Daily Thought For February 21, 2019
Charity Is The Remedy Against Rash Judgments
We must apply remedies against rash judgments, according to their different causes. There are some hearts naturally so sour, bitter, and harsh, as to make everything bitter and sour that comes into them: “turning judgment,” as the prophet Amos says, into wormwood, by never judging their neighbour but with rigour and harshness. Such have great need to fall into the hands of a good spiritual physician; for this bitterness of heart being natural to them, it is hard to overcome it, and though it be not in itself a sin, but an imperfection, yet it is dangerous, because it introduces and causes rash judgment and detraction to remain in the soul. Some judge rashly, not through harshness, but through pride, imagining that in the same proportion as they lower the honour of other men they raise their own. Arrogant and presumptuous spirits, who admire themselves so much and place themselves so high in their own esteem, look on all the rest of mankind as mean and abject. “I am not like the rest of men,” saith the foolish Pharisee (Luke, 18:11). Others, who have not altogether this manifest pride, feel a certain satisfaction in thinking over the evil qualities of other men, in contradistinction to the good qualities wherewith they think themselves endowed. Now, this self-complacency is so imperceptible as not to be discovered even by those who are tainted with it. Others, to excuse themselves to themselves and to assuage the remorse of their own conscience, very willingly judge others to be guilty of the same kind of vice to which they themselves are addicted, or some other as great; thinking that the multitude of offenders make the sin the less blamable. Many take the liberty to judge others rashly, merely for the pleasure of delivering their opinion and conjectures on their manners and humours, by way of exercising their wit; and if, unhappily, they sometimes happen not to err in their judgment, their rashness increases to so violent an excess as to render it, in a manner, impossible ever to effect their cure. Others judge through passion and prejudice, always thinking well of what they love, and ill of what they hate; excepting in one case only, not less wonderful than true, in which the excess of love incites them to pass an ill judgment on that which they love; and this is jealousy, through which, as everyone knows, one simple look, or the least smile may convict the beloved person of disloyalty or infidelity. In fine, fear, ambition, and other such weaknesses of the mind frequently contribute towards the forming of suspicions and rash judgments.
But what is the remedy? As they who drink the juice of the herb of Ethiopia, called ophiusa, imagine that they everywhere behold serpents and other frightful objects; so they who have swallowed pride, envy, ambition, and hatred, think everything they see evil and blamable. The former, to be healed, must drink palm wine; and I say to the latter, drink as much as you can of the sacred wine of charity, and it will deliver you from those noxious humours that beget rash judgment. As charity fears to meet evil, so she never goes to seek after it; but whenever it falls in her way, she turns her face aside and takes no notice. At the first alarm of evil she shuts her eyes, and afterwards believes, with an honest simplicity, that it was not evil, but only its shadow or apparition; and if she cannot help sometimes acknowledging it to be really evil, she presently turns from it, and endeavours to forget even its shadow. Charity is the sovereign remedy against all evils, but especially this. All things appear yellow to the eyes of those who are afflicted with the jaundice; and it is said that to cure them of this evil they must wear celandine under the soles of their feet. The sin of rash judgment is, indeed, a spiritual jaundice, and makes all things appear evil to the eyes of such as are infected with it. He that desires to be cured of it must apply the remedies, not to his eyes, nor to his understanding, but to his affections, which are the feet of the soul. If your affections are mild, your judgment will be mild also; if your affections are charitable, your judgment will also be charitable. I shall here present you with three admirable examples: Isaac had said that Rebecca was his sister; Abimelech saw him playing with her, that is to say, caressing her in a tender manner (Gen. 26:8); and presently he judged she was his wife; a malicious eye would rather have judged her to have been his mistress. But Abimelech followed the most charitable opinion he could gather from such an action. We must always do the like, Philothea, ever judging, as much as possible, in favour of our neighbour; and if one action could bear a hundred faces, we should always look on that which is the fairest.
Francis de Sales, S. (1885). An Introduction to the Devout Life (pp. 177–180). Dublin: M. H. Gill and Son.