The beginning of compassion is to recognize the self in the other. Limited creatures that we are, we lack the capacity for compassion if the other remains outside the circle. Much of my life has been dedicated to narrowing that circle after the initial surge of expansion that occurs in childhood. I have put in place the objects and thoughts that distinguish me from all others. This distinction, while real and operational in physical reality, is too often an excuse for exclusion. "He is not like me, and so I am not obliged to treat him as a brother, to treat him in the way I would wish to be treated--because after all he would not do so for me."
And so the circle narrows.
This is not something I can resolve to do and step out and accomplish myself. It is only through grace that such an intention is even remotely possible. But as a way of aligning myself to that grace, I can begin to consider all of those who need for me to withhold this judgment. I can consider the times and situations that most incline me judgmental attitude and ask for strength and help there most particularly.
Let us consider the people we are most incline to judge.
(1) First, and perhaps most difficult of all, one must not judge oneself. The Lord God in His boundless compassion has brought each person to where he or she is right here and right now. Each person includes the self, me, with all the talents and all the blemishes God has seen fit to embue me with. These have been permitted because they are perfect for me, the person who has them. The cross we each are called to take up each day is the cross of all those blemishes--formed through our choices through time. We are who we are both by how we were fearfully, wonderfully made, and how we have chosen to reshape ourselves in our daily interactions with the world. But God has done the one and has allowed the other in order that we serve Him as individuals--perfect not in the sense of lacking faults, but in the sense of being precisely whom God would have us be. We must start by accepting that person, faults and blemishes, talents and strengths. We do not extoll what we lack, but accept, admit, and welcome it as a reminder that we, indeed, are not God Himself, nor may we ever aspire to be Him. What we may aspire to be is the perfection of the image of God that He has blessed with our present state.
Can we abandon self-judgment? Is it possible to lay aside our own concerns about who we are not and proceed to love the self that God has given each of us? If we can grant that God knows exactly what He is doing, it is not beyond the realm of possibility. If we desire to do so and ask for His help in doing so, what is merely possible becomes probable. And as we begin to trust, to really believe that God knows what He is about, we can come to understand that we are the person we are meant to be. All that we have has been given us to share--our perfections, our imperfections. Every flaw is given us so that we can look in the mirror that is the people around us and see in them something to love--the same flawed nature, the same mixture of the gracious and the animal--see and not judge.
To not judge others, we must start with ourselves. We can (and must) each, of course, recognize our flaws, our imperfections, our failings, our lack of action. Recognition is not judgment, but it is the fodder for fruitful and ongoing prayer and healing by the Divine Physician. This recognition can, with the grace of God form the foundation of our choices and our actions--actions and choices taken with full knowledge of how inadequate we are to the task.
The end of judgment begins with the self. It begins with the fundamental understanding that God is in control and God Himself is boundless compassion and deep loving-kindness. If this is the One that is in control what and where we are is meaningful in itself. Who we are is the story of co-creation with a God who wants only what is very best for each one of us.
The end of judgment begins with the understanding that God loves each one of us as Abraham loved Isaac. Each person is God's only child--the only one that God will ever have--there is no other like him or her.
Is it possible then to take that first step and say, "Yes Lord, you know what you are doing." Indeed, God speaks these words of Jeremiah to each of us: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. . . . (Jer. 1:5)" It is up to each of us to accept them and to make them our own. Judgment can stop when we accept that God knows what He is about. Compassion begins when we understand that we are who we are, each of us, because God in His mercy has made each of us to be a unique child to Him.
For myself, here and now, in the presence of such of my brothers and
sisters who read this, I resolve with the help of God's grace to end
myself and call for an end to the judgment that, in the words of Jesus
himself, kills. Not only may I not say unto my brother, "Thou fool," I
may not allow myself to think it. Neither may I make any of the myriad
of judgments that serve to separate me from the human family. I resolve, then, with the help of the God of Boundless Compassion, the
God of loving-kindness, to put aside all judgment of persons--all that
has kept me apart and has kept me from living the joyful life that God
would have me live. For judgment is perhaps one of the chief amongst
the destroyers of our God-given joy.
I resolve to live as Jesus has commanded each of us--judge not lest ye be judged with the judgment ye have measured out.
Starting with myself as I am here and now, I will accept the gift of God--the good and the bad--and I will not presume to compare my own weak human comprehension with the understanding that comes from the God of all.
(More on judgment later)