HomedotMagisSpiritual ExercisesStay Away from Motives

Stay Away from Motives

Here’s some good advice from Anthony Lusvardi, SJ, writing on the the Whosoever Desires blog:

Stay away from motives.  If you find yourself attacking somebody’s motives, you are almost certainly violating Annotation 22.

Attributing presumed motives to others shifts the discussion away from the issue and onto the person—and thus shifts it away from the question of truth as well.  Moreover, attributing motives to others always strikes a false note for me because knowing someone’s motives requires knowing their internal psychological states, a rather dubious proposition.

He’s commenting on St. Ignatius’s Annotation 22 in the Spiritual Exercises, which is about civility in discussion:

    It is necessary to suppose that every good Christian is more ready to put a good interpretation on another’s statement than to condemn it as false.  If an orthodox construction cannot be put on a proposition, the one who made it should be asked how he understands it.  If he is in error, he should be corrected with all kindness.
Jim Manney
Jim Manneyhttps://www.jimmanneybooks.com/
Jim Manney is the author of highly praised popular books on Ignatian spirituality, including A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer (about the Daily Examen) and God Finds Us (about the Spiritual Exercises). He is the compiler/editor of An Ignatian Book of Days. His latest book is What Matters Most and Why. He and his wife live in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


  1. Does this apply when the other person is emotionally ill and is not under the care of a mental health care professional? I have made a habit of making myself wrong and accepting blame for turning into a verbal, emotional abuser after putting up with passive aggressive behavior from this person for years. This time I wasn’t abusive, I set an impenetrable boundary that got my message across loud and clear. She crossed a line and I wasn’t going to become an abuser again. That final interaction we had was last year on Sept 4, 2011. I lied through omission to her about not wanting to take her to three doctors for the same ailment. I didn’t believe she could handle the truth which was I was sick and tired of being her doormat. Because I value family, I protected her feelings and from the consequences of her unhealthy choices over the years. I finally came to realize that I’ve spent five years years in five twelve step recovery programs just to keep her in my life. I finally let her go to reclaim my sense of self & respect. Because it felt like I abandoned her instead of detaching with love, I believe I owe her amends. My wise sponsor from Adult Children of Alcoholics & other Dysfunctional Families tells me I owe a huge amends to myself, not her. She believes that my letting this relative go is the best thing for us both. It feels uncomfortable to do it and yet when I allow it to be my reality, I feel peace. I welcome any experience strength & hope.
    Blessings, Judy

  2. Whoa! I thought about this for ten minutes and realized that assigning motives to other people is a thought pattern I learned as a child in a somewhat dysfunctional family (aren’t most of them?) It looks like St. Ignatius and the Lord have set before me a mighty task–catching myself before I go roaming down that particular garden path in all my interactions with people. And doing some penance for all the time and energy I have wasted in ruminating and reacting to the supposed ill will of others. Looks like a good subject for my Particular Examen each day (for starters.) But as in all things that I have learned and discovered during the Exercises, I’m looking forward to the results of making such a change, with God’s help.


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