The Church Fathers on Judging Others

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Experpt from a sermon by Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov)

Our neighbor does not depend on us, he owes nothing to us. We all belong to God, both our life and our death are in His hands. We are children of the Heavenly Father, Who gives each and everyone different gifts, both spiritual and physical. Consequently, only God has the right to hold our neighbor accountable for what he does with his gifts—whether he manages them properly or does harm to himself or to his neighbor. So we must not get into others’ business by judging them.

St. Ambrose of Optina

We should humble ourselves, anger and judgment come from pride. (The elder drew a chain made of rings, pointing out that sins, like the chain, are connected to and cause one another.)

Do not rush into judging and condemning as people we see are different from what they seem. Often a person starts to speak like an ordinary frail human being, but as the conversation goes on, he comes to realize he is saying something wrong, he goes back to his cell and suffers deep remorse for what he said or did. St. Mark the Ascetic wrote, “From deeds, and words, and thoughts one is righteous; from repentance many are righteous.”

Do not ponder over what people do, do not judge, do not lament, “Why? For what?” You had better say to yourself, “Why would I care about them? At the Last Judgment, God will not blame me for what they did.” Turn away from thinking about people’s lives and gossiping, but fervently pray to the Lord imploring for help, because we are capable of nothing without God’s support as the Lord Himself said, Without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:5). Avoid suspicion like the plague because our enemy strives to get us in his trap, to distort everything, making the white seem black and the black seem white, just as he did with Adam and Eve in paradise.

Some succumb to the sin of judgment out of habit, some because they remember wrongs, others out of envy or hatred; but in most cases we start judging others because of our conceit and arrogance. Never changing and also sinful, we anyway believe we are better than many other people. If we wish to be rid of the sin of judgment, we should force ourselves in any possible way toward humility before God and people, and implore the Lord for help...

St. Maximus the Confessor

Whoever is curious to know about the sins of others or judges his brother out of suspicion has not yet begun to repent, neither does he care to know about his own sins, heavier than heaviest lead indeed. He does not know why people are heavy-hearted, take pleasure in vanity and seek after falsehood (Psalms 4:3). So, as a madman wandering in the dark and neglecting his own sins, he muses on the sins of others—either real or imaginary—guided by his suspicion.

St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

Pride and conceit give rise to another evil doing us serious harm; this is making harsh judgment on our neighbor and condemning him; this makes us disregard, despise, and humiliate him when the occasion arises. Esteeming ourselves highly and imagining that we are better than we really are, we clearly look down upon our neighbors, judge and despise them, as we believe ourselves free of their shortcomings and think we are different. But you have no authority to do this; by claiming this authority you immediately think yourself good enough to make judgments—not before weak people, but before God, the omnipotent Judge of all.

St. Anthony the Great

If you see your brother sin, do not disparage him, do not reject him and do not condemn him. Otherwise you will end up in your enemies’ hands.

Do not judge any mortal being lest the Lord should dismiss your prayers.

Abba Dorotheus

Who troubles, judges and does harm other than demons? So, it turns out, we help demons to ruin both our lives and the lives of our neighbors. Why does this happen? It happens because we have no charity. For charity shall cover the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Saints do not condemn one who sins, nor do they reject him, but rather sympathize with him, they are sorry for him, they instruct and comfort him, they heal him as if he were an ailing man, and do everything to save him.

St. Simeon of the Pskov-Caves

For a kind person everyone is kind, but an evil and wretched man not only has a distorted view of everyone, but also suspects, scorns and speaks spitefully of those who are righteous.

We judge our neighbor because we make no effort to get to know ourselves. The one who seeks to know himself, his shortcomings, sins and transgressions has no time to see them in the neighbor. Remembering our own sins, we never think about the sins of others. It is unthinkable to leave our dead man, our soul, to cry over the dead man of our neighbor.

Condemning wretched people, we condemn ourselves as we are not free from sin. When we cover the trespasses of our brother, the Lord covers our own trespasses; when we reveal the trespass of our brother, the Lord reveals ours.

The tongue of one who judges is more foul than hell; yet hell takes those who are evil, while the tongue kills both the wicked and the good. When we are too strict in our judgment of our neighbor, we condemn ourselves, we manifest our hatred, and not a positive disposition.

Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian

Lord, grant me to see my own failings, and not to judge my brother.

Do not mock or judge someone who has fallen into sin, but rather pray lest you fall into sin. Do not pamper anyone while he is alive and do not lose hope in him before he dies. Do not laugh at one who has sinned, rather set him on his feet.

Saint John Chrysostom

Do not judge anyone, but try to overcome your own shortcomings—otherwise, you will deserve condemnation. Anyone will fall when the Lord does not support him; we cannot stand without Divine help. By condemning your neighbor, you make yourself worse than the one who listens to you. If he is a sinner, he becomes carefree as he has found a companion; if he is righteous, he will yield to pride and arrogance because another has sinned, and thus he has a reason to admire himself.

St. Isaiah of Scetis

The one whose heart is flawless deems everyone to be flawless; the one whose heart is defiled by sins deems no one to be flawless, but finds everyone similar to him.

Saint Macarius

Our pure thoughts can help us see everyone as pious and good. If we see them as wicked, this proceeds from our own disposition.

Translated by Maria Litzman


Susan7/30/2022 10:27 pm
Anna: I think it's possible to protect the innocent without judging. There is a difference between seeing a danger and responding, and condemnation of others.
Anna7/30/2022 1:02 pm
“Don’t judge” is how we excuse all kinds of disgusting and society-destroying evil in this world. If you see a child being abused and you “don’t judge” but let it go on indefinitely, have you really done the right thing? Seeing everyone as perfect is a very dangerous way to live. It leads to trusting evil people and taking their advice. All kinds of evil are perpetrated by evil people taking advantage of the innocence and ignorance of the victims. What to do? I don’t want to judge, but I want to protect those who need my protection.
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