Bernardo M. Villegas
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Love Letter from Pope Francis (Part 1)

           Prominent Vatican journalist Robert Moynihan hit the nail on the head when he called the recent Apostolic Exhortation on the Family of Pope Francis “a love letter to the world.”  Entitled in Latin Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the Letter defines what love is, what the role of each person in the family should be and how the family should be in the world, and in the Church.  As Moynihan writes: “In a time—our time—when the family seems under attack in so many ways,  when there are such temptations to break up families, this text is like a powerful medicine, a heart-felt appeal from Pope Francis, to each of us to  keep going, to keep together, to keep loving…”  After I read the most powerful Chapter 4 of the document, I am convinced that there is much advice of the Pope that can be applied to a business enterprise if we take into account that every business is like a family, a community of free and responsible persons who have gotten together to achieve a common mission in which the various stakeholders commit themselves to seek the good of one another, which is another way of saying to “love one another.”   If we focus on the essence of love as seeking the good of another (even if emotions do not accompany this desire), then we can say that every business should also be a community of love.

          But first, what is the Pope’s advice to members of the family, starting with the father and mother?  His Holiness points out that first and foremost, the grace of the sacrament of marriage is intended before all else to perfect the couple’s love.  He then takes off from the lyrical passage of Saint Paul about true love:  “Love is patient, love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful;  it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Corinthians 13; 4-7).”  Patience is extremely important in seeking the good of someone else because it makes one Godlike in being “slow to anger.”  The impatient person easily hurts a loved one because of outbursts of anger during which unkind words are easily uttered.  Patience is the quality of one who does not act on impulse and avoids hurting the feelings of others.  A patient person emulates God’s restraint, who always leaves open the possibility of repentance, while insisting on his power, as revealed in His acts of mercy. 

          The Pope emphasizes that being patient does not mean letting ourselves be constantly mistreated, tolerating physical aggression or allowing other people to use us.  Impatience stems from our thinking that relationships or people ought to be perfect, or when we put ourselves at the center and expect things to turn out always our way.  This attitude makes us impatient, everything makes us react aggressively. Unless we cultivate the virtue of patience, we will always rationalize our angry reactions.  We end up incapable of living together, antisocial, unable to control our temper.  Our families will become battlegrounds.  There will be constant bickerings between the spouses.  Patience takes root in us when we recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world, just as they are with their strengths and weaknesses.    The patient man allows others to hold him back, to unsettle his plans, to annoy him by the way they act or think, or if others are not everything he wants them to be.    Love always requires deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.  Married couples can always weather the ordinary storms of disagreements and daily frictions if they have the virtue of patience.

          In the community of persons that make up a business enterprise, it is also necessary for the big boss to live the virtue of patience if his organization is to foster an environment that is sufficiently attractive for the best workers to want to remain.  Constant outbursts of anger and impatience are a sure formula for a high attrition rate.  Impatience with the imperfections of subordinates or co-workers does not help in improving individual behaviors in the organization.  Patience leads to the very important practice of fraternal correction through which erroneous behavior is corrected in a calm and charitable manner, without any attempt to humiliate the person being corrected.  In fact, as in the relationships between spouses or between parents and children, “love is at the service of others.”   As Pope Francis comments, St. Paul wanted to make it clear that “patience” is not a completely passive attitude, but one accompanied by activity, by a dynamic and creative interaction with others.  Love is always oriented towards action.  It always tends to benefit and help others.  It is always ready to be of assistance.  It is more than a feeling.  Pope Francis quotes St. Ignatius Loyola who said, “Love is shown more by deeds than by words.”   Especially within the family, love shows its fruitfulness and allows us to experience the happiness of giving, the nobility and grandeur of spending ourselves unstintingly, without asking to be repaid, but for the pleasure of giving and serving.  Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had a term for this in his encyclical Caritas en Veritate (Love in Truth).  He called it gratuitousness, giving without expecting anything in return.  This is the greatest happiness within a family when completely selfless love is felt and manifested.

            Conventional wisdom about motivations of business people may give the impression that gratuitous love has no place in a business enterprise in which the maximization of profit or pleasure is supposed to be the overriding purpose of all the stakeholders.  Redefining business as a community of persons committed to a common mission of self-development and service to society will give room for love to flourish among the owners, managers, rank-and-file, suppliers and the immediate community in which the business operates.  There is room for each one seeking the good of others in the community independently of the economic benefits.  It is only when the persons making up the business community can seek the welfare of the other stakeholders without always expecting anything in return can the long-term existence of a business be assured.  For example, it is of the highest importance that the managers in a company seek the welfare of the families of their workers as a good in itself, without necessarily relating it to the profitability of the company.  (To be continued)