From Shamessy (Deaconessa) Ina in Baltimore:
Today marks the 28th day of March and the 28th year of blessed marriage to my dear deacon. For those who have been blessed to seek salvation within the martyrdom of holy matrimony, you will likely see why God’s providential lot fell to me today to do the assigned reflection since it is on ‘Judgment.’ For marriage is a God-inspired setting for providing opportunities to work on this stubborn, self-willed passion. Judgment is all about ‘Me’ being ‘Judge’. Judge of most anything and everything. And who knows better than ‘Me’ how things should be done in ‘My’ world. Pity those who must live so closely with ‘Me’. How many times in these last 28 years have I started a sentence to my husband with an annoyed or outraged tone and the words, “Why did you . . . ?” Fill in the blank with any irritating behavior or failure on his part to act.
Just the other day when my beloved was exhausted from his non-stop travel schedule for work, and was packing for yet another trip, I, (self-crowned queen of men’s fashion) asked him, “Why are you wearing that shirt?!” He retorted that he liked the shirt and it was comfortable. Only when it was too late did I think about how my judgment of his clothing choice served to kick him when he was down. I felt ashamed when I happened to look in the closet some time after he left and saw that the ‘offending shirt’ had been unpacked. Who had died and made me the judge . . . ? I was the ‘worm’ from Proverbs 12:4: “As a worm in a tree, so an evildoing wife destroys her husband.” It is slow and almost imperceptible but those tiny judgments eat away most assuredly. I have tears as I type this as I think of all the times such a simple verbal exchange has not only eaten away at my beloved but has aided in my own destruction by strengthening my passions. Dorotheos of Gaza says “Because we become careless about our own faults . . . we lose the power to correct ourselves and we are always at work on our neighbor.”
If I enter a room and wonder why they painted it that color . . . I judge the person who painted it. If I think “doesn’t that lady see that her skirt does not fit her anymore?” I judge her. If I am annoyed with how slow my checker is in the grocery store, I judge him. When I think, ‘I like the way we sing that song at my church better,’ I judge again. I, who am imperfect in a thousand ways, find myself judging every move made by the rest of the world. With every judgment I exalt myself and further darken the clouds of passion which are blocking my communion with my Most Beloved Lover of Mankind. If I am to have any hope of that blessed union I must actively seek God’s help in breaking the habit of judging in all the small ways, as well as the large. May we become so dispassionate that we do not even notice those things that once seemed to annoy. May we learn to cut off those judgmental thoughts when they start and not chew on them like such delicious cud. May we become blind to our neighbors faults, just like the holy elder who was blind to the woman’s nakedness.
The Forty Maxims
- 1. Be always with Christ and trust God in everything.
- 2. Pray, fast and do acts of mercy.
- 3. Read the Scriptures regularly.
- 4. Read good books, a little at a time.
- 5. Practice silence, inner and outer.
- 6. Cultivate communion with the saints.
- 7. Be an ordinary person, one of the human race.
- 8. Live a day, even a part of a day, at a time.
- 9. Be honest, first of all with yourself.
- 10. Be faithful in little things.
- 11. Do your work, then forget it.
- 12. Do the most difficult and painful things first.
- 13. Face reality.
- 14. Be grateful.
- 15. Be cheerful.
- 16. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.
- 17. Never bring unnecessary attention to yourself.
- 18. Listen when people talk to you.
- 19. Be awake and attentive, fully present where you are.
- 20. Think and talk about things no more than necessary.
- 21. Speak simply, clearly, firmly, directly.
- 22. Flee imagination, fantasy, analysis.
- 23. Flee carnal things at their first appearance.
- 24. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur or whine.
- 25. Don’t seek or expect pity or praise.
- 26. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.
- 27. Don’t judge anyone for anything.
- 28. Don’t try to convince anyone of anything.
- 29. Don’t defend or justify yourself.
- 30. Be defined and bound by God, not people.
- 31. Accept criticism gracefully and test it carefully.
- 32. Give advice only when asked or when it is your duty.
- 33. Be strict with yourself.
- 34. Be merciful with yourself and others.
- 35. Do nothing for people that they can do for themselves.
- 36. Have a healthy, wholesome hobby.
- 37. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.
- 38. Endure the trial of yourself and your faults serenely, under God’s mercy.
- 39. When you fall, get up immediately and start over.
- 40. Get help when you need it, without fear or shame.