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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

XII THE RECOIL OF JUDGMENTS

Matthew vii.1.

When Jesus says |Judge not that ye be not judged,| he cannot be forbidding all severity of judgment, for no one could be on occasion more severe, or unsparing, or denunciatory than he. |Woe unto you, hypocrites,| he says to some of the respectable church-leaders of his time. |Beware of false prophets,| he says in this passage, |for they are inwardly ravening wolves.| No, Jesus certainly was not a soft-spoken person or one likely to plead for gentle judgments so as to get kindness in return. What he is in fact laying down in this passage is a much profounder principle, -- the principle of the recoil of judgments. Your judgments of others are in reality the most complete betrayal of yourself. What you think of them is the key to your own soul. Your careless utterances are like the boomerang of some clumsy savage, often missing the mark toward {33} which it is thrown, and returning to smite the man that threw it.

This is a strange reversal of the common notion in which we think of our relation to other lives. We fancy that another life is perfectly interpretable in its motives and aims, but that our own lives are much disguised; whereas the fact is that nothing is more mysterious and baffling than the interior purposes of another soul, and nothing is more self-disclosed and transparent than the nature of a judging life. One man goes through the world and finds it suspicious, inclined to wrong-doing, full of capacity for evil, and he judges it with his ready gossip of depreciation. He may be in all this reporting what is true, or he may be stating what is untrue; but one truth he is reporting with entire precision, -- the fact that he is himself a suspicious and ungenerous man; and this disclosure of his own heart, which, if another hinted at it, he would resent, he is without any disguise making of his own accord. The cynic looks over the world and finds it hopelessly bad, but the one obvious fact is not that the world is all bad, but that the man is a cynic. The snob looks over the world and finds it hopelessly {34} vulgar, but the fact is not that the world is all vulgar, but that the man is a snob. The gentleman walks his way through the world, anticipating just dealing, believing in his neighbor, expecting responsiveness to honor, considerateness, high-mindedness, and he is often deceived and finds his confidence misplaced, and sometimes discovers ruffians where he thought there were gentlemen; but this at least he has proved, -- that he himself is a gentleman. Through his judgment of others he is himself judged, and as he has measured to others, so, in the final judgment of him, made either by God or men, it shall be measured to him again.

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