Testing the Spirit

images“Beloved, do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God…” (1 John, Chapter 4)

St. Ignatius often talks about the term presupposition in the spiritual exercises. This means that we pre-suppose that someone is good-intentioned. That we give others the benefit of the doubt without pre-judging their intentions.

And I’m pretty bad at that.

I often go into discussions thinking I know exactly what someone else is going to say, or what someone’s intentions are. Now at times, I am right, but often enough, I get surprised. Recently, I thought a friend was being snarky when I made a comment, when in fact, she was sympathizing with me. I read her intentions completely wrong and it ended up ruining my day until I found out otherwise.

Talk about stupid, wasted energy.

Today’s Gospel reading also reminds us to be wary about intentions. At first glance it sounds like the opposite of Ignatius’ presupposition remark. But actually, it is not coming from a suspicious, paranoid place. Instead, it reminds us to test everything!

If you want to know the truth, shed some light on it. Someone’s whispering in the room, ask what they said. If they lie, then that’s on them. Want to know what someone else is feeling, don’t assume you know what they are feeling. Ask them and then move from that place.

Many years ago, a colleague of mine was frustrated by another co-worker. She felt like he wasn’t taking her job seriously, so she told him that.

“Bob, I don’t think you take my job seriously.”

“Well, I don’t think you should feel that way!”

“Bob, but I DO FEEL THAT WAY! Don’t tell me how I should feel.”

Lesson learned. But on the flip side, Bob did take her job seriously and made efforts to stop doing things that made her job a lot harder. So presuppositions were lacking all around.

Today, let us make an effort to be better listeners, to shed light on situations and to give others the benefit of the doubt. But let’s also be wary, as not everyone has our own best interests at heart. So test everything and allow that test to open our hearts to see the truth and then and only then can we understand those around us in that light of truth.