Judging and Loving

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It is a strange thing, but we as human beings are often eager critics. It is so easy to criticize, to catch the flaws and failures of others. Whether we mull over others’ faults in the back of our minds, speak openly to their faces, or take it upon ourselves to send a quick “Hey, you’re wrong, and here’s why!” message, we all have a strong tendency to focus on what’s wrong with everyone around us.3D_Judges_Gavel

First, we must keep in mind that we are created judges; for man, created in God’s image, bears the likeness of God who “is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.”[1] Therefore, it is natural and right for us to make judgments: indeed, we must judge and discern what is right and true, as Jesus said, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”[2] God expects us to judge as He does: which means we judge to perceive, and so to choose, what is good and true.

The problem enters when we condemn others without condemning ourselves—in other words, when we become so good at judging right from wrong that we “selflessly” dedicate all judgments to others at the expense of our own need of self-reflection. We can always tell the trouble with others, and likely we’re right on target with their faults: but the irony is that we have no control to stop whatever we find fault with in other people. Yes, we can offer admonishment, instruction, counsel, and encouragement, but the biggest problem with unrestrained criticism is that it reveals an inherent, deliberate blindness to what’s going on in our own soul.

This is most poignantly expressed in the words of our Lord, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”[3] Jesus, as the Good Shepherd Who knows His sheep so perfectly, is well aware of how we tend to frantically search the lives of others for even a speck to complain about. Why? Because, in judging others, we know we are confronting evil and making judgments as we are called to do, but we don’t have to undergo the cross of transformation for our own souls. We “do not notice” the load of lumber blocking the eyes of our souls because it is difficult, even painful, to judge oneself: to be true to oneself and say, “I am wrong; I need to change.”

A happy soul knows the value of justice and judgment, and weighs everything according to charity. Before trying to help others, the sinner acknowledges his own sinfulness out of love for God. When the sinner is reconciled with God, he will only desire to judge the wicked deeds of others in order to bring souls away from the sorrows and pain they bring upon themselves by their sins. As Jesus taught, “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”[4] This clarity of vision is the gift of right judgment, used to seek the greatest good for every soul: and that judgment must begin with setting to right our own lives, for only then can we best help others for the sake of love.

[1] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, (Psalm 7:11), National Council of the Churches of Christ, 1971, accessed 1 October 2016, https://www.biblegateway.com.

[2] (Luke 12:57, RSV)

[3] (Matthew 7:3, RSV)

[4] (Matthew 7:5, RSV)

Marissa Standage

Marissa Standage

Marissa Standage is simultaneously studying at Holy Apostles College and Seminary and Angelicum Academy to earn her bachelor's degree in philosophy and theology, and also loves her teaching post at Highlands Latin School of Pasadena. As the oldest of six, Marissa was home schooled right through high school, and has enjoyed a deep love for the Catholic faith, family, and education based on Socratic discussion. Between her college work and teaching, her favorite past-times include spending time with her family and friends, writing epic fantasy stories, reading, baking sourdough bread (and all kinds of other sourdough goodies from chocolate cake to crackers), and knitting socks. In the midst of this full and wonderful life, she is striving to discern God's plan for her in this world, and to cultivate the virtues in the daily opportunities to grow in His love.

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1 thought on “Judging and Loving”

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    Thank you for this much-needed commentary. “Judge not…” has become weaponized as an excuse for all behavior. We are to practice discernment and correction, understanding that we must be the first to discern and correct our own words and actions before we do the same for others.

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