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    etching of a man talking to a priest

    Do Not Judge

    You cannot judge another until you understand that you too are guilty.

    By Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    September 14, 2022
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    • Jeannie Bender

      Let us also have pity on the migrants fleeing from crime in the South American countries. May God help them gain strength and courage to overcome those who persecute them . God have mercy on them and those who fill them with fear that they feel they must spend months to flee.

    This selection from The Brothers Karamazov, an exhortation by the elder Zossima, is included in The Gospel in Dostoyevsky.


    Remember particularly that you cannot be a judge of anyone. For no one can judge a criminal until he recognizes that he is just such a criminal as the man standing before him and that he, perhaps more than all men, is to blame for that crime. When he understands that, he will be able to be a judge. Though that sounds absurd, it is true. If I had been righteous myself, perhaps there would have been no criminal standing before me. If you can take upon yourself the crime of the criminal whom your heart is judging, take it at once, suffer for him yourself, and let him go without reproach. And even if the law itself makes you his judge, act in the same spirit so far as possible, for he will go away and condemn himself more bitterly than you have done. If after you kiss he goes away untouched, mocking at you, do not let that be a stumbling block to you. It shows his time has not yet come, but it will come in due course. And if it doesn’t come, no matter: if not he, then another in his place will understand and suffer, and judge and condemn himself; then justice will be fulfilled. Believe that, believe it without doubt; for in that lies all the hope and faith of the saints.

    etching of a man talking to a priest

    Illustration by Fritz Eichenberg

    Work without ceasing. If you remember in the night as you go to sleep, “I have not done what I ought to have done,” rise up at once and do it. If the people around you are spiteful and callous and will not hear you, fall down before them and beg their forgiveness; for in truth you are to blame for their not wanting to hear you. And if you cannot speak to them in their bitterness, serve them in silence and in humility, never losing hope. If all men abandon you and even drive you away by force, then when you are left alone, fall on the earth and kiss it; water it with your tears, and it will bring forth fruit even though no one has seen or heard you in your solitude. Believe to the end, even if all men went astray and you were left the only one faithful; bring your offering even then and praise God in your loneliness. And if two of you are gathered together – then there is a whole world, a world of living love. Embrace each other tenderly and praise God, for if only in you two, His truth has been fulfilled.

    If the evildoing of men moves you to indignation and overwhelming distress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evildoers, shun that feeling above all things.

    If you sin yourself and grieve even unto death for your sins or for your sudden sin, then rejoice for others, rejoice for the righteous man, rejoice that even if you have sinned, he is righteous and has not sinned.

    If the evildoing of men moves you to indignation and overwhelming distress, even to a desire for vengeance on the evildoers, shun that feeling above all things. Go at once and seek suffering for yourself, as though you were yourself guilty of that wrong. Accept that suffering and bear it, and your heart will find comfort, and you will understand that you too are guilty, for you might have been a light to the evildoers, even as the one sinless man, and you were not a light to them. If you had been a light, you would have lightened the path for others too, and the evildoer might perhaps have been saved by your light from his sin. And even though your light was shining, yet you see men were not saved by it; hold firm and doubt not the power of the heavenly light. Believe that if they were not saved, they will be saved hereafter. And if they are not saved hereafter, then their sons will be saved, for your light will not die even when you are dead. The righteous man departs, but his light remains. Men find deliverance even after the death of their deliverer. Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain. You are working for the whole, you are acting for the future. Seek no reward, for your reward on this earth is already great: the spiritual joy which is only vouchsafed to the righteous man. Fear not the great nor the mighty, but be wise and ever serene. Know the measure, know the times, study them. When you are left alone, pray. Love to throw yourself on the earth and kiss it. Kiss the earth and love it with an unceasing, consuming love. Love all men, love everything. Seek that rapture and ecstasy. Water the earth with the tears of your joy, and love those tears. Don’t be ashamed of that ecstasy; prize it, for it is a gift of God and a great one; it is not given to many but only to the elect.

    Contributed By FyodorDostoyevsky Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    One of the greatest writers of Western literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky continues to receive undiminished popularity and acclaim. He is best known for his novels The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment.

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