Monday, March 31, 2014

How Do We Judge Others?

The problem of judging others, even in the slightest way, is that it leads us to to forget our own sinfulness and leads us into idle talk about others. This happens all the time in small social gatherings. It does not take long before someone begins to talk about someone who is not part of this social group. In this idle chit chat we forget about our own problems and project all our inner fears on others. We do this with people who we don't even know.  This may be a leader of our organization or country, or some public figure. How easy to condemn them rather than ourselves. Saint Dorotheos says, "Nothing makes man more naked or carries him so effectively to his ruin as slander, condemnation and disregard of his neighbor."

He tells us that to slander is to say something against another person like "that person lied," or "she became angry."  It is speaking with passion about another's sin. But we often go further than this and condemn the person saying, "that person is a liar," or "she is an angry person." Now we find we are judging the whole person, condemning them. Saint Dorotheos reminds us of the following: "The judgment of others is a much graver sin that any other as Christ Himself said, "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, then you will  see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye" (Luke 6:42)

The problem with such judging is that we do not know the whole story about how others are struggling. Only God knows. Saint Dorotheos says, "Only God, who knows the situation of each one of us, our strength, environment, our individual gifts, temperament and capacities, can justify or condemn. He can judge each of these things, as He only knows." Based on the situation of each person, the environment they live in, the difficulties they face, the responsibilities they hold, God's judgment will be different. No matter how badly you think another person acts you do not know how much they struggled before they acted. Only God can see another's labor and sorrow and can have mercy on them. God may be merciful to this person we choose to judge, yet we choose to become his judge and in the process lose our own soul. We only know about the sin but we do not know about the repentance.

Saint Dorotheos says,
Those who desire to be saved do not pay attention to the faults of their neighbor, but always to their own and thus progress. Such was the man who saw his brother sinning and groaned, saying "Alas, he sinned today for sure it will be me tomorrow."
We sin ourselves but do not repent and then find judgment in others. We are all hypocrites. How serious this must be for our soul!  It is important not to lose the focus on our own sinfulness and our own need for repentance and our need for the mercy of God.

Saint Dorotheos says,
If we have love, with sympathy and compassion, we shall not see our neighbor's faults, as it says, "Love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). Again it says that, "Love thinks no evil, bears all things", and so on (1 Cor. 13:5-7).
What do the saints do?  They seek to heal others. Saint Dorotheos writes:
They do not judge or dislike him but suffer with him, admonish him, offer him consolation and healing like a sick member. They do everything to save the sinner. Take the example of fishermen; when they put the fish on the hook into the sea and get a very large fish, if they feel the fish is struggling and fighting, they do not pull it straight away by force, since the line would break and the fish would be lost. Rather, they skillfully give it line and allow it to run freely until they know it is slackened and calm from its struggle. Then they gradually draw it in."
We  must learn to have love and to suffer with others so we can assist them in the right way and at the right time. If we condemn them then we will not make any effort to help them. We all need the help of others who are stronger than ourselves. "We are individually members one of another" (Rom 12:5). "If one member suffers all members suffer with it" (1 Cor 12:26).

Saint Dorotheos says,
Let each one serve the body according to his ability, and try to help one anther whether it is by preaching and putting the word of God into the heart of a brother, consoling him in time of trouble or by giving him a helping hand. The more we love and help each other the closer we are to God.
Saint Dorotheos gives us one of my favorite images of this reality:
Suppose there there is a circle on the earth, as if drawn by a compass. The center is exactly the middle of the circle. Take care to understand what I mean. Let us suppose that this circle is the world and God is the center. The straight lines drawn from the circumference to the center are the lives of men. As far as the saints, desiring to approach God, move inward, they become near God and near to each other and as far as they approach God, they approach each other. As far as they approach each other, they approach God. You should understand separation in the same way. When they move away from God and follow external things, it is evident that as far as they move away and become distant themselves from each other, they distance themselves from God. This is the very nature of love. In as far as we are outside and do not love God, each one of us is also distanced from his neighbor, but if we love God, the more we approach Him through Love for Him, the more we are united to our neighbor through love, and as much as we are united to our neighbor, we are united to God.
As we see the difficulties in others behaviors we should be careful not to judge and condemn them. Instead we should examine our own behaviors and seek to make improvements there. If we can do this in ourselves then we will have the necessary love to look at others who are struggling and seek effective ways to help them as they struggle. In this way we can become united as one, one to another and one in God.

Reference: Abba Dorotheos: Practical Teaching on the Christain Life, pp 133-140


  1. If the time we spend judging, we spent loving, oh what a world this would be. Today I will focus on behaving this way.

  2. Chief Spiritual Acts of Mercy: 1) To admonish sinners 2) To instruct the ignorant 3)To counsel the doubtful 4) To comfort the sorrowful 5) To suffer wrongs patiently 6) To forgive injuries 7) To pray for the living and the dead. # 1 and #2 - and then there was Christ who overturned tables in the temple, called certain pharisees "hypocrites" and "den of vipers." How confusing, indeed.

  3. How do you explain this seeming contradiction?


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