Rash Judgment


Rash judgment always presupposes something that is not clear

 

 

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We continue our series with Part III, Chapter 28 “Hasty Judgments​” from An Introduction to the Devout Life. Here Saint Francis teaches us the importance of keeping our words always focused on pure and holy things.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged,” said the Saviour of our souls; “condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:” and the Apostle Saint Paul, “Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” Of a truth, hasty judgments are most displeasing to God, and men’s judgments are hasty, because we are not judges one of another, and by judging we usurp our Lord’s own office. Man’s judgment is hasty, because the chief malice of sin lies in the intention and counsel of the heart, which is shrouded in darkness to us. Moreover, man’s judgments are hasty, because each one has enough to do in judging himself, without undertaking to judge his neighbour. If we would not be judged, it behoves us alike not to judge others, and to judge ourselves. Our Lord forbids the one, His Apostle enjoins the other, saying, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” But alas! for the most part we precisely reverse these precepts, judging our neighbour, which is forbidden on all sides, while rarely judging ourselves, as we are told to do.

Are we never, then, to judge our neighbour? you ask. Never, my child. It is God Who judges criminals brought before a court of law. He uses magistrates to convey His sentence to us; they are His interpreters, and have only to proclaim His law. If they go beyond this, and are led by their own passions, then they do themselves judge, and for so doing they will be judged. It is forbidden to all men alike, as men, to judge one another.

We do not necessarily judge because we see or are conscious of something wrong. Rash judgment always presupposes something that is not clear, in spite of which we condemn another. It is not wrong to have doubts concerning a neighbour, but we ought to be very watchful lest even our doubts or suspicions be rash and hasty. A malicious person seeing Jacob kiss Rachel at the well-side,or Rebecca accepting jewels from Eleazer, a stranger, might have suspected them of levity, though falsely and unreasonably. If an action is in itself indifferent, it is a rash suspicion to imagine that it means evil, unless there is strong circumstantial evidence to prove such to be the case. And it is a rash judgment when we draw condemnatory inferences from an action which may be blameless.

Those who keep careful watch over their conscience are not often liable to form rash judgments, for just as when the clouds lower the bees make for the shelter of their hive, so really good people shrink back into themselves, and refuse to be mixed up with the clouds and fogs of their neighbour’s questionable doings, and rather than meddle with others, they consecrate their energies on their own improvement and good resolutions.

No surer sign of an unprofitable life than when people give way to censoriousness and inquisitiveness into the lives of other men. Of course exception must be made as to those who are responsible for others, whether in family or public life; — to all such it becomes a matter of conscience to watch over the conduct of their fellows. Let them fulfil their duty lovingly, and let them also give heed to restrain themselves within the bounds of that duty.

This reflection was shortened for the purposes of this email, if you’d like to read the full version, click here.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Is Saint Francis saying that we should never judge whatsoever?
  2. What is the distinction between rash judgment and right judgment?
  3. Where in your life do you tend to look for the spec in your brother’s eye and not notice the wooden beam in your own eye? (see Matthew 7:3)
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