Giving Someone a “Plus Sign”

I mentioned previously that during my retreat I used Louis Savary’s book, The New Spiritual Exercises in the Spirit of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, for my prayer material.  The prayer exercises and text of that book produced many powerful religious experiences and both broadened and deepened my understanding of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises.

As I continue to bemoan the lack of real dialogue on so many issues on which there is disagreement in our society, I am reminded of something Savary writes in the introduction of his book.

Ignatius always taught his fellow Jesuits that, when presented with ideas or behaviors that are strange, unusual, questionable, or appear to be wrong, they should always begin by trying to find what might be good, useful, or inspiring in that person’s ideas, rather than to criticize them or condemn them outright.  Jesuits call this approach giving someone a “plus sign,” that is, to look first for the positive in what is being offered and to assume the person offering it wants the best and is operating with good intentions.

Although Savary’s purpose in writing that was to ask his readers to give him a “plus sign” in their reaction to his book, this seems to me a good approach in our general dealings with each other.