Judging Others

Father Faber writes: “The standard of the last judgment is absolute. It is this—the measure which we have meted to others. Our present humour in judging others reveals to us what our sentence would be if we died now. . . . We ought, therefore, to cultivate most sedulously the habit of kind interpretations.” Unfortunately, “the habit of not judging others is one which it is very difficult to acquire, and which is generally not acquired till late on in the spiritual life.”

“Men’s actions are very difficult to judge. Their real character depends in a great measure on the motives which prompt them, and those motives are invisible to us. . . . Nobody can judge men but God, and we can hardly obtain a higher or more reverent view of God than that which represents Him to us as judging men with perfect knowledge, unperplexed certainty, and undisturbed compassion. Now, kind interpretations are imitations of the merciful ingenuity of the Creator finding excuses for His creatures.”

“The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check, and this check is to be found in kind interpretations. We must come to esteem very lightly our sharp eye for evil, on which, perhaps, we once prided ourselves as cleverness. It has been to us a fountain of sarcasm; and how seldom since Adam was created has sarcasm fallen short of being a sin! We must look at our talent for analysis of character as a dreadful possibility of huge uncharitableness. We should have been much better without it from the first. It is the hardest talent of all to manage, because it is so difficult to make any glory for God out of it. . . . Of course, we are not to grow blind to evil, for thus we should speedily become unreal; but we must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil.”

“Have we not always found in our past experience that on the whole our kind interpretations were truer than our harsh ones? What mistakes have we not made in judging others! But have they not almost always been on the side of harshness? Every day some phenomenon of this kind occurs. We have seen a thing as clear as day. It could have but one meaning. We have already taken measures. We have roused our righteous indignation. All at once the whole matter is differently explained, and that in some most simple way, so simple that we are lost in astonishment that we should never have thought of it ourselves. Always distrust very plain cases, says a legal writer.”

Quotations from Frederick William Faber, Kindness (London: R. & T. Washbourne, 1901).

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