Judged as We Judge
J. R. Miller, 1899
There are many of our Lord’s teachings which we do not take half seriously enough. For example, there is what Jesus says about judging others: “Do not judge—or you too will be judged.” This is more than a condemnation of uncharitable judging; it is also a revelation to us of the fact that our judgments of others come back into our own bosom. “For in the same way you judge others—you will be judged; and with the measure you use—it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
The same teaching is found elsewhere in the Scriptures. We get back—what we give out. This is true of our kindly thoughts and feeling towards others, as well as of judgments that are harsh and severe. We gather the harvest of our own sowing. “God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows—he will also reap,” is true in every phase of its application. The merciful—shall obtain mercy, runs the beatitude.
A man who is generous in his opinions of others—receives charitableness of opinion in return. Of course, this does not mean that if we always treat others gently—that others will always treat us gently. Kindest hearted men—are sometimes treated most unkindly. Jesus himself never judged others harshly—and yet he was cruelly slain by those he had come to bless. The statement is general, and in general it is true—that mercifulness in us will make others merciful towards us. What we give—we shall usually receive.
This is true on both the divine and the human side. The unforgiving cannot get God’s forgiveness. It is put in the liturgy of penitence, that we must forgive, before we can even ask for forgiveness. “Forgive us our debts—for we have forgiven.” If we will not show mercy—we cannot even ask to have mercy shown to us. Then, with men, too, sternness finds sternness, and resentment meets with resentment. He who sees no good in others—must not be surprised, and must not complain, if others fail to see any good in him. The man who has only harsh words for his fellows—cannot expect to hear words of love from others concerning himself.
Human lives are like those echoes that we find here and there among the hills—which send back every sound that is heard before them. You speak, and your words are echoed back to your ears. You sing, and your song returns again to you. If one talks loudly and angrily, one hears loud and angry words reverberating in the air. If one speaks gently and sweetly, the echo faithfully reports back not the words only—but the tone as well.
Like echoes are our lives; what they hear—they reflect back to the speaker’s ear and heart. So it is that we may find out, in the way others treat us—just how we really treat them. They echo into our ears in their judgments of us—the very things which our lips have spoken concerning them. Hence our judgments of others are really self-revealings. If we are suspicious and distrustful of men—we are showing the world that in us are causes for suspicion and distrust. If we find selfishness wherever we go—it is evidence that we are selfish ourselves.
This truth has a wide application. A living torch and a dead ember were sent forth into the world to find out what the world was like. The torch returned and reported that there was light everywhere. The ember reported that it was dark everywhere, with not a ray of light shining.
Just so do men find in the world—just what is in themselves? One man says it is a world of sadness. There is nothing in it but sorrow. All its songs are songs of tears. He has not found a bit of blue sky, nor heard a note of gladness in all his rounds. Poor man! It is only the gloom of his own heart that he is reporting. He has in him no capacity for seeing beauty or hearing joy-notes. Another man goes out over precisely the same course, hearing the same sounds, and seeing the same sights, and he reports that he found only music and loveliness everywhere. The world was full of sweet songs. On every spot flowers bloomed; everywhere light was shining.
What made the same world so totally different to the two men? The difference was in the men themselves. In one the lamp of joy was burning, and wherever he went he found light—the light of his own life pouring out on all things. In the other the lamp had gone out, leaving darkness in his soul. Wherever he went, even amid the rarest beauty, he saw nothing lovely, for he was as one blind. Though all about him songs of joy filled the air—he heard no sweet note, for he was as one deaf.
This is a serious teaching, and it has an intensely practical side for everyone of us. It is ourselves that we are discovering all the while—as we go about judging others. If we seem to find all men unjust, unreasonable, proud, vain, deceitful, or false—there is enough in the discovery to startle us. It is the echoes of our own heart—that we are hearing! It is the revelation of our own inner self—that we are seeing reflected. We should seek instantly to find a new heart—and then we shall find ourselves in a new world.
We should also train ourselves to charitable judgments of others. As the faults of our own character are corrected, our eyes will become clearer, and we shall see others in a truer light.
Many of our judgments of others are unjust! And even if the faults our eyes seem to see do exist—we have no right to pronounce sentence. We do not know what reasons there are—for leniency of judgment.
Some day you find a man very disagreeable, irritable, easily vexed, or unsocial, not disposed to be cordial. You are inclined to be impatient with him, perhaps even to regard his unhappy mood so seriously as to allow it to break the friendly relations which heretofore have existed between you and him.
But does not the better self within you say to you that it is not right to make up a final judgment from the mood of any one day? You do not know what may have occurred, to produce in your neighbor the spirit which has given you such annoyance. It may be ill health that has affected him—there are certain physical conditions which make it very hard for the sufferer to keep sweet. Or something may have gone wrong with his business, causing him much anxiety. Anyone ought to be pleasant when all things are prosperous; but it is a much severer test of character to keep pleasant—when there are reverses, when one is losing money, and when one’s affairs are in discouraging condition.
Or there may be other troubles which no neighbor suspects. Not all life’s pains, cause outcry which men hear; not all griefs hang funeral-crape on the door. The bitterest sorrows must ofttimes be borne in silence and in secret—only God knowing of them. We do not know what burdens of personal pain and trial—any life that seems sunny and glad may be bearing. Perhaps this may be the cause of the uncongeniality and the unlovableness which so much offends you in your neighbor.
Of course, we may say that none of these reasons are sufficient to excuse the man for the unpleasant and disagreeable qualities in him which so mar the beauty of his disposition, and give so much pain and discomfort to others. True, he ought to keep loving and gentle and cheerful—no mater what is wrong with him, or has gone wrong with his affairs. Yet we should be charitable, considering ourselves, let we also lose our sweetness some day—when the chill wind is from the north. If only we could lift the veil that covers people’s inner lives, and see all that is going on within, all that makes it hard for them to keep glad hearted and songful—we would be more charitable toward all.