We don’t know what Bishop François Fénelon saw happening in his parish, especially with the influx of strangers due to the war with Spain. But something caught his eye and prompted him to write the following instructions for all believers involved. Fénelon spent years in France trying to convert the Huguenots (French Protestants) back to Catholicism, but was unsuccessful. However, we can detect from his writings that he may have learned more from them than they learned from him.
Fénelon said you need to be more broadminded when it comes to other people’s faults. I grant you that you cannot help seeing them when they are near or around you. Also, it’s hard not to notice how they seemingly act and behave without principles or morals; neither can you ignore the irritation that such things cause. Suffice it to say, if you try to deal with apparent faults, avoiding judging those that are suspicious, and resist the characteristics that distance you from other people. In other words, if you don’t act like the world, the world won’t like you.
Perfection finds it easy to tolerate the imperfections of others and to be all things to all people. We ought to learn to put up with the most glaring faults in weak believers and leave them alone until God gives the sign for a gradual weeding; otherwise, we will likely tear up the wheat with the weeds. God often leaves certain hardships and handicaps that disturb even the most devout souls, things that seem quite out of character with their dedication to His service. It’s similar to when abandoned land is reclaimed and cleared; those who did the work leave reminders to show how extensive the clearance work has been. God leaves similar reminders to show from where He has brought us.
All such souls must work at self-evaluation at their rate, and you must labor to endure their imperfections. Your experience has taught you that correction is sometimes a bitter pill, and since you know this, give them some room to recover. It shouldn’t be your aim or goal to correct others for their sake. When you don’t provide them with enough time to move, your perfectionism shuts the door of your heart to them.
Written over 450 years ago
Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda