One of the greatest gifts we can give one another is to withhold judgment of them. Our human nature seems to call for constant comparison between ourselves and other people, and in doing so, we often tend to look at someone who is different from us in a negative or at least suspicious light. I think some of us confuse the spiritual gift of discernment with a “gift of suspicion!”
So how do we overcome this tendency to compare and judge? In a word, it’s humility…. humility to recognize that we do not set the standards; God does, and that God’s grace and mercy are always greater than ours. If we can move out from a place of humility, we will be able to listen better to other people and to be curious about what makes them behave the way they do or say the things they say or struggle with the things they struggle with. This is a humility that says something like, “I may know a lot of things, but I don’t know everything there is to know about everything and everyone in the universe. Therefore I will ask questions and not assume I understand everything perfectly. I will try to see things from someone else’s perspective. I will give them room to let God move them, deal with them, heal them, correct them. I will respect their journey and concentrate on my own journey, over which I do have some bit of control.”
Of course, if a friend, spouse, child or colleague is asking for counsel or advice, we give them our best shot, based on what we know. If at all possible though, the better route is just to ask them a lot of clarifying questions about their concern and to pray with them, letting them resolve the issue themselves. This is the heart of spiritual direction, which honors each person’s ability to hear God for themselves.