As I was taking time to compose a post (bits and pieces over the past three days), I came across an excerpt from a book that always strikes a resonant chord: St. John Climacus's (+650) The Ladder of Perfection. Today's excerpt came from the Daily Gospel that I receive, well, daily in my inbox. It stopped my pencil. (Perhaps an old dog can learn a new trick or two.) And this refrain constantly comes to the forefront: Do not judge. Do not judge. Do not judge.
Here's the quote:
I have heard some people speak ill of their neighbour and have rebuked them. To defend themselves, these evildoers have answered: "We are saying these things out of charity and concern!" However, I have replied: "Stop practising a charity like that or you will be accusing of deceit the one who said: 'Whoever slanders his neighbour in secret, him will I destroy,' (Ps 101,5). If you love him – as you claim – pray for him in secret and don't make a mock of the man. This is the way of loving that pleases the Lord; don't lose sight of it and you will take the greatest care not to judge sinners. Judas was of the number of the apostles and the thief was among the criminals but, in an instant, what an astonishing change! ..."
So reply to anyone who speaks evil of his neighbor to you: "Stop, brother! I myself fall into the most serious faults every day; how could I now condemn this man?" Thus you will make a twofold gain: you will heal yourself and heal your neighbor. Not judging is a shortcut towards the forgiveness of sins, if this saying is true: "Do not judge and you will not be judged" ... Some people have committed grave faults in the sight of everyone but, in secret, have carried out the greatest acts of virtue. Thus their detractors have been mistaken by focussing only on the smoke without seeing the sun ...
Those who are hastily censorious and severe fall into this delusion because they don't keep the memory and constant care of their own sins before them ... Judging others is shamelessly to usurp a divine prerogative; condemning them is to bring down our own souls ... Just as a good grape-picker eats the grapes that are ripe and does not pick those that are green, so a watchful and sensible soul carefully takes note of all the virtues he sees in others; but it is the stupid man who keeps an eye on their faults and failings.
I am a stupid man. I hate judgmentalism in others because I see it so clearly in me. Lord, have mercy.
Pray for me, St. John Climacus, that I might love truly, forgive all, and judge none.