One of the most important lessons the mystic learns is that he or she cannot judge other people. Yes, we’re all taught not to judge others as children, but the reason we’re given is based on the fact judging others can be hurtful. While there is a good reason not to be “judgmental” there are even more profound reasons the mystic comes to appreciate this mandate. Judgment is a vailed exercise in control and separation. The mystic knows one cannot control things nor be separated from the rest of the world to grow spiritually. There are mystical traditions that emphasize control and separation, but the Christian tradition does not believe these are the keys to a deeper relationship with God. Christian mystics are not gurus sitting on mountains away from the rest of the world developing special powers. They are men and women connected to the rest of humanity who must trust God with everything. Judging people separates you from them and gives you a false sense of control. Stephen Rossetti writes this in regards to the controlling nature of judging others:
“The first step in this process of letting go of control is seemingly simple: do not judge. An early and essential step in the mystic journey is to stop judging others and, eventually, to stop judging oneself. This judging is our way of labeling, controlling, and demeaning. Instead, we must begin the process of trying to stop thinking and controlling everything. We must simply allow things to be.”
When we no longer judge we engage reality in its most raw form. Not judging doesn’t mean being content or accepting of how things are, rather it causes us to engage reality as it is in order to understand God in a deeper way. I can know I’m a sinful human being. Yet, I suspend judging myself for being that very thing in order to understand the mystery of my redemption more clearly. I don’t have to accept my sinful state as being “okay”, only know it’s truly what I am and keep myself from rationalizing it away to protect my fragile ego. I can accept the fact God loves me and draws me closer to him even though I am a profound sinner. There is nothing I do to control the situation; it flows from God’s initiative and is completely controlled by him. If I keep from judging these theological truths, I can have a deeper appreciation for what grace is and enter into its very mystery.
Rosetti also touches on the way judging others invites us into a world of division. We can’t be connected to those we judge; they are different from us. This division even includes self-judgment. When we judge ourselves, we disown parts of who we are. When we invite a world of division into reality, we accept an illusion that distorts the unified nature of reality. Rosetti writes:
“Each time we judge others we separate ourselves from them. We wound our inner selves and we step back from really “touching” and “tasting” the truth. Ultimately, we step back from touching and tasting God.”
The mystic learns to refrain from judging others, oneself, God, and the way things should be to enter into the mystery of the divine presence in the hear and now. Too often we run from reality by judging it and separating ourselves from it. However, when we enter into raw reality, we encounter its very source, a God who waits for those he loves to enter into the mystery that is his triune life.
Sin is a heavy burden. Perhaps the best way to understand this burden is to compare it to what we experience when we become overweight and physically unfit. As we gain weight our bodies become overtaxed and we become more limited in what we can do. We don’t notice the extra work our bodies need to perform or the mobility we’re losing because it happens gradually over a long period of time. Very few people wake up one morning weighing 30 pounds more than when they fell asleep. We don’t realize we can’t walk as far, climb the steps like we did in the past, or run as fast as we could when we were in a better physical state. Because these limitations creep up on us little by little we’re almost completely unaware of how much being physically unfit is limiting what we can do. Even worse, we seldom realize how much we have stopped doing things just so we can maintain the illusion that we’re okay and these physical barriers aren’t really a part of our life. Instead of taking the stairs, we take the elevator. Instead of walking to the store, our favorite restaurant, or to work, we drive or take an Uber. It’s an unconscious decision we make to choose a more accommodating lifestyle rather than acknowledge our limitations and the need to change. We become slaves to our limitations because we never acknowledge them. We refuse to see our life as it is so we can continue to live with the illusion we’re okay.
The same problem occurs in our spiritual lives. We slowly allow sin to become a burden and it starts to limit what we do. As long as we refuse to acknowledge sin in our lives we will grow more and more spiritually handicapped. We will forget how to forgive, be grateful, and ultimately love. This is why one of the greatest hurdles in the spiritual life is to face the fact we have sin in our lives and it’s limiting us from being the profoundly beautiful creature God created us to be. The mystic understands the paradox that as one grows closer to God one begins to see the sinful creature they are. By drawing closer to the light one begins to see the darkness they have in their life. If you refuse to acknowledge the darkness you never get to draw closer to the light which is God himself. As Rosetti writes in the book When the Lion Roars:
“When we do not see the beauty of goodness and God, we are not fully aware of the tragedy of sin. We must not underestimate the damage of sin. This is a danger of our time. If the previous error was to overemphasize our sinfulness, our era underestimates the reality and horror of evil and sin.”
The knowledge of our sinfulness is a grace given by God as we draw closer to him. It is grace because when it’s acknowledged and we allow his life to transform ours, we live a more beautiful life. When we face sin for what it is, claim it as our own, and allow God to purge us of its presence what remains is the divine presence reflected in us. We are no longer hindered in our exercise of the Christian life but rather we are free to love, exercise peace, be patient, kind, and sincere. To know our sin is to become free of its power because when we know it we can turn it over to Christ who exchanges his life for ours and therefore the life we live is not our own, but Christ living in us (Galatians 2: 19-21).
Be free of sin by acknowledging it, confessing it, and allows God to dwell within you. If you won’t do that you will be forever spiritually trapped and never exercise the virtue you were created to live. By being free from sin and embracing God’s life in you, you can reflect his goodness and virtue in the simplest acts of love that make an ordinary day an extraordinary moment.