November 18, 2018

Lent: Forsaking the Violence of Judging Others

Food Fight. Photo by Mark Freeth

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

Matthew 7:1

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.

Romans 2:1

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We live in judgmental times.

As Jonathan Haidt said in his invaluable book for these times, The Righteous Mind, “I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.”

Perhaps we are not more judgmental than in previous days, but our technology, freedom, and affluence have enabled us to be much more democratic and public in our judgments, outspoken about our opinions and positions in public forums. As a result, the air we breathe is filled with violence, not peace.

We raise our flags and wear our colors proudly these days, and are unafraid to shout down the other army and its soldiers. We are not often heeding the call of Romans 12:18 — “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Violence — inner, spoken, attitudinal, expressed — too often marks how we relate to each other.

Father Stephen Freeman reminds us that one purpose of Lent is to call us to peace by forsaking the violence of judgmentalism.

…If my generation was angry about peace, today we are angry about everything. The battleground within is strewn with the dead bodies of those whom we imagine being against us. No holocaust of violence could ever cleanse the world and bring peace to the heart. None of our projects will make the world a better place. The world is the projection of the human heart, and little more.

It is this very battlefield that the Lenten path to Pascha asks us to see.

“Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother…”

So we pray as we repeat the prayer of St. Ephrem. Everything we see (or imagine we see) in those we judge is present within our own heart. It is only when we know that this is true that repentance can begin and the battle turn towards God’s favor.

Without repentance, every public display of outrageous violence only provokes us to more violence within. The mind races to fix blame and argue solutions. Repentance would, I think, produce silence, as we confronted the shame that the latest carnage should provoke in us all….

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Photo by Mark Freeth at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. john barry says:

    Do not remember who said it or in what context but one of the few quotes that stick in my head is “Who am I , to judge me”?

  2. Great photo…in my judgement. As a counterpoint to judging and a humorous way to remind us not to judge, my wife and I might be sitting in a restaurant, for instance, and say something like, “Hey, ya wanna judge some people?” “Look at that guy! He doesn’t love his kids.” “Excellent judging honey. You’re a really good judger.” “Let’s judge that family.” “Ok, you go first.” Also, since, while driving, I spend half of my time judging people harshly I occasionally remember to judge kindly and will say out loud things like, “great driving ma’am , good turn signal, thanks for the spacing buddy.” It’s goofy but it fills time where I might otherwise be cursing every human who doesn’t drive just the way I want.

  3. Burro [Mule] says:

    If I know one thing about my heart, it is that there is enough violence hidden in my heart to scrape this world clean of all offending organic material and leave it as a pure glistening crystal wending its way through the fires and frosts of infinite space in faultless obedience to the laws of elliptical motion.

    I don’t know where this anger comes from. It is not much younger than I am. What is worse, I hear so many voices that tell me that the anger is justified and that I am within my rights to nurture it, express it, and even impose it on others. The solo voice contradicting this is barely a whisper, but it is very insistent.

    • “If I know one thing about my heart, it is that there is enough violence hidden in my heart to scrape this world clean of all offending organic material and leave it as a pure glistening crystal wending its way through the fires and frosts of infinite space in faultless obedience to the laws of elliptical motion.”
      Now that is funny! Save that one. I think it applies to every conscious being in our day and age. Or am I being judgemental? At least I know it applies to me. The mystery of righteousness hangs somewhere in the mix of our dark and our light. Between tender loving kindness and withering rage.

    • This is the clearest description of my affliction I have ever read

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Unfortunately, I believe I am familiar with your particular experience.

    • Burro, your thoughts and how they are expressed by your prose are one of the main reasons I’ve been hanging out here. This was a prime example.

  4. ‘As Jonathan Haidt said in his invaluable book for these times, The Righteous Mind, “I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.’

    The human mind is also (at least mine) defensive and easily provoked. Last summer my wife and I came into a high-dollar resort on the lake for lunch (we came by boat). As we were walking up the hill toward the restaurant a lady pulled up by us in her car and said ‘great job parking’. My first thought – the very first thought in my mind was defensive. Assuming she thought I had parked my car too close to hers or something, I was about to point out to her that we didn’t come by car. Before I could say anything she said, ‘I watched you dock your boat – great job. Much better than I could do’. I was more than a little humbled (to say the least). I’m sure glad she spoke before my defensive snarky remark came out. ‘Woe is me for I am undone’ fits all too well.

  5. Does anyone see a distinction between “judgment” and approval/disapproval of someone’s actions or agreement/disagreement with their expressed opinions?

    • Yes. That is a valid distinction. I think the proper distinction is between ‘judgment’ (the evaluation of actions and ideas) and ‘judgmentalism’ (the condemnation of the person who does those actions or holds those ideas, or sometimes simply a self-righteous condemning personality [or tendency]). I also think a big part of that distinction is the humility to both recognize that my opinions (and ‘judgments’) may be flawed (as I think someone posted a while back, the ability to say ‘I may be wrong’) and to disagree agreeably. Unfortunately I have trouble on all fronts.

      • I would also add the ability to change and grow is needed. There are many things I used to be judgmental about (or hold a different ‘judgment’) that I no longer see as a problem (or not as big a problem). (Or perhaps more correctly, I am ‘judgmental’ about different things now.) To my more conservative friends I have become a reprobate; I see it as a small measure of spiritual growth!

  6. Thelliot says:

    I can thoroughly recommend a book entitled ‘Mistakes were made, but not by me’. It explains some of our behaviour beautifully and particularly our self-centredness.