Chapter 14 – Rash Judgment
The children were having Catechism instruction. “What is the matter?” the priest asked a boy who was holding up his hand.
“Mary Watson is looking in her book.”
“Close you Catechism, Mary, and put it away at once,” said the priest. “But how could you know she was looking in her Catechism, Fred? She is sitting just behind you.”
“I say her looking,” said the boy.
“You told on her, and by that you tell on yourself,” continued the priest. “You could not have seen her looking in the Catechism unless you looked around yourself. That proves that you have not paid attention as you ought to have done. She looks in her book, and you look around; what is the difference? Both of you do wrong by not being attentive.”
My dear children, we are all too ready to look about and watch others and find out their fault; and in so doing we forget ourselves, our own faults and imperfections. The Following of Christ repeatedly calls attention to this point, and lays great stress on it: That we should not busy ourselves so much with the faults of others, but rather and much more and more closely look after ourselves.
“Turn thine eyes back upon thyself”—words from the first book, fourteenth chapter—“and see thou, judge not the doings of others.” You know very well the rule Jesus has given us: “Cast out first the beam out of thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
We cannot help it, certainly; we sometimes hear others saying something, or doing something, that appears to us or that we know to be wrong. It is, then, nothing out of the way to judge of the thing itself; what is wrong is wrong, as far as the thing or matter is concerned, be it word or act. But we do not stop there, we go further. We pass over the word or action, and judge the intention, and that is wrong, that is rash judgment.
A person may have said or done something that was wrong in itself, outwardly; but we cannot look into the inside, we cannot see the intention. Maybe the person does not know that such a thing is wrong; maybe, behind this ignorance, if I may say so, there lies hidden the very best of intentions. Therefore, we must be careful. We may judge a thing to be wrong, and, if a favorable occasion presents itself, and we think our effort will be of avail, we may instruct the person and show how and why it is wrong; but we have no right to judge the intention.
Another thing to be considered is this; we all have our own notions, feelings, and likings. To these notions, feelings, and likings we are apt to hold fast. Our self-love makes us cling to them; to give them up is the hardest thing for us to do. We try to persuade ourselves that everybody else ought to think, feel, and like as we do. This inclines us to judge rashly of others. We even go so far as to misinterpret the good deeds of our neighbours; we close our eyes to the good deed itself, saying that there is a wrong intention underlying it. How very sinful this is! How unworthy of one who professes to be a follower of Jesus, who says: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged.”
From these rash judgments frequently arise great difficulties and disturbances. Friends are separated, families disunited, and discord is sown among neighbours. My little follower of Jesus, beware of rash judgment. What should you do to avoid such sin and trouble? First, never make it your business to observe others—never, unless God has made it one of your duties to do so. Parents must have a watchful eye on their pupils, and all superiors on their inferiors and subjects; it is their duty, and therefore their business.
If something bad is done, and it is not known who did it, do not make it your business to ferret out the perpetrators, unless it is your duty to do so. Such detective business frequently leads to grievous sin. You know what it is to sin by false suspicion.
Secondly, if you happen to see or hear something that is wrong, then, if you can, and there is any prospect that it will do good, speak to the one that has done the wrong, and correct him in brotherly charity. If the evil is great, and it threatens to do great injury to the soul of him who does it, then it may be your duty to tell your superiors about it—the parents, the teacher, or the priest, according to circumstances. But, do not forget that you must never misjudge another’s intention.
Thirdly, strive to purify your own heart. This I put last, this time; it ought to come first. In all that you do, try to have a pure intention—the honor of God, the welfare of your neighbour, and your own spiritual good. Thomas à Kempis says: “Many secretly seek themselves in what they do, and are not aware of it.” You ought to make yourselves aware of what you are seeking.
Do not give up until you know all your faults, evil habits, bad passions, inclinations to evil. Judge yourself, but not others. And Jesus, our merciful Redeemer, will give you the grace to preserver in this war with yourself, and help you to gain the victory!
“In judging others a man toilet in vain; for the most part he is mistaken, and he easily sinneth; but judging and scrutinizing himself, he always laboreth with profit.” These are the words taken from The Following of Christ; are they not true?