admonishing sinners

Hello there,
I need your advice on admonishing sinners,
For example I’m 15 and i was wondering if you hear other young people in school cursing, should you correct them. For example I heard a person saying the Lord’s name in vain, and where I live people do it a lot, should I admonish them? I feel that it wouldn’t do them much good since they would probably feel angry and would ignore my advice. I don’t want to be correcting everyone for their faults all the time. Please help me, what faults need admonishing and who do you admonish? Any advice would be greatly helpful.
Thankyou and God Bless!

““Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten:* fraternal correction* in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters. This was not the case in the early Church or in those communities that are truly mature in faith, those which are concerned not only for the physical health of their brothers and sisters, but also for their spiritual health and ultimate destiny. The Scriptures tell us: “Rebuke the wise and he will love you for it. Be open with the wise, he grows wiser still, teach the upright, he will gain yet more” (Prov 9:8ff). Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction - elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil. I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. As the Apostle Paul says: “If one of you is caught doing something wrong, those of you who are spiritual should set that person right in a spirit of gentleness; and watch yourselves that you are not put to the test in the same way” (Gal 6:1). In a world pervaded by individualism, it is essential to rediscover the importance of fraternal correction, so that together we may journey towards holiness. Scripture tells us that even “the upright falls seven times” (Prov 24:16); all of us are weak and imperfect (cf. 1 Jn 1:8). It is a great service, then, to help others and allow them to help us, so that we can be open to the whole truth about ourselves, improve our lives and walk more uprightly in the Lord’s ways. There will always be a need for a gaze which loves and admonishes, which knows and understands, which discerns and forgives (cf. Lk 22:61), as God has done and continues to do with each of us.”

–Pope Benedict XVI from message for Lent 2012

Fraternal correction is not “judging”.

(I will note though that some here struggle with scruples and thus have difficulty distinguishing between what is sin and what is not etc…in which case they may need to seek the direction of their regular confessor…for they may not yet be in a good spot to be giving many such “fraternal corrections”…if any)

There is *prudence *that must go into such.

We do not go around all the time…“fault finding” …(especially in terms of venial sins…I am not here commenting on the actual thing one was seeking to correct–such can be venial sin or grave depending (such as a person uttering hatred of God --but one doing that is NOT likely to receive your fraternal correction well).

There can be times when we are to fraternally correct…but also times when one should not…like when it will just make matters worse…

And part of the prudence that can go into asking-- if one ought to do so is the question is there well founded hope that it will help?

Speak with your confessor …perhaps he can guide you.

(I imagine he will tell you to say a prayer for them…or praise the Holy Name interiorly yourself…that often is not in a position to correct such…especially at your age)

One can get at times more traction perhaps with ones friends…at others not. Each is a judgment call.

Speak with your confessor perhaps regarding your particular situations.

I remember one guy I worked with years ago who was abusing the Name of Jesus and I asked him not to --he even though an atheist as I recall --changed when he was around me.

From what you say there-- “I feel that it wouldn’t do them much good since they would probably feel angry and would ignore my advice.”

Figures large into things…

It may be that one simply says an interior prayer “Praised be Jesus Christ!” at times (and not participate in such of course).

I am so sorry that you have to be exposed to people who curse and swear! It is one thing I react to very strongly and without reservation. If people say “G-D” near me I will react and tell them not to do that! I would have to very strongly curb myself even if were a large man holding a rifle…I cut my teenage son some slack with his language but that is one thing I will always respond to…strongly and immediately.

Now, what I would suggest is that you spend more time with friends who do not take the Lord’s name in vain. Then, you will gain more courage and if another friend comes up to the group and begins to swear, you have others there who can be a strength and ALL of you can respond and admonish the person to stop taking the Lord’s name in vain.

It does rather surprise me that in Ireland, a devout Catholic country (mostly) you would have a lot of that sort of cursing, but I suppose degeneracy is everywhere.

I would rather hear the “F” word than G-D.

I do not let it offend me. Not the words, not at all. Those are surface symptoms of a problem that they will hide from you if you admonish them for the words.

So if a guy yells, "blahditty blah blah " I might say, “you don’t sound very happy.” I’m ministering to the “real” person who is hiding behind the foul language. That’s the one that will cry “Abba, Father,” but the bad disposition of the false self turns it into cursing. The false self is just a mask. Remember “persona” means “with sound” and used to be the masks worn at ancient plays. There would be a list of persona, which meant the masked the actors held in front of themselves and spoke through a hole in them.

To admonish the language is like yelling at the trash while it’s riding in the truck. Once it comes out it need not hang around in our recent focused memory. It’s like when a person comes at you with brights, you want to look right at them because you’re mad at them, but it’s prudent not to because it will blind you, so you should look away instead. Same thing hear.

Speak no evil.
Hear no evil.


The art of listening.

You will gradually learn when to ignore it and when to challenge and more important how to challenge it so you not seen as too controlling and the only way to do that sadly is trial and error. You will make many a mistake along the way but the mistakes are lessons that we learn from. There is no hard and fast rule even if the school policy or something has zero tolerance for there are times when one just have to let of steam without having to watch their language or what they say.

I think you will go far if you can watch your own behaviour first. That way you will find out a little about how the sinner (your words) may be feeling at that moment. admonishing them mayn’t be the right way forward. You telling them they are wrong without seeing the bigger picture of what is happening for that person wouldn’t be of help.

Language is awkward and at 15 everyone is testing their boundaries. Saying things they mayn’t be allowed to say at home etc. People I am friends with and depending on why they have said “oh God” in vain, I will very light heartedly joke, “Amen” to one person. Sometimes it gets a smile. But I never go further because whats the point. I don’t mean that in a negative way. I am not perfect so how can I expect another to be perfect.

"If your brother sins (against you), go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. Matthew 18:15

If you read the entire section, it’s clear that Jesus is using the term, “brother,” as a fellow disciple or person part of a community, not about strangers in your midst.

At age 15, you most likely haven’t reached a level of perfection in yourself, to give you any amount of credibility in correcting others who happen to be within your hearing, using profanity and such.

If you were to correct them, they would not only ignore you, but perhaps would begin to look at you with a critical eye, watching for any transgression you make.

Should you make an error, you will only feed their contempt toward people of religious conviction, and help provide them with excuses to remain where they are.

The best teacher is the one who is able teach by the way they live.


I don’t think cursing is inherently wrong. I curse all the time. If it’s done disrespectfully or out of anger, then there’s something to be said, but the words themselves are just words.

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