From “Discourse VI, On Refusal to Judge Our Neighbor” (ca. 450)

There are times when we not only condemn but also despise people; for it is one thing to condemn, and quite another to despise. Contempt adds to condemnation the desire to set someone at nought — as if the neighbor were a bad smell which has to be got rid of as something disgusting, and this is worse than rash judgment and exceedingly destructive.

Those who want to be saved scrutinize not the shortcomings…of their neighbor but always their own, and they set about eliminating them. Such was the man who saw his brother doing wrong and groaned, “Woe is me; him today – me tomorrow.” You see his caution? You see the preparedness of his mind? How he swiftly foresaw how to avoid judging his brother? When he said “me tomorrow” he aroused his fear of sinning, and by this he increased his caution about avoiding those sins which he was likely to commit, but put himself below his brother, saying, “He has repented for his sin but I do not always repent. I am never first to ask for forgiveness and I am never completely converted.” Do you see the divine light in his soul? Not only was he able to escape making judgment that he humbled himself as well. And we miserable fellows judge rashly, we hate indiscriminately and set people at nought whether we see something, or hear something, or even only suspect something. And what is worse, we do not stop at harming ourselves, but we go and gossip and say, “Here listen to what has just happened!” We harm our neighbor and put sin into his heart also.

How can we put up with this behavior unless it is because we have no true love? If we have true love, with sympathy and patient labor, we will not go about scrutinizing our neighbors shortcomings. As it is said, “Love covers up a multitude of sins.” If we have true love, that very love should screen anything of this kind, as did the saints when they saw the shortcomings of others. Where they blind? Not at all. But they simply would not let their eyes dwell on sins. Who hated sin more than the saints? But they did not hate the sinners or condemn them, nor turn away from them, but they suffered with them, admonished them, comforted them, gave them remedies as sickly members, and did all they could to heal them.

Let us acquire tenderness toward our neighbor so that we may guard ourselves from speaking evil of our neighbor, and from judging and despising them. Let us help one another, for we are indeed members one of another.

St. Dorotheus of Gaza (505-565) was a Greek-speaking Palestinian monk and abbot, who founded a monastery near Gaza in 540. He is remembered for a series of spiritual discourses on ascetical subjects that he delivered to the monks under his care, and is commemorated on the calendars of Eastern and Western churches on several different dates.


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