Don't judge - Madonna Magazine

Don't judge

Susie Hii 10 March 2017

We are advised when doing the awareness Examen, coined by St Ignatius of Loyola, to practise being non-judgmental. Instead of judging events as good and bad, some people categorise them as ‘highlights’ and ‘lowlights’.

But, that is still being judgmental. It is our human nature to be bipolar. I think we are all bipolar to some degree. When that polarity becomes extreme, it becomes a disease: bipolar disorder.

There is a Chinese story of an old farmer who had an old horse for tilling his fields. One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer’s neighbours sympathised with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, ‘Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?’

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, ‘Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?’

Then when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg.

Everyone thought this was very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, ‘Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?’ Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

This story made a deep impression, and helped me learn not to judge things as good or bad.

Most things in life that bother us are trivial. But while it may be possible to think of lost, wandering horses and broken bones as not bad, what about the tragedies of life?

In December 2012, my niece’s only child (her 17-year-old son) jumped to his death from their high-rise apartment. Can anyone say that is not bad? Indeed, as a friend said, it is every parent’s worst nightmare.

At about this time, a friend’s son of similar age scored top marks in his Year 12 examination. Any parent would be proud and happy with the son’s achievement. There was a rumour going round at that time that the world was going to end sometime in December 2012, before Christmas. I thought if the world did end then, it would be true that neither the loss of one parent’s son nor the achievement of the other will be good or bad. All will come to an end. All things pass away.

It shows the impermanence and unimportance of ephemeral things. For me, to reach that state of being non-judgmental seems impossible in this lifetime.

It is our human nature to be saddened by losses and adversity. To reach that state, one would have transcended one’s humanity.

What is God’s way of judging? Is it the Right Judgment of the Holy Spirit? I think it is found in the Beatitudes, and in St Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation. Blessed (blissfully happy) are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for uprightness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted. St Ignatius cut to the chase in his First Principle and Foundation:

‘Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul… For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things … we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.’

I resisted this principle and foundation for years. I saw it as contrary to our human desires: we desire health, riches, honour, long life – rather than their opposites.

How similar St Ignatius’ words are to St Francis’ words, ‘Here is where I will rejoice. I will delight in non-power, non-aggression, non-domination, non-pleasure, non-wealth, non-success.’

In Richard Rohr’s words, ‘he lived so close to the bottom of things that he could never fall very far’. If we are afraid of falling to the bottom, the consolation is that once we are there, we cannot fall very far!

The Beatitudes, St Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, and St Francis’ words all teach us a different way of looking at things. Ultimately, ‘the end for which we are created’ is union with God, which resolves this dualism inherent in our human nature. If we can reach union with God, it will be the end of all our fears and unhappiness; we will be blissfully happy.

What we fear most – death – is also that which we desire most – union with God. It is the end for which we are created.


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