Too Hasty to Judge
In the age of instant news, judgment falls hastily. In marriage also, we are often quick to judge each other.
Like most couples, over thirty plus years of marriage, we’ve had quite a few misunderstandings. Sadly, many of these escalated to painful arguments where hurtful things were said, and our unity was damaged.
The reason? We were too quick to judge.
In almost every instance, one or both of us, made a judgement about the other’s behaviour or motives that was simply wrong. We drew our conclusions in haste, without context or fact-checking with each other first.
Accusations followed, causing hurt and defensiveness. What began as a simple misunderstanding became a major source of division which wounded our hearts and eroded our trust.
As we celebrate the feast of Saint Mary of Cross MacKillop, Australia’s first saint, we are reminded of her calm approach to calamity. Although she faced numerous obstacles in establishing the Sisters of St Joseph (including being briefly excommunicated!), her faith in God’s providence allowed her to maintain her serenity.
Among her letters and writings, we found this little gem:
“Be not hasty in judging one another”. ~ Mary MacKillop.
There are several similar sayings attributed to her, suggesting that she was often a voice of wisdom in situations of conflict. Another is: “Try to excuse what you cannot understand.”
We imagine misunderstanding and conflict were common among the sisters as it is in most communities, families, and marriages. No matter what our vocational state, when tempers flare in our relationships, judgements tend to fall fast and heavy.
The greatest damage is usually not the initial ‘trigger’ that started the incident, but the awfulness of how we respond to it. As one couple described it to us: “we ended up in a ‘meta-argument’… arguing over how we argue!”
Interestingly, in a court of law, the ‘discovery’ stage seeks evidence and precedes judgement; in law, the accused is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. If only we were so deliberative in how we treat each other in our marriages!
The advice of St Mary of the Cross to ‘slow down on making judgements’ and to give the other the ‘benefit of the doubt’ is really the same idea.
How we could have benefited from this advice in our earlier years! In almost every case, dealing with the original misunderstanding was relatively easy. Repairing the damage to our trust caused by unfair judgements and accusations was painful and much more complicated.
An Attitude of Curiosity
Hasty judgements often have their root cause in our sense of superiority and self-righteousness. We convince ourselves that we know the other’s intention, that our understanding of the situation is superior, or that our own motives are unquestionably pure.
With such confidence in our own virtue, we conclude that our spouse must be at fault. Or at least more at fault than we are.
But what if we suspended our judgement to allow a different mindset to express itself? What if we allowed curiosity to inform our thoughts and actions?
Instead of firing off accusations, we would ask questions.
Instead of defending our right to be upset, we would seek to understand each other.
Instead of carrying wounds to our hearts because we interpreted an innocent mistake as a deliberate act of indifference or contempt, we would be spared that unnecessary pain.
Curiosity is an ‘unhasty’ mindset. It holds our mind in a state of openness allowing us to discover the mind and heart of the other in the situation. And surely that is a higher calling than sitting in smouldering judgement.
If we cannot excuse anything we can at least excuse the intention. ~ Mary MacKillop.
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