Thanks to Romani and Tony for their thoughts (see ‘comments’ on the previous blog).
Of course you are both right in pointing out that there are situations in life where one needs to take a stand and say or do something. Examples that spring to mind might be if I were a German living in Germany in the early 1940’s, watching my Jewish neighbours disappear mysteriously one by one. Another example might be the kinds of subtle and blatant religious persecution going on in Egypt and Sudan and many other places at the moment. In cases of injustice, of the oppression of the poor, neglect of the needy … yes we should definitely not shirk our moral duty to do something.
Even in these situations, where one is morally justified in being criticial, the sins of judgement and pride are never far away. How many people have set out to right a wrong only to end up becoming a wrong themselves? I think there are certain rules one can follow that minimise the dangers of this happening. Please pardon the excessive use of cliches.
Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.
Or as Romani sportingly puts it – play the ball, not the player. Stick to the issue and don’t attack the person. Personal attacks have the very unfortunate side effect of forcing a comparison between the attacker and the attacked, and such comparisons are never good for anyone. They only lead to a sense of self-justification and pride and superiority complexes. If on the other we just stick to the actual issues at hand, there is a far greater chance of ending up with a good outcome. Besides this, personal attacks hardly ever work. Very few people really change anything because someone just told them to.
But for the Grace of God, there Go I…
Even if you do no share the sins you see in others, do not think that’s because you are a specially holy person! If not for God’s protection and care, that could very easily have been you making that mess. If you had lived the life that other person has lived, might you not have done even worse? What is scarier is that today you may be the judge, but tomorrow you may be the criminal yourself. History is replete with examples of normal, good people who, through circumstances, ended up doign abnormally horrible things. Can you really guarantee that will never be you? The Prize winning novel “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding is a chilling reminder that just beneath our civilised surface lies a wild animal straining to be set free to wreak its havoc. Recommended reading for those who think they are above the sins of others.
Only Poke Your Nose Into Where It Is Warranted
None of us have been appointed sole and sagacious guardians of good for all humanity. We are given responsibility for certain, proscribed areas – parents are responsible for their children; teachers are responsible for their pupils; policemen are responsible for their beats. Within that area of responsiblility, of course you must be proactive in dealing with wrongs and teaching what is right to your charges – it would a sin to neglect that responsibility. But if you notice something wrong that is not within your area of responsibility, it is often wrong and also damaging for you to take it upon yourself to fix it. Just try disciplining someone else’s child and see what I mean! The best course of action in these situations, I think, is to pass on your concerns to the person who is responsible, and leave them to deal with it. I think that’s what we would all like people to do to us, so we should accord the same respect to others. Of course there will be situations where a certain degree of ‘follow-up’ or lobbying is required, but as a general rule, overstepping one’s boundaries does no one any good.
That said, my previous blog was not really considering these kinds of situations as much as looking at the more common situation where one is tempted to be critical of others in a more general sense: things like ciriticising other drivers on the road, or the way your wife folds the washing, or the person on the news who got themselves into terrible credit card debt – that sort of thing.
Here, I think there is a very important distinction to be made between Judging on the one hand and Discernment on the other. In my definition, for the purposes of this discussion, Discernment is where you recognise the difference between right and wrong, simply and objectively, and it pretty much stops there. Judgement takes it one step further and adds a layer of subjective reaction. Generally this takes the form of classifying the person at fault (“What an idiot!”) or comparing oneself favorably aginst the offender (“I’d certainly never be that silly”).
We have to discern – otherwise, ignorantly confusing good with evil, we would fall into many sins: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20) . But we also have to avoid judging others, setting ourselves above them and seeing ourselves as superior to them: “Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls.” (Romans 14:4) Judgement belongs to God and to God alone. We really don’t want to get into a demarcation dispute with Him!
So long as we stick to the purely objective Discernment, we will be reasonably safe, spiritually speaking. Add to Discernment a healthy dose of humility and compassion, and you’ve got a pretty good system going!
6 Replies to “Criticism of the Criticism of my Criticism of Criticism”
Everyday we learn something , i like that comprehensive strategy of using discretion supported by humility and compassion, it forms a great common ground strategy …. it is a practical and great strategy in our daily life ….also it is important to realize the application in practice of those life experience strategies needs personal practical common sense skills as it comes in different situations and scenarios to handle ….we agreed that by our Discretion to hit” hate ” the sin and not the sinner, do not go the further step of judgment and thus we need to support it as father Antonios said with a bit of humility and compassion implementation …i believe it is a great way because Compassion will put you on the shoes of others , you will feel their feelings , their frustration , their pain ….the question now how you develop your COMPASSION ??it is very easy and you can develop it with practice ..it involves simply two things : intention and action , intention simply you open your heart to others and action is simply too ,what you do about it …remember mother Teresa said ,” we can not do great things in this world but we can do small things with great love ” you can comfort , say a good word , smile , hug , etc …anyhow , the other component HUMILITY also we can experience this practically all the time and must be part of our attitude as well and it is simple to develop and experience as well but remember humility and inner peace go hand on hand all the time ..most people love a person who does not need to BRAG , a person who shares from his or her heart and not from his or her EGO …so the way to develop genuine humility is to practice and by the way you get an immediate feed back of calm and inner easy feelings …so the next time you have an opportunity of BRAG resist the temptation and you will get there ….i hope we shared a bit of nice practical thoughts , God bless ….just i wonder now with this thought came to me about one of the events happening around , which way to go and what the world will do about this world financial disaster , to hit the sin only or the sinners or both the corruption” sin ” and the FAT CATS ” sinners “???!!!sorry i did not mean to confuse you …anyhow as father Antonios , every one has got a responsibility in its own area ,i do not want to overstep on the toes of the others ..may God bring peace and stability to the whole world , amen ….
Just a short criticism to Romani :P, it would be easier to understand and read your otherwise enlightening post if you used the conventions of English 🙂
I like your example of Mother Teresa- I remember seeing a movie about her- quite inspiring. With the financial crisis, I suspect that it is one of those things that happen from time to time; and the leadership of the current leaders may or may not have triggered its eruption, or the past leaders have delayed it until now. I don’t know- not good in Economics. What I do know is that “all things work together for good to those who love Him”. Well, if I don’t believe that- I hope I will soon do, by the grace of God.
Thanks Abouna; just wondering though- in the Psalms, David really hates God’s enemies (that’s my impression)…does he really just hate their sin?
You are right Tony … also it is true that all the time” all things work together for good for those who love God “, mate i personally experienced that over the years when things used to go wrong with me in my work and in my personal life and then i found that suddenly those things work together for my benefit by the grace of God through his personal message to me and i believe a lot over there experienced it and will be experiencing this with the ups and downs in life ….anyhow i believe there is a specific message from God to the whole world regarding this financial disaster , just we have to wait and see ??!! as far as the sin and sinner issue ,i used to get the same feelings with those characters in the old testament and specially about David , actually David is a very close character to my heart for his great pure heart and great love to God , David used to do a lot of mistakes like the other prophets but God used to punish him on the spot, i believe David used to go further than hating his enemies and that in killing them !!!!! just we will wait to get some advice from Abouna ??!!!
I found it funny that tonyk used a post on a talk about criticism to criticise Romani.. what’s even funnier is that I wanted to say the same thing :).
Abouna, some people have a personality that they think things should be done the right way. Of course, it’s a subject of humilty to admit that your way might not be the right way, but what if you see something you think is wrong and listen with an open mind but are failed to be convinced that the way someone does something is right? and what if it’s someone who for example has the care or your children or loved one or yourself in their hands? (I hope that makes sense… is it ok Tonyk? 😉
Most of the time we are the human beings rather than being content and grateful for what we have , we are focused on what,s wrong with something and our need to fix it !!!??we have to deal with imperfection on all aspects , the way the person think , talk , act ,communicate , behave , our way of life, personal aspects and you name it ………..!! i believe ,our act of focusing on imperfection pulls us from our main goal and being kind and gentle and at the end of the day we loose our inner peace ……..i personallyi would like to be kind rather than right and keep my inner peace , what do you reckon pals ????at the end of the day we need to manage our affairs in the fear of God in this big jungle and as you know survival of the fittest here and the door is narrow there ….so the bottom line all of us makes mistakes and we learn from it , we commit sins and we learn from it and we try to manage our life and affairs in our area of responsibility doing our best , i believe , God will never ask us why we committed those sins and made those mistakes because he knows our weakness , but he will ask us why we did not confess and repent and learn from it , so make sure you do it all the time while we are still in this big jungle !!!so pals try to make peace with this worldly materialistic imperfection to the best of your ability !!!!!!it is just my humble experience ….
Thanks for all the responses.
Re the question of the Psalm prayers that express hatred for one’s enemies:
I think hatred was created to be applied in one circumstance, and one circumstance only: evil. It is appropriate for a follower of God, who loves God passionately, to hate all that is the opposite of God with the same passion. We hate the sin that is in us with vehemence and do all we can to mercilessly stamp it out.
My guess is that in the times before Christ, before the Covenant of Grace replaced the Covenant of the Law, the sin and the sinner were often one in the minds of people.I am pretty sure from reading the Old Testament that people then lived in a very different mindset. Imagine the mindset of people a hundred years ago before all our technology came along – they viewed life and the world in certain aspects in a very different way to our view today. I imagine something similar may have been the case with regard to evil in those days. This was the spiritual childhood of humanity where the seeds of the grace to come was sown, but for practical purposes, a sort of rough justice was essential to maintain the importance of good over evil. Thus were whole tribes wiped out by Joshua and the Israelites as they entered the Promised land. The message was: “if you choose evil, it will become a part of you, and you will have to accept the fate that awaits evil and those who practice it.”
Since the coming of Christ, and the opening up of a door to salvation, the message has become: “if you have chosen evil, repent, for here is a way out of evil and into the realm of love and grace.” I find the best way to pray those types of Psalms is to apply the aggressive words to my own weakness and failings, or to the devil and his plans. No need to show mercy to either of those!
Re: those who by nature are compelled to to want things done right:
I know where you’re coming from! And it’s actually not a bad thing to want things done right, but that desire must be subjected to wisdom in practice. If it’s not your responsibility, express your view to those responsible and then leave it to them. If it is your responsibility, then jolly well do something about it! If the person responsible isn’t doing anything and you feel the matter is important enough, then check with others you respect if they agree with you (you might be wrong). If they do agree, then do what you can to lobby or influence the course of events, but always within the boundaries of respect, courtesy and love, and never for personal or selfish reasons.
Does that answer the question?