Presence of God – O Lord, keep me from judging and criticizing my neighbor; give me kind, loving thoughts about everyone.
“Judge not, that you may not be judged” (Mt 7:1). Charity to our neighbor begins with our thoughts, as many of our failings in charity are basically caused by our judgments. We do not think highly enough of others, we do not sufficiently consider their manifest good qualities, we are not benevolent in interpreting their way of acting. Why? Because in judging others, we almost always base our opinion on their faults, especially on those which wound our feelings or which conflict with our own way of thinking and acting, while we give little or no consideration to their good points.
It is a serious mistake to judge persons or things from a negative point of view and it is not even reasonable, because the existence of a negative side proves the presence of a positive quality, of something good, just as a tear in a garment has no existence apart from the garment. When we stop to criticize the negative aspect of a person or of a group, we are doing destructive work in regard to our own personal virtue and the good of our neighbor. To be constructive, we must overlook the faults and recognize the value of the good qualities that are never wanting in anyone.
Moreover, do we not also have many faults, perhaps more serious ones than those of our neighbor? “And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye”? (ibid. 7:3). Let us seriously study these words of Jesus, for very often, in spite of our desire to become saints, some remnant of that detestable spirit of criticism remains hidden in our heart. In considering our faults and those of others, we still retain something of this twofold measure which makes us judge the faults of others differently from the way in which we judge our own. What great progress we should make in fraternal charity, in attaining our own perfection, if instead of criticizing the faults seen in others, we would examine ourselves to see if there is not something similar–or perhaps worse–in us, and would apply ourselves to our own amendment! St. Teresa of Jesus said to her nuns, “Often commend to God any sister who is at fault and strive for your own part to practice the virtue which is the opposite of her fault with great perfection” (Way of Perfection, 7). This is one of the best ways of helping others to correct themselves.
“O Jesus, You are my Judge! I shall try always to think leniently of others, that You may judge me leniently–or not at all, since You say: ‘Judge not, that you may not be judged.’ This is why, when I chance to see a sister doing something seemingly imperfect, I do all I can to find excuses and to credit her with the good intentions she no doubt possesses.
“O Jesus, You make me understand that the chief plenary indulgence, which is within reach of everyone, and can be gained without the ordinary conditions, is that of charity, which ‘covereth a multitude of sins’” (cf. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 10 – 11 – C).
“Teach me, O Lord, not to judge my neighbor for any fault I may see him commit, and if I should see him commit a sin, give me the grace to excuse his intention which is hidden and cannot be seen. But even if I should see that his intention was really bad, give me the grace to excuse my neighbor because of temptation, from which no mortal is free” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
“O Lord, help me not to look at anything but at the virtues and good qualities which I find in others and to keep my own grievous sins before my eyes so that I may be blind to their defects. This course of action, though I may not become perfect in it all at once, will help me to acquire one great virtue–to consider all others better than myself. To accomplish this, I must have Your help; when it fails, my own efforts are useless. I beg You to give me this virtue” (St. Teresa of Jesus, Life, 13).
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Art: Teresa of Avila [mirror], Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.