17 December 2013

St. Therese on Human Judgment

"For my part, I prefer to be charged unjustly, because, having nothing to reproach myself with, I offer gladly this little injustice to God. Then, humbling myself, I think how easily I might have deserved the reproach. The more you advance, the fewer the combats; or rather, the more easy the victory, because the good side of things will be more visible. Then your soul will soar above creatures. As for me, I feel utterly indifferent to all accusations because I have learned the hollowness of human judgment.
When misunderstood and judged unfavorably, what benefit do we derive from defending ourselves? Leave things as they are, and say nothing. It is so sweet to allow ourselves to be judged anyhow, rightly or wrongly."
-St. Therese
Of course only the sweetest of the saints could say such a thing. When we are judged, when we feel personal insult, when we feel taken for granted, how do we react? "I must set them right!" may cross your mind. Or perhaps you bite your tongue and bitterly stew over their words/action for the next week (I'm guilty of this one). As contrary to intuition or common practice as her advice seems, St. Therese really knows the right course of action here and must have sent this page from her Story of a Soul to me at the right moment. Not a white rose, but just as good.

Such a passage strikes me in general for how unique and unusual it is. She does not only say, "Turn the other cheek," but also, "Have no resentment for either slap." How easy is it for anyone to take criticism? Add to that taking mis-attributed criticism without complaint, then humble yourself for how easily the criticism could have applied to you.

It sounds absolutely insane on the surface. However, it becomes simple and logical when one considers it longer. "Jesus answered: My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36) If we are to be like Christ, we cannot expect to be treated any kinder than He was. Further, the judgment which most matters is our Final Judgment by the One who truly knows us. I'm not saying God is going to cut us all a break and overlook every sin we've committed here; I mean that only He is capably of properly judging us. Any judgment from others is considerably less important by comparison. (I speak here of improper judgment; of course correcting the ignorant and admonishing sinners are spiritual works of mercy). "The hollowness of human judgment" shouldn't send us into hysterics.

The real trick is changing our state of mind from one of indignation and pride to one of obedience and humility. If someone negatively admonishes us for a fault which we do not possess, it is not always truly necessary to point out their error. It is much more simple to "leave things as they are." If it is a grave mistake which necessitates correction, you should point out the truth to the other person. That there is the point: in all we do we should strive for the Truth. If we retaliate based upon our pride and not guided by the Truth, we have only made our lives more difficult. We have caused further strife with another and have deviated from the path our energies should be focused upon.

When we believe we have been slighted in some way, let us first ask whether correction is needed: Is the Truth obstructed or poorly represented by the slight? Can it be done so also by our reaction? If not, let us accept it as a small suffering which we can offer to God for ourselves, the other party, the souls in Purgatory or sinners everywhere. Let us remember in the moments in which we are tempted to act most selfishly where our hearts ought always to be directed. Let us ask St. Therese for her assistance to teach us how to walk her Little Way.

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