I have never met a person who thinks of judgment as a virtue. Even the most critical people, who seem to thrive on criticizing others, will often become defensive when they are on the receiving end of a stinging remark.
Obviously, judgement is prohibited, but why? How does it harm us? It all has to do with oneness, which is one of the final prayers our Lord had for His disciples (and us) while on this earth (John 17).
To explain, I will provide an illustration that I’ve adapted from Abba Dorotheos of Gaza, a 6th century saint and desert father of our church:
Imagine something that is much like a wheel with numerous incomplete spokes that can grow and move from the perimeter to the center. In the center is Christ, who beckons all of us to move toward him. The only path to this center is love. One spoke symbolizes our lives, the other spokes represent our neighbors. As all of the spokes move closer to the center, they also move closer to one another. It is impossible to move toward the center without simultaneously coming together with the other spokes.
Abba Dorotheos reminds us,
If we were to love God more, we should be closer to God, and through love of him we should be more united in love to our neighbor; and the more we are united to our neighbor the more we are united to God.
We were created to be in union with God and one another. In heaven, perfect unity abides as all creatures find their oneness with one another through Christ. What we call hell, on the other hand, is a terrifying state of isolation.
Even in this life, unity with God and others creates love, joy, and peace inside of us. We catch a glimpse of this whenever we bond closely with other people. One of the greatest steps toward unity is to refrain from judging others.
Perhaps it could also be likened to a river. God is the source, and unlike most rivers that flow away from their source, this one flows toward it, drawing all that wish to enter deeply into itself. Entering into the God of love requires oneness, because we must all share in this same river. Judging others shatters this oneness and pushes us to the banks of the river where we enter into a self-imposed spiritual isolation.
May Christ our God draw us into unity with one another, that we may be one as He and the Father are one, helping us move ever closer to the Divine Center where He abides.
God willing, I will post a few more reflections on not judging others soon.
Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings, translated by Eric P. Wheeler, Cistercian Publications 1977.
Photo by Angie Colona