30 May 2021

Do Not Judge. Or Else

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

When advice comes in the form of a threat, a prudent man will pause. Threats are warnings of the harm that will come from a particular action or choice. When someone promises harm, one should take notice.

"Do not....or else"--that is the essence of this verse. Do not judge or else you will be judged--and we are given a none-too-subtle intimation that we do not want to be judged. That is a threat by definition.

Do not judge. Or else.

Why Not Be Judged?

Why should we fear to be judged? 

Consider what it means to judge:
to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises.
Why would we not want opinions formed about us, based on a careful weighing of the evidences regarding us? 

The very idea seems at odds with human behavior, for in all of our daily interactions, from our style of dress to our mannerisms, we encourage others to form specific opinions about us. We seek to be seen as smart, beautiful, interesting, and innumerable other adjectives besides. We cultivate such opinions at every term. Why should we fear what we seek with such fervor?

Perhaps we should fear because we do not get to choose on what evidences those opinions will be formed. We cultivate a specific image of ourselves, presenting evidences we choose, but we cannot prevent other evidences slipping in uninvited, disrupting the image we have crafted, eradicating the particular opinion we seek.

Perhaps we should fear because people do not see the same evidences the same way. What some view positively others will view negatively. In pursuing a particular opinion from others, we may persuade them of the exact opposite.

We should at least acknowledge that we do not seek to be judged so much as we seek a particular judgment. We seek approval from others; we do not seek scrutiny. We want our evidences accepted, not weighed.

When we are scrutinized, the outcome is unknown to us. When others weigh our evidences, we cannot know ahead of time what opinion will result.

When we are being judged, the judgment is unknown--and the unknown is the origin of all fear.

Being actually judged is most definitely something to be feared.

Why Not Judge?

When advice comes in the form of a threat, a prudent man will pause. Threats are not how moral truths are stated. Threats, by their nature, are not moral edicts.

This verse is a threat. There is no room for debate on that point. As it is a threat, we cannot say the counsel not to judge others is a moral principle. Rather, this verse is a warning. It is not a moral edict.

The warning is clear: if we judge, we shall be ourselves judged. Yet, as with every warning, there is also an offer: if we withhold judgment of others, judgment will be withheld from us.

There is a word that applies when judgment is withheld: forgiveness. When we forgive, we release any claim of requital or repayment. When we forgive, we put aside any conclusion reached by the weighing of evidences, and declare all such opinions no longer relevant.

When we forgive, we do not judge. When we judge, we do not forgive.

When we judge, we also cannot ourselves be forgiven. When we judge, we say that evidences matter. When we judge, we say that a person is the sum of the evidence. When we judge, we say that we also are the sum of the evidence.

When we forgive, we put aside the evidence. When we are forgiven, our own evidences are put aside. 

Judgement Or Forgiveness?

All evidence, be it good or bad, are things that have been done, words that have been said. All evidence is necessarily that which has past.

When we forgive, we put aside the past. We release others from the burdens of the past, freeing them to make new choices for the future. When we are forgiven, our past is put aside, and we are free to make new choices for the future.

If we judge, we hold on to the past, and by so doing we hold on to our own past. If we judge, we declare our own past relevant. If we judge, we reject any thought of forgiveness, and demand that we be measured by our past--by the sum of all our evidences, both good and bad.

The threat and therefore the warning are thus a stark reminder that not only can we choose a path, but that we must choose a path. We stand at the fork in the road, and must choose whether to go to the right or the left. We must choose judgment or forgiveness. 

If we choose judgment, we reject forgiveness. If we choose forgiveness, we reject judgment. There is no third alternative available. There is no middle ground. There is no compromise.

This verse is a threat, and it is a warning. It is a warning that should be heeded. It is a simple warning, yet complete in its message.

Do not judge. Or else.

16 May 2021

Honor Each Other: A Call To Civility

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

People do not live alone. We form friendships. We form families. We form communities. Out of our friendships, families, and communities, we build societies. People have always done this, and likely always will. It is our nature, as essential to our being as breathing.

We Are All Human

When President John F. Kennedy addressed the graduates of American University in 1963, his speech included one of best and most timeless expressions of universal humanity: "...our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal."

We are human, and we must live among humans. We do not have a second alternative. We have no other place, no other world but this one. As we are human, we cannot avoid the company of humans.

We must live humans among humans, therefore we are well advised to excel at living with humans. Peace is always preferable to conflict, comity always more desirable than combat.

Peace is not easy, nor is it automatic. Where there are people, there are opinions, and where there are opinions, there will be disagreement. This is the order of things. 

Yet, as President Kennedy so eloquently observed, despite our disagreements there are things we all share, things upon which we all agree: we all live on this good Earth; we all breathe the same air; we all cherish and pray for our children's future. No matter our differences, we are all human. This, too, is the order of things.

We will disagree on some things. We can agree on some things.

Peace Is A Balance

Peace among us therefore hinges on finding the balance of agreement and disagreement. Peace among us is something for which we must therefore strive, which we must seek out daily. Peace takes work. Peace requires effort. Peace requires choices, for how we disagree, when we should disagree, and whether that over which we disagree matters more than that over which we can agree, are choices we must make daily.

Peace is a choice, and therefore conflict is also a choice. Even when we disagree, we are never compelled to escalate disagreement into argument. We are not required to turn disagreement into conflict. We may choose to do so, and we might even feel justified to do so, but we are never required nor compelled to do so. 

Peace is always desirable. Conflict is never inevitable. Both are the consequences of choice. At every turn, we reach for one or the other.

How then, do we reach for peace? How do we reach for peace in the midst of disagreement?

We Can Disagree And Still Have Peace

One choice that may allow for peace is to remain mindful of all that we have in common. Those with whom we disagree are themselves human, are themselves mortal, as are we. Even as we disagree with one another, we may still acknowledge our common humanity, our common community, the bonds of family and friendship that we all share.  Even as we disagree, we can be gracious, we can be civil, we can be respectful of one another.

Even when we disagree, we can still celebrate such good things that we might do. We can still acknowledge the kindnesses shown us, and we can reciprocate with kindness.  We do not compromise principles by being polite. We are not craven merely because we are courteous.

A disagreement on one thing does not alter in any way agreement on any other thing. Counting one act as evil does not preclude other acts from being good. Condemning one act for its evil does not prevent us from celebrating other acts for their good. One evil act need not sever whatever bonds of friendship, of family, of community that we might share. All evil acts combined do not strip any of us of our common humanity, that one thread that truly unites us all.

We Are All Human. We Can All Be Humane.

As we are all human, we can always honor our humanity. As we are all human, we can always celebrate that one common link. We can pray for each other's children, and we can mourn each other's mortality. Despite all disagreement, we can yet choose this much in the name of peace.

Therefore, let us always strive to come together, seeking out common fellowship, as people inhabiting this small planet, breathing the same air, cherishing our children's future.  Let us come together with love and understanding, seeking to elevate each other and not tear one another down. Let us pay each other our due respects, giving space to each other's ideas, credence to one another's beliefs. Let us not compromise who we are, but let us celebrate all that we are.

Let us honor each other, that we may have peace, find prosperity, and build for our children a future.

02 May 2021

Forgiveness: Justice For The Sake Of Us All

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Merriam Webster defines "forgive" as follows:
to cease to feel resentment against (an offender)
Forgiveness does not imply pretending the offense never happened; for that we need forgetfulness.

Forgiveness does not even suggest the offense does not matter.  Forgiveness merely means one chooses not to be angry.

Why must we forgive? Why should we not be angry at those who wrong us?
Forgive Because We Are Forgiven

The immediate answer lies in the verse above: We should forgive because we ourselves have been forgiven. We should do for others that which we desire for ourselves--to fail in this is to become an hypocrite. If we seek forgiveness of our sins, any failure to forgive the sins of others becomes therefore an additional sin added to our tally. 

For our own sake we must forgive.

Moreover, anger hurts. Anger is painful. Anger precludes happiness. When has any man truly enjoyed his moments of anger? Setting aside anger is necessary if we are to ever enjoy happiness.

For our own sake we must forgive.

Forgive, But Never Forget

We must forgive, but we should never forget. When we forget we open ourselves to the same mistakes, the same foolish trusts, the same careless actions, that allowed offense to happen. 

Also, if we forget the wrong done to us, we can never truly choose to put aside the anger arising from the wrong. Instead, by forgetting we are choosing to ignore the anger along with the wrong.  Where there is forgetfulness there can never be forgiveness.

For our own sake we must forgive. For our own sake we must never forget.

Seek Justice

Yet surely this leads to a dilemma: without anger, how are we to confront those who wrong us? If we put aside righteous indignation, and thus put aside the anger-driven quests for revenge, what is left for us to seek? What remains for us to do?

The answer for this lies in understanding another word--"justice":
the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments
That which is just is that which is grounded in fact and reason. That which is just is necessarily predicated on reality--on what is. 

Facts and reason--empirical reality--are what remain to us when we set aside anger and emotion, and it is through fact and reason that we extrapolate and appreciate the consequences attendant upon every action, right or wrong, good or bad. 

By laying aside anger, and the vengeful impulses which follow, we are left with a simple quest for justice. We are left with the simple adjudication of consequences for all that happens. 

Forgiveness is therefore the essential prerequisite to justice. Until we forego the impulse for revenge, motivated by perception of what should be rather than what is, we cannot seek justice. We cannot be driven both by notions of what should be and appreciation of what is. 

If we are to have justice, we must practice forgiveness--for our own sake, and for the sake of us all.

Forgiveness is, in the final analysis, justice for the sake of us all.