On the Sin of Rash Judgment, as Seen in a Commercial



One of the most commonly committed—yet least often confessed—sins, is that of rash judgment. The commercial below humorously depicts the sin and how wrong we can sometimes be.

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.

Virtual Does not Mean Real – As Seen on TV

Video commentary:

For most people, the word “virtual” has become a synonym for the Internet or the computer world, as in “occurring or existing primarily online.” But the word virtual has an original meaning that is actually quite descriptive of a modern problem.

Prior to its application to the computer world, the word virtual meant being something in effect, though not actually, or expressly being such. In other words, something virtual has aspects of the real thing, but is not the real thing. So, in the sentence, “He is a virtual goldmine of knowledge on the subject,” one would be silly to look for a physical goldmine or to think that he is either gold, or a mine, or both. There is no actual, no physical goldmine. His knowledge has aspects of a goldmine (value, worth, depth) but he is not an actual goldmine.

The adverb “virtually” means, for the most part, almost. In other words, it is close to the thing, but is not the thing or quality described. So in the sentence, “He was so exhausted, he was virtually dead,” he is not, of course, actually dead, but, rather, shares some of the qualities of the dead (unmoving, unconscious, lying down, etc.).

So virtual may mean “almost,” “like,” or “similar,” but NOT “is.” The virtual is not the full reality. It is lacking in existence and other important qualities of the actual reality.

And this is a very important truth to recall in today’s “virtual” world of the Internet. Many people are substituting too much of the virtual for the actual. They spend more time interacting with Facebook friends than physically interacting with actual friends and family members. Many people digest large quantities of virtual Internet life and only small amounts of real life. In an actual meeting with real people present, many have their heads in their phones and are only vaguely present in the real meeting (see photo above right).

I have noticed some tourists here in DC so buried in their phones (perhaps reading about a particular monument), that they spend little time looking at the monument itself. Some fiddle so much to get the perfect picture that they miss the actual moment. A picture is not real, it is virtual. It shares aspects of the real thing but is not that thing. We spend a LOT of time with our eyes focused on a virtual world while often neglecting the real world among us.

A strange migration has happened for many today wherein we interact more “virtually” than really. As a result, old-fashioned things like dating, marriage, meeting new people, and just getting together with friends have declined.

Another problem with the virtual world is that it is, most often, self-defined. We select our favorite sites and bookmark them. We set up Facebook filters, RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, iPod playlists, and the like. In effect, we create our own little virtual world. Meanwhile the real world, with all its diversity and less desirable things, is increasingly neglected. Our world becomes smaller and our personal formation more stilted.

Even more so, our ability to listen and be a “captive audience” has declined. We increasingly demand that everything should appeal to us quickly. Otherwise we should be able to click on a new bookmark, change the channel, or skip to the next song in the shuffle. But the real world is not quite so accommodating. Patiently listening and working with what “is” seems more odious as we start to prefer the virtual to the real.

Well, let the video above make the point. Enjoy a humorous look at how virtual notions do not work in the real world.