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.