Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In a word: How people judge others

In a Word is a feature of Sky View which provides a short commentary or reflection on life, on a current event or a particular book. This post was originally posted in 2011 but was recently revised.

People judge others based on who, or rather, what they are. If a politician, for instance, is accustomed to lying and cheating others for short-term gain, then when there is a question of someone else’s motive or character he will frequently judge others as he sees himself. This goes for unjust, narcissistic and bad people in general. Because they are guided only by their own lights and refuse to conform themselves to God's law- a higher standard outside of themselves -it is difficult for them to consider other ways of thinking. And so they project their own ways of thinking and assign motives to other people's actions that are similar to their own.

The gift of faith, on the other hand, trains the mind to see morality and the world from a perspective other than our own. After all, our Lord bids us to take the plank out of our own eye before we attempt to remove the speck out of our brother’s eye. This requires that we take a second look at ourselves; especially from someone else’s vantage point...especially God's vantage point!

With that said, those who are innocent like doves can make the same mistake as people with tainted motives. Indeed, those with a well-formed conscience sometimes get into the habit of assigning pure and innocent motives to those who do not merit it. For those that are pure of heart, it is difficult to imagine that someone can deliberately commit an evil act. Perhaps, this is why Jesus said, “Be as simple as doves and wise as serpents.” Simple in that we should do good deeds with honorable motives; wise in that we should realize, often painfully, that many in world do not aspire to such high moral standards.

Yet, we know that the Saints often assumed the best in others while seeing the worst in themselves. Yes, they assumed the best in others...even in the worst of sinners. However, they were not naive. When evil or immorality did present itself and when trust has been broken, the Saints, more than anyone else, took strong measures to deal with the evil at hand. They were wise as serpents in that they spared no sacrifice to eliminate and purge the evil in their midst (cf. I Corinthians 5:13). More often than not, three motives inspired such a zeal to purge evil: 1. Love for the sinner. 2. Love for those who would be harmed by the sin. 3. And love for God.

Christ calls each of his followers to spiritual and moral vigilance. This requires that we juggle opposites. That is, we have to be willing to see the very best in others while never turning a blind eye to a sin, a weakness or any vice that would disqualify the trust we put in them. I am afraid there is where many us have fallen short.

God forbid! Christian love does not mean that the person we are called to forgive automatically warrants our trust; especially when the person in question is in a position to harm others. To repeat, the Apostles and the Saints were quick to remove any unrepentant sinner from their fellowship who would cause scandal or spiritual detriment to others. It was precisely out of love for God and for souls they did this! This well-formed virtue of Christian love enabled them to love human souls more than human feelings. It sometimes happens that a charitable but candid word or a firm handed approach directed towards the good of the soul will disturb feelings. After all, spiritual and moral welfare "always" takes a higher priority over the fleeting nature of feelings, likes or dislikes.

To think with Christ is to think big. And to think big brings us to the realization that human beings can achieve the heights of sanctity, or, sadly, fall into the depths of great evil. With an informed faith we can see the world as it really is and act accordingly. But most importantly- the most important thing of all -is that this gift of faith helps us to see ourselves as we really are.