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Maurice Timothy ReidyFebruary 09, 2024
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Monday of the Second Week in Lent

Find today’s readings here.

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” (Lk 6:37)

In his new book How To Know a Person, David Brooks confesses he is guilty of what he calls the size-up. “The size-up is what you do when you first meet someone,” he writes. “You check out their look, and immediately start making judgments about them.”

This is exactly what Jesus preaches against today. The temptation to judge another person is so strong—and so bad for us—that Jesus tries to be as clear as possible. If you judge, you will be judged. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

And yet we struggle. I know exactly what Mr. Brooks means by the size-up. I do it all the time, and then I immediately feel bad about it. Sitting on the train, taking the elevator to work, watching the Communion line at Mass—judge, judge, judge.

How do we—O.K., I—escape this trap?

If you judge, you will be judged. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Mr. Brooks has some advice. It’s insightful but simple. Talk about yourself less and listen more. Ask people about their life and where they came from. Eschew small talk in favor of meaningful conversations. “The way I try to see you represents my moral way of being in the world, which will either be generous and considerate or judgemental and cruel,” he writes.

The goal is to become what Brooks calls an Illuminator:

An Illuminator is a blessing to those around him. When he meets others he has a compassionate awareness of human frailty, because he knows we are all frail. He is gracious toward human folly because he’s aware of all the ways we are foolish. He accepts the unavoidability of conflict and greets disagreement with curiosity and respect.

How do we get from here to there, from Judge to Illuminator? It could take a while—a lifetime perhaps. But it begins by encountering each person as authentically and graciously as we can, no matter the time or the circumstance.

I have my marching orders.

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