On Judging

Optina Patericon

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By the purity of our thoughts we are able to see everyone as being holy and good. When we see them as being evil, it is because of our own inner state.St. Macarius of Optina

Looking at N., you vividly imagine the passions of others. But who can examine the inner movements of their hearts? Many things that seem to us to be acts of sin are accepted by God as good deeds on account of one’s good intentions; while other things, seemingly appearing to be good deeds, on account of one’s evil intentions are rejected by God. Let’s leave their deeds to the judgment of God and take care of ourselves instead, so that through strict judgment of others we won’t become like the one who saw the speck in his brother’s eye, but failed to see the beam in his own. It’s impossible for them not to be grieved at heart over the fact that you see evilness in their deeds. Thus, according to the elder’s words, “You see the falls of others, but do not see their repentance”—these same words can be addressed to you.—St. Macarius of Optina

I advise you not to have any bad suspicions of anyone; each to his own master standeth or falleth (Rom. 14:4); and no one will be punished or rewarded for the deeds of another: Every man shall bear his own burden (Gal. 6:5). The holy fathers teach us to not even believe our own eyes, for through the passions, to one who is still imprisoned by them and is not free from them, the enemy presents whatever imaginings he wishes. Believe only those thoughts that testify only good things about your neighbor. But better yet would be for you and me to learn to see only our own shortcomings; then we would suffer less from the enemy’s assaults; for true are the words of the Lord: Judge not, that ye be not judged (Mt. 7:1).—St. Macarius of Optina

He who beholds his own deadened soul lying, as it were, before him, cries over it and pays no attention to the souls of others. By this figure of speech I’m talking about not condemning our neighbor, and that we may pay attention to our own weaknesses and be careful not to think of ourselves thus: I am not as other men are… (Lk. 18:11); for because of this the passions not only war harder against us, but even overcome us—all for our own sakes, that we may be humbled.—St. Macarius of Optina

You have to pay attention to your inner life, so as not to notice what is happening around you, and then you will not judge.St. Ambrose of Optina

Take care to guard yourself from condemning and judging; you will have to give an answer not for the faults and offenses of your neighbor, but for your own, and especially for judging. Who is free from passions and spiritual weaknesses and does not get overcome by them? Some have some passions, some have others; some have more, some have less; and often times we see a speck in our neighbor’s eye, but don’t see the beam in our own.—St. Macarius of Optina

When someone is inflicting sorrows upon you, neither trust the thought that teaches you not to condemn yourself but to be offended by the one inflicting them upon you as though they are to blame, and that they’re obeying the enemy, etc. This thought comes from the enemy and discretely leads one from self-justification to self-conceit. It’s much more beneficial to condemn yourself as being the one who started it first; that is, to condemn yourself as having given some cause to be insulted; to condemn yourself as being worthy of insults, as lacking patience, humility, condescension and love; and through doing so it becomes fully possible with the help of God for us to either recede or to completely extinguish the hostility our brother has towards us. Moreover, one must remember that this does not happen without God's permission, but all happens according to our sins for the sake of our instruction and humility.—St. Macarius of Optina

According to the commandment of the Church and apostolic instruction, you are to respect priests as those who serve at the altar and celebrate the Sacraments, for without them it is impossible to attain salvation. And, as much as you can, give to them according to their needs, for those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple (1 Cor. 9:13); but as for after confession, you can either give them alms, or not. However, judging them for their faults is entirely something not for you to do; a sheep does not judge its shepherd, no matter how good or bad he is. To judge a priest means to judge Christ Himself; watch out for this as much as possible!—St. Macarius of Optina

Especially do not judge others, for this alone brings upon us all manner of condemnation before God.—St. Macarius of Optina

Every day I come across your words: “I talk idly and judge”. We know how grave this is, especially judging, but you still do not quit your habit. And if we are to give account to God for every idle word we speak (Mt. 12:36), then what is there to say about judging?—St. Macarius of Optina

Your judging is born of pharisaical pride. You see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but your own eye is obstructed by a beam. Your own faults and falls are capable of repelling this demon; read about pride, humility, and on not judging others in the Ladder of St. John, and read Abba Dorotheus’ writings also about these same things. Then, perhaps, it will be instilled in your memory that for judging others God leaves us and we fall into the same or even worse sins, so that we may come to an understanding of our infirmity and be humbled.—St. Macarius of Optina

I’ll say a few more words about judging. We all know how significant and grave it is, but we do not try to restrain ourselves from it and as if for some good reason open our mouths to pronounce judgment. But if we were to teach ourselves to reject our will in regards to the words we speak, though it were painstakingly hard to force ourselves to do this, we would acquire the habit of doing so, much the same as we currently are in the habit of not restraining ourselves from judging...—St. Macarius of Optina

When in the company of others and while communicating with them, one must avoid any harmful assessment and judgment of others; avoid prying into any established customs and ways that do not pertain to us, and not carry the litter—that is, the weaknesses and faults of others—into the “temple” of our senses and likewise of our heart and mind, but try and see everyone as angels, regardless if someone might even reprove you on account of doing so—for in such a case it would be better to upset a person than to offend God. When you begin to act thus, you will rid yourself of various gossip that may entangle you… When assessing the deeds of others, be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves (Mt. 10:16), for which you should ask the Lord for help. Consider all to be angels, but impute yourself as being last of all others; this is something that you must make an effort to do.—St. Macarius of Optina

You remember that the righteous Lot had kept his righteousness even in Sodom. The same should be thought of St. … (sic), that his holy soul was not attracted by the noise of those celebrating; while we, sitting in our rooms as hermitswhat kind of thoughts do we not entertain! Those who are proficient in good extract benefit from everything. But what about us? O “that my mouth might not speak...”! (Ps 16:4).St. Anthony of Optina

Concerning your question about not observing the church order, read the ready answer to this in the book containing the biography of the Moldavian elder Paisius, where in answer to such a question the elder said this: “Cease speaking, for the Lord’s sake, cease speaking. Who has set you as the judge, that is, as the overseer and keeper of order?”—St. Anthony of Optina

As the old saying goes, “You don’t come to a monastery with your own order.” Therefore, don’t let your love for Fr. N. fade over a spoon of vegetable oil.—St. Anthony of Optina

Translation by Feodor Nemets



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