Refusing to judge
By St. Dorotheos of Gaza
I am always telling you that bad habits are formed in the soul by these very small things–when we say, ‘What does this or that matter,’–and it is the first step to despising great things. You know how great a wrong it is to judge your neighbor. What is graver than this? What does God hate and turn away from so much as from this? As the fathers say, what is worse than judging rashly?  Nevertheless, from things that appear negligible a man comes to such great evil. For by accepting a suspicion against the neighbor, by saying, ‘What does it matter if I put in a word [about my suspicion]? What does it matter if I find out what this brother is saying or what that guest is doing?’ the mind begins to forget about its own sins and to talk idly about his neighbor, speaking evil against him, despising him, and from this he falls into the very thing that he condemns. Because we become careless about our own faults and do not lament our own death (as the Fathers put it),  we lose the power to correct ourselves and we are always at work on our neighbor. Nothing angers God so much or strips a man so bare or carries him so effectively to his ruin as calumniating, condemning, or despising his neighbor…
Nothing is more serious, nothing more difficult to deal with, as I say repeatedly, than judging and despising our neighbor. Why do we not rather judge ourselves and our own wickedness which we know so accurately and about which we have to render an account to God? Why do we usurp God’s right to judge? Why should we demand a reckoning from his creature, his servant? Ought we not to be afraid when we hear about a brother falling into fornication said, ‘He has acted wickedly!’ If you know what it says about this in the Book of the Ancients, it would make you shudder. For an angel brought [Isaac the Theban] the soul of someone who had fallen into sin, and said to him, ‘Here is the person you have judged. He has just died. Where do you order him to be put, into the Kingdom or into eternal punishment?’,  Can you imagine a more terrible situation to be in? What else could the angel mean by these words than, ‘Since you want to be the judge of the just and the unjust, what do you command for this poor soul? Is he to be spared or to be punished?’ The holy old man, frightened beyond measure, spent the rest of his life praying with sighs and tears and continuous hard work to be forgiven this sin, and this in spite of having fallen on his knees before the angel and been forgiven, for the angel said to him, ‘You see, God has shown you how serious a thing it is to judge; you must never do it again.’  This was the way he granted forgiveness but the soul of the old man would not allow him to be completely comforted from his pain and repentance until he died.
Why are we so ready to judge our neighbor? Why are we so concerned about the burden of others? We have plenty to be concerned about, each one has his own debt and his own sins. It is for God alone to judge, to justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution and our preparedness, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that he alone has. For God judges the affairs of a bishop in one way and those of a prince in another. His judgment is for an abbot or for a disciple, he judges differently the senior and the neophyte, the sick man and the healthy man. Who could understand all these judgments except the one who has done everything, formed everything, knows everything?