manners, lack of modesty, avoidable obesity, etc.

Failing to address a spouse’s aspirations by ignoring, discounting, or rejecting them without having a heart-felt discussion; while not every aspiration of a spouse is healthy, realistic and good for a family, deeply held aspirations should be openly discussed in love.

Failing to offer each other sexual intimacy due to a lack of mutual agreement that meets both spouse’s desires in terms of frequency, engagement, expression, self-giving, etc.).

Being abusive by physically or mentally injuring a spouse (e.g. anger, unkindness, controlling, undermining, jealousy, disrespect, unloving criticisms, cursing, manipulating, isolating, ignoring, passive/aggressive behavior, criticizing or embarrassing in public, etc.).

Failing to fulfill household responsibilities by refusing to share work, neglecting chores or disregarding agreed upon responsibilities.

Failing to spend time with the spouse or the family by spending excessive time on personal hobbies, skipping family events, or missing important milestones (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, anniversary of baptism, etc.).

Failing to reach financial “peace” by being either too frugal or spend-crazy, disagreeing about spending levels or priorities, refusing to contribute to family income, or failing to keep financial agreements.

Failing to receive the blessing of children by forcing contraception, abortion, or a discontinuation of sexual intimacy.

Failing to agree on parenting styles and decisions by neglecting parental duties and decision-making, failing to consistently discipline children, being too permissive or punishing in discipline, or disagreeing about children’s education or activities.

Failing to find work/family life balance by working too much (or too little), neglecting family time and activities, disagreeing about careers and roles in the marriage, or keeping an unpredictable or unreasonable schedule. 

Failing to maintain harmonious extended family relations by refusing to engage or being disrespectful and contentious with a spouse’s family.

Becoming addicted to porn, alcohol, food, technology use, gambling, shopping, etc.

Causing mistrust through unhealthy and sinful relationships (emotional, sexual) with others.

Why must Catholic spouses offer and accept the Spiritual Work of Admonishing Sinners?

There are a number of reasons why both Catholic husbands and wives are called to offer and receive the Spiritual Work of Admonishing Sinners:

The Sacramental call to Holiness – Marriage is blessed by God in the Sacrament of Matrimony and spouses are called by God to help each other grow in holiness (CCC 1641). Because husband and wife become one, their closeness allows them to see each other’s sins, especially those personal sins which each of them may have and do not recognize (Lk 6:42). Admonishing each other’s sins is a great blessing to help each other grow in holiness.

The call to love, support and hold each other accountable – Husbands are called to love their wives (Eph 5:25) and spouses are called to support each other in the spiritual pilgrimage to Heaven (CCC 1642). It is a great act of love to help a spouse recognize, repent and receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance.

Continually striving together to grow in holiness in Christ and His Church also helps preserve a marriage from falling into the cycle of sin, injury and resentment, which sadly can lead to the breakdown of marriage.

The call to admonish others – Jesus calls on Catholics to offer fraternal correction to brethren (Mt 18:15-17); Christ’s command is binding and especially helpful for husbands and wives.

Helps set a holy example for children and build the Domestic Church – Husband and wife are  called to strive for holiness and to live a life of mutual love for each other and their children. Admonishing each other’s sins helps both grow in holiness and provide a beautiful example for children (CCC 2223). This foundation of lovingly seeking to grow in holiness provides a firm foundation for building the Domestic Church (CCC 1656), a place of peace and growth in Christ Jesus.

What are some common errors couples make in offering corrections?

Husbands and wives can make common mistakes when they attempt to offer correction to each other which leads to even greater conflict and disunity, including:

Using poor communication styles – Couples can use harsh and hurtful language, sarcasm, talking down/lecturing, passive-aggressive behavior,  shutting down discussion of issues, or giving a spouse the “silent treatment.”

Correcting in public – Some husbands and wives fall into the bad habits, usually out of frustration, of publicly criticizing their spouses in front of others or gossiping about their spouse’s failures to family or friends when the spouse is not present.

Being judgmental and failing to be empathetic – Husbands or wives can pridefully act as if they are morally superior, disregard a spouse’s feelings or reactions as unimportant or exaggerated, overreact with disproportionate anger, frustration or coldness, or talk and behave in a patronizing manner which insults a spouse as lacking the ability to understand.

Lacking openness and fairness – Husbands or wives can ignore their own shortcomings and focus solely on their spouses mistakes, withhold their own feelings and thoughts to avoid vulnerability, act in hypocritical ways which accuses a spouse of the same kinds of errors of which they are guilty, overgeneralize by accusing a spouse of “always” or “never” doing some behavior, or bring up past mistakes and failing to forgive.

Failing to listen – Husbands or wives can fail to listen and ignore their spouse’s perspective or explanation.

Nagging – Husband and wives can fall into a bad habit of repeatedly bringing up something that their spouse does or doesn’t do, without being willing to put in the effort to try to resolve the issue.

Using emotion to manipulate – Husbands or wives can play the victim by exaggerating their own suffering to make a spouse feel guilty, withhold affection to punish their spouse or by issuing threats to cause stress instead of seeking a joint resolution to a problem.

How can a husband and wife begin to more effectively Give and Accept Correction?

While the practice of lovingly giving and receiving correction (Admonishing Sinners) is a lifelong effort which can vary for married couples, here are some ideas to help husbands and wives be more effective at offering and accepting correction:

Make a commitment to become more effective at giving and accepting correction – Husbands and wives can become more effective at giving and receiving correction by having a “meeting of the minds” through which they recognize the great blessings of practicing the Spiritual Work of Mercy of Admonishing Sinners (Lovingly giving and receiving correction).

Reaching commitment is based on mutual love and forgiveness and the readiness to seek the blessings of correcting each other, which include: a mutual commitment to individually and together help each other on the pilgrimage to sainthood and the eternal happiness of Heaven, the desire for more harmony, happiness, peace and great joy in daily life, to strengthen marriage to withstand future trials and tests, and to demonstrate to children how to build a harmonious and loving married life.

Build a habit of mutual prayer – Couples should incorporate into their regular daily prayer life the practice of praying for God to send the Holy Spirit to help them become better at lovingly offering and receiving correction and to help each regularly forgive all past hurts.

How can a husband be more effective in offering correction to his wife?

When you need to offer your wife correction, consider these actions to help her more easily receive the correction:

Be clear about what the issue is – Before jumping in and giving correction, do some “pre-work” to clarify your thoughts about the correction you intend to offer your wife, using basic logic which helps her understand and accept correction:

Describe the situation – Describe the specific words and behaviors which have caused you to believe that correction of your bride is necessary.

Describe the impact – Respectfully describe how your wife’s behavior has a negative impact on you, the family, or others, including how it makes you feel. Avoid attempting to diagnose “why” your wife is speaking and acting  in hurtful ways in this instance; stick to specific observable information.

Describe a solution – Describe how your wife might say and do things differently and how you might help in some constructive way as necessary.

Before proceeding, realize not everything that annoys you is your wife’s fault and by quietly and patiently accepting little annoyances you can grow in love.

Choose an appropriate time and place – For larger issues of correction, wait for a time when your wife will be more receptive (positive mood, not distracted or stressed, not exhausted, etc.) and there is sufficient time for a good discussion, and offer correction in an appropriate place (ie. private, comfortable).

Pray before offering correction – The surest way for your wife to accept correction is to begin by praying together and asking the Holy Spirit to help you both resolve your differences in a loving and productive way. While sometimes a correction is minor and prayer seems unnecessary, it is a great practice to always seek God’s help in everyday life, including when offering correction.

Recall your joint commitment to offer and receive correction – Express your joint commitment to love and support each other, to help each other on the pilgrimage to Heaven, and your joint agreement to lovingly offer and receive correction.

Express correction with gentleness and clarity – Seek to suspend any feelings of hurt or anger and be gentle and patient in offering correction. Be clear, drawing on your “pre-work” to express the issue with specificity and clarity, not being overly verbose or directive, with simple words which sum up the issue.

Listen with love – Begin by expressing your love and your desire to better understand and resolve differences. Be calm with a loving and empathetic gaze, suspend judgment like an independent observer, and be genuinely curious to understand. Fight the impulse to correct or probe, allowing your wife  to speak, knowing that allowing another to speak helps them understand themselves. Do not rush.

Respond with love – Realize others sometimes cannot always accept correction immediately and can deny or be defensive. Willingly receive any correction offered back to you by your wife (see below).

If your wife accepts correction, tell her  you love her, forgive her (if appropriate), and offer some act of affection (a hug, kiss, etc.).

If your wife does not accept correction, do not continue to push and be at peace, telling her you love her and suggest you should both pray for God to resolve things.

Pray for your marriage – Praying together draws the help of the Holy Spirit and draws a couple together in love and unity

How can you willingly accept correction?

When your wife desires to offer you correction, consider these actions to help make it easier for her and for you to more easily accept correction:

Acknowledge when something is troubling your wife – With attentiveness and time, you can grow in your ability to recognize when there is something troubling your wife, including things which you said, done or failed to do which have hurt her.

When you sense trouble, ask for God’s help and then lovingly ask her if something is troubling her. Be patient and recognize that she may not be ready to talk with you. Also, generously never fail to accept times when your wife wants to spend time talking, for it often is an opening for her to express some concern which she hasn’t yet fully thought about.

Recall your joint commitment to offer and receive correction – When your wife begins to offer correction, make sure to pause and ask for God to help you both.

Listen with humility and love to understand the correction – Step back and listen with humility, remembering that you often make mistakes, for you, like all, are a sinner; listen as an objective third party observer and remain calm, fighting any impulses to seek to “get to the point”, knowing some women can sometimes speak in more emotional and circuitous ways than some men do. Fight the urge to be defensive or to go on the offensive, pointing out your wife’s sins/mistakes as you see them. Focus on your own sins/mistakes so that you might grow in holiness and strengthen your marriage.

Seek understanding – In a gentle, patient and unhurried way, ask any questions to help you understand the correction. Pause and take time to process her input. Remain calm and appropriately pleasant.

Confirm your understanding by offering a summary of what you have heard, with specific acknowledgement of what you have said and done and how it affects her, making sure to include any emotional pain you have caused.

If you do not understand or do not think you are at fault, gently tell her so.

Accept the correction, apologize and offer needed reparation – If you do not believe you are at fault, thank your wife and ask for time to pray about the issue.

If you accept her correction, thank her for correcting you, offer a heartfelt  apology, commit to attempt to be better in the future and offer to make any changes or reparation necessary as a result of your sin/mistake. Express your love for your wife.

If your sin or mistake is small, remember to confess it in the Mass. If you have sinned in a serious manner, go and receive the Sacrament of Penance so you can be forgiven and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to battle against future sins.

Pray for your marriage – Praying together draws the help of the Holy Spirit and draws a couple together in love and unity; end in prayer and ask for God to help you grow in love for each other, God and His Holy Catholic Church.

This week’s questions

Here are a few questions to meditate upon:

After reflecting on the above, in what ways could working on Lovingly Giving and Accepting Correction bless you and your wife?

Do you or your wife make some of the common errors that couples make when offering or accepting correction?

What ideas listed above are new and interesting to you?

This week’s commitments

Making a habit a reality requires commitment to concrete action. Here are this week’s challenges:

Review the sections on offering correction and pick out a few things to begin to try when offering correction to your wife.

Review the section on accepting correction and pick out a few things to try when receiving correction from your wife.

Don’t forget to pray with the ECM Daily Gospel Devotional each day.

Consider listening to the EveryCatholicMan.com Gospel Devotional Podcast to be better prepared for Sunday Mass.

Daily Prayer

During the week, pray this short prayer, or one like it, to practice Lovingly Giving and Accepting Correction:

Holy Spirit, please continue to bless our marriage and guide my wife and I to seek Your help in lovingly giving and accepting correction, so that we might grow in holiness and happiness and strengthen our marriage in You. Amen.