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The Vice-Virtue Judo move, in three steps...

As we see again in this Sunday's gospel, Jesus frequently warned us about the dangers of being judgmental.

"Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and regarded others with contempt."

Person A - who was a religious, law-abiding person -- goes to the temple and prayed, "I thank you God, that I'm not like other people," especially not like sinners and tax collectors." Person A is our tendency to hold ourselves up as good examples by comparing ourselves to others. 

Person B - a tax collector, and so probably someone who was thought of as corrupt, despised, and even a traitor - stands at a distance and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Person B is the grace you receive to judge only your self, and not to engage in comparison at all.

Guess who goes home "justified" (put right, made right) with God? (Hint: it's not us when we are being judgmental.)

As Oswald Chambers writes, Jesus wants us, as his followers, to "cultivate a temperament that is never critical."

But how? How do we do that? How do we avoid falling into the trap of being judgmental?

Well, a simple three-step strategy that I heard of some years ago helps.

I call it the "vice-virtue judo move."

STEP ONE: Think of something that bothers you about other people, and ask yourself "what is the vice that underlies that behavior?" Name it. Don't just get annoyed at the behavior, stop and ask yourself, "What underlying vice is behind that behavior?" Give it a name. For example, is it selfishness? Mean-spirited ness? Prejudice? A lack of care? Greed?

STEP TWO: ask yourself, "what is the opposite virtue of that vice?"-what is the antonym? What does the opposite behavior look like? For example: If the vice is selfishness, then generosity might be opposite; if meanness, then kindness; if prejudice, then open-mindedness; if lack of care, then kindness; if greed, then sharing.

STEP THREE: Practice that virtue in your own life.

This is the single best way I know of short-circuiting my own judgmental attitudes, because it forces me to re-focus on my own attitudes and behaviors.

A word of warning, though: adopting this practice takes patience. As Oswald Chambers writes, "this [change of heart and habit] will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person. ... If I see the little speck in your eye, it means I have a plank of timber in my own eye. Every wrong thing that you see in another person, God finds in you. Every time we judge, we condemn ourselves. Stop having a measuring stick for other people."

Instead, let our prayer be,

"I don't have a leg to stand on...

"I live in a glass house, I can't throw stones...

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner."


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