Judge Not, Part 1 – Making Excuses

Perhaps one of the things we all hate the most is being judged by someone else.  It gets under our skin, makes our blood boil, and hurts us deeply, especially if it is someone whom we trusted.  When we feel that someone is judging us, even for something we can admit was wrong, a multitude of thoughts will flood the mind, “You’re not being fair,” or “If you only knew all of the facts then you wouldn’t judge me,” or “The Bible says not to judge others.”

Yet all of us are guilty of this sin, whether or not we realize it.  While we are walking through the city, driving down the road, or in church on Sunday, we are probably forming all sorts of “little” judgments about other people.  Such judgments usually stay in our heads, so we think they have little or no consequence.  However, Abba Dorotheos of Gaza warns us, I am always telling you that bad habits are formed in the soul by these very small things…” [1]

I am exceedingly guilty of judging others, and I hesitated to even begin posting this series.  Who am I to teach others about avoiding a sin I have so often fallen into?  May the Lord help me to present these things as one student would to another, as a student who has flunked many times and therefore can begin to learn from his mistakes and show others how to avoid the same pitfalls.

St. Paisios of Mt. Athos taught that we should utilize our creative energy to make excuses for other people.  If someone cuts us off in traffic, instead of thinking “What a jerk!” we can think “How many times have I made mistakes while driving?  He probably didn’t see me or misjudged my distance.”  If someone is rude to us, instead of thinking “What a shrew!” we can think, “She’s probably having a bad day, perhaps even has a huge battle going on inside of her.  I’ll do what I can to not add to the heaviness she probably already feels in her soul.”

After all, A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)  A gentle answer can also be a healing balm that a person’s wounded soul needs.  Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)  Such kindness is healing to both ourselves and to the person whom we have encountered.

Developing a thought pattern – in which we try to make excuses for everyone instead of passing little judgments on people – can take a bit of time, but it is rewarding in the end.  Doing so will bring us to a place of peace, humility, and genuine love for others.

Somebody once approached Abba Sisoes to discuss unceasing remembrance of God, which is one of the most highly sought virtues, especially among monastics.  The old man’s reply surprised me.  He said, “That is no great thing, my son, but it is a great thing to regard yourself as inferior to everyone else. This leads to the acquisition of humility.” [2]

When we judge others, it is impossible to acquire humility and the grace of God.  However, when we make excuses for others and refuse to pass judgment, then we are beginning to tread the beautiful steps of divine lowliness, which causes grace to be attracted to the soul like bees to flowers.

I will continue this series, God willing, with several more reflections, mostly taken from the teachings of Abba Dorotheos of Gaza and other desert fathers.


[1] Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings, translated by Eric P. Wheeler, Cistercian Publications 1977.

[2] Venerable Sisoes the Great – OCA website

Photo by Rainer 

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