Friday, March 09, 2012


We spend an enormous amount of energy making up our minds about other people. Not a day goes by without somebody doing or saying something that evokes in us the need to form an opinion about him or her. We hear a lot, see a lot, and know a lot. The feeling that we have to sort it all out in our minds and make judgments about it can be quite oppressive.

The desert fathers said that judging others is a heavy burden, while being judged by others is a light one. Once we can let go of our need to judge others, we will experience an immense inner freedom. Once we are free from judging, we will be also free for mercy. Let’s remember Jesus' words: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

A brother asked Abba Poemen, “If I see my brother sin, is it right to say nothing about it?” The old man replied, “Whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours.”

The Paradise of the Desert Fathers

Among the many things people discuss giving up for Lent—chocolate, social media, TV, beer, biscuits, swearing—it’s odd that judging others appears so infrequently. But then, of course, I really mustn’t judge people who give up funny things for Lent, must I?


  1. Good point. You can't win, can you?!

  2. Lindy7:56 am

    “Whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours.”

    I like this, and I want to try to live by it, but it hasn't worked very well for our Roman Catholic friends. I think there also has to be discernment.

  3. What a lovely blog. It's inspiring and encouraging. Thank you.

    It seems to me that it is possible to not judge, and yet act. That not judging doesn't mean twiddling ones thumbs on the sofa as the world goes by or looking away while someone comes to harm. But rather that usually when we act (to "help" someone or "fix" something) it comes from hatred or jealousy or pride or fear or wanting to boost our own egos in some way (for example) rather than from the heart, with real love. "I'll help the idiot this time but she better be grateful!" is an effort, but one laden with judgement and conditions. Striving to help simply for God's sake, without conditions, can't be easy, and maybe isn't even possible. At least it's probably not possible unless God does the work through us, but we can pray for it, I think, and try our best. Thoughts?

  4. Thank you, Ona. I rather think I agree with you, broadly speaking. But is may not be us through whom God does the work! We may merely be a catalyst, or a support, or we may be nothing whatever from the point of view of the person doing whatever it is. I doubt if many of the architects of perestroika thought much about the great Russian intercessors in exile (Fr Sophrony, et al.) who prayed through the Revolution, WW2, and on to the end of the Cold War...

  5. My mention of action was partly directed at Lindy's comment, which implied that "not judging" could seem to mean "not acting to prevent harm." I don't think that kind of "judging" that your post is about really relates to discernment even. "Judging" as I understand it is the self-centered sniping at others that feeds our own self-centeredness. The impulse that leads us to tell on a cheating schoolmate NOT because we have a charitable concern, but because we get a little inner glee at seeing him brought down a notch while we receive the teacher's praise. In that kind of judging and action we do indeed reveal our own sins, no?

  6. Yes, I see what you mean. Whichever of the traditional categories of sin schadenfreude falls into, it's up there with the best of them. When the misfortune in question is brought about by our own actions, doubly so!