On of the most common sins committed, and yet, one of the sins least confessed, is the sin of Rash Judgment. The commercial below humorously depicts the sin and how wrong we can sometimes be.

But in reality the sin is not often humorous and can lead us to some very dark places. We may, on account of rash judgments, harbor grudges, resentments, fears, and unjust anger. We may allow rash judgment to foster our pride as we feel superior to others, and we may carry deep hurts, or even seek revenge, all based on misinformation, or misinterpretation of what others do. And gossip is usually the daughter (or son) of rash judgment.

St. Thomas speaks of rash judgement as those times, When the human intellect lacks certainty, as when a person, without any solid motive, forms a negative judgment on some doubtful or hidden matter, it is called judgment by suspicion or rash judgment. (Summa Theologica, Quest. 60, art 2)

According to Fr. John Hardon: Rash Judgment is unquestioning conviction about another person’s bad conduct without adequate grounds for the judgment. The sinfulness of rash judgment lies in the hasty imprudence with which the critical appraisal is made, and in the loss of reputation that a person suffers in the eyes of the one who judges adversely (Modern Catholic Dictionary).

The Catechism places rash judgment in the context of the obligation we have to preserve the good reputation of others:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:

- of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;

- of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;

- of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way (CCC 2477-2478)

All this said, rash judgment is often committed in weakness. Our minds are weak and we often lack patience or determination to carefully discern the whole truth. Sometimes we commit this sin based on hurts of the past, or the general climate of cynicism that permeates our culture.

On account of these roots in weakness, the necessary antidote is humility, and a quick appreciation that, in most incidents, we do not have all the facts at first. Further, we must often admit that we may never have all the facts in certain cases. In our humility we ought, usually, to presume the more benign interpretations of uncertain matters unless, and until, the facts require otherwise.

In our instant media culture of 24/7 news, we are encouraged to make quick judgments. News outlets often rush to “analysis” before most of the facts are in. And, with plausible “experts” at the anchor desk, rash judgments often seem “credible” when, in fact, they are little more than rash judgments.

Be very careful. Rash judgment, especially when shared with others, can do a lot of damage. It is not a sin to be taken lightly, even if it is often committed in weakness.

Perhaps then a little humor will make the point. In this commercial, a man with all the best of intentions, looks quite guilty of all the worst intentions. Enjoy.

17 Responses

  1. Alicia G. Mendiola says:

    When i was in my old life before 2007, i was in an environment where gossips were so used up. When i had my renewal of faith in 2007, i had realized that aside from making a rash judgement against others, even hearing it only without correcting the one telling and spreading it, is a sin on my part. Now, i always tell anyone gossiping or making rash judgement, not to kill the person by stabbing that person on his back. I will always tell, “Talk to that person and get his reply straight from him instead of killing him.” God Almighty commanded: THOU SHALT NOT KILL. Rash judgement and Gossiping will surely kill a person reputation.

  2. TaylorKH says:

    We have to find a balance between rash judgement and complacency.

  3. Jennifer says:

    So very timely in my life! I have been guilty of this many times, probably many more than I’m aware of!

    I sure do enjoy and profit from your writing!

  4. Doug says:

    Indeed. It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. God help us.

  5. Steve M says:

    Thank you for the laughter. Of course this post makes me look in the mirror but so far I have not been in this poor man’s place.

  6. Kevin says:

    One thing that helps me in this is to TURN OFF THE MEDIA everyday… and filter any media that hits my eyes. Social media is a hot bed for rash judgement, false accusations, unfounded stories and down right hatred pitting people against people and people groups against other people. And to what end? To spend time, quietly, musing on God’s great love for all people and His great plan that none would be lost except those who willfully turn away from His Son. This musing can fill us with the Truth of God’s Word as well and change the very way we think, feel, speak, act… live. Holy Spirit will give us power and strategies to love our fellowman like He does.

  7. RichardC says:

    Funny video. Good of you to help us remember words like ‘calumny’ and ‘detraction’ and the meaning of rash judgement.

  8. Peter Wolczuk says:

    Wonderful commercial. I see spiritual lessons as an inspiration here in a way that retains, and spreads, the value of the lesson.
    I admit that I have been guilty of making, passing on or spreading previously heard rash judgements; even though I’ve known that there can be very negative consequences for myself (ourselves) as well as for the one(s) being judged.
    An example which I’ve most preferred to use is when a lynch mob makes a hasty judgement that guilt, of a serious misdeed, lays with who-ever is most vulnerable to unpopularity in the community.
    If that person is innocent then, when that person is punished fatally or otherwise, the community tends to believe that the danger has been removed along with the perpetrator and relaxes their vigilance.
    Now the children can be sent out to play without careful supervision because the community is a safe place again … right?
    Just one of the many ways we can hurt ourselves, and the one’s for whom we’re responsible for, by a sin of omission.

  9. Katherine G ERT says:

    Great post. One thing that has always helped me when it comes to rash judgement is doing my own research using accredited information (journal articles, first person accounts, etc.). I think the media and social media plays up many things to be things that they are not. There are still times where I judge first and ask questions later, but I am making every effort now to ask questions first :)

  10. Vincentius says:

    God does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. Why should you?

  11. Rick says:

    Msgr. Pope, if rash judgment lies at one extreme, is there a sin or fault that lies at the other extreme? That is, is there a name for a fault where one is biased to believe only the good about another, when there is evidence to the contrary sufficient to make a reasonable man suspicious?

    • I think there are several things at the other end of the scale. Most notably would be fraternal correction which Thomas lists as a work of charity. Secondly is honesty which I would here define as reverence for the truth wherein one, after sufficient evidence is present is able and willing to face and accept the truth of another’s state or struggle. This would then allow other virtues such as mercy, patience, forgiveness and petition to become operative.

  12. Scott W. says:

    God does not propose to judge a man until he is dead. Why should you?

    True as far as it goes. But all too often the cry, “Don’t be judgemental!” is really code for “there is no such thing as sin!”

    In any case, Msgr. Any chance you could give some brief thoughts on detraction? One of the issues I run into in the blogosphere is that someone will accuse someone of detraction even though the facts are available in the public record.

  13. tz says:

    Does this mean one cannot be both a Catholic and a dermatologist?

  14. Diane Korzeniewski says:

    LOL – that commercial was hilarious!

    Glad to see the subject of rash judgment in play. We need to keep talking about it.

    I blogged on this last year hoping to spark some discussion. It got quite long with a lot of quotes, but I kept finding things I wanted to record for myself. I refer back to it often. While I had found Fr. Hardon’s definition of rash judgment useful, it was his definition of imprudence that really got my attention:

    IMPRUDENCE
    Sins against prudence that are either by defect or by excess. Sins by defect against prudence are: rashness, which acts before due consideration has been given; thoughtlessness, which neglects to take the necessary circumstances into account; and negligence, which does not give the mind sufficient time for mature deliberation.

    That last part about mature deliberation is key. Rash judgment is often a snap judgment.

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