In reality, the sin is not often humorous and can lead us to some very dark places. On account of rash judgments, we may harbor grudges, resentments, fears, and unjust anger. We may allow it to foster pride, feeling ourselves superior to others. We may even seek revenge based on misinformation or as a result of misinterpretation of others’ actions. And gossip is usually the daughter (or son) of rash judgment.
St. Thomas speaks of rash judgment in this way: 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).
Fr. John Hardon defines it in this way: 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, John A. Hardon, S.J.).
The Catechism places rash judgment in the context of our obligation 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 out of weakness. Our minds are weak and we often lack the patience or determination to carefully discern the whole truth. Sometimes we commit this sin because of past hurts or the general climate of cynicism that permeates our culture.
On account of these roots in weakness, the necessary antidote is humility and an understanding that in most cases we do not have all the facts at our disposal immediately. In fact, there are many situations in which we may never have all the facts. In humility, we should presume benign intent in uncertain matters unless and until the facts indicate otherwise.
In today’s world of 24/7 information at our fingertips, we are encouraged to make quick judgments. News outlets often rush to provide “analysis” before many of the facts are known. When “experts” speak from the anchor’s desk, their statements can seem quite credible when, in fact, they are often 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 appears to be guilty of the worst intentions. Enjoy.