A Way to Freedom – Br. John Braught

Do not judge, Jesus says; Do not condemn. Forgive, and give.

But Jesus is not just concerned with how these attitudes affect other people; Jesus is concerned with how these attitudes affect us. When we are judgmental, turn our backs on someone, or refuse to forgive, it is not the person toward whom we feel these things that suffers; but we suffer, because we must live with these negative emotions day-by-day. Similarly, when we forgive and are giving, we’ve no doubt all experienced the joy and freedom it brings. In either case, the measure we give is the measure we get back.

That being said, sometimes it’s hard to forgive, and it can be hard to give. And it must be clear that when we feel angry, resentful, or judgmental we cannot simply wish or will away our negative emotions, or, as it were, remove the log from our own eye.

But Jesus clearly intends for us to be free – to see clearly – so that we can be of real help to other people. We absolutely cannot convincingly proclaim God’s love and forgiveness, while we remain unloving and unforgiving ourselves.

But because we cannot achieve clarity of vision on our own, we might first of all discuss ourselves with another person. It might be a trusted friend or colleague, or someone whom you see at church regularly. A good rule of thumb is to choose someone who will understand your spiritual aspirations, but be unaffected by your choices. The object is to gain the insight that a third party can bring. Those who guide us spiritually, our rule of life reads, “help us enter the truth which is Christ, uncovering our illusions and guiding us to explore the freedom for which Christ has set us free.”

And because above all we need God’s help, we can also pray for the person with whom we feel angry, or judgmental. I don’t just mean once or haphazardly, but intentionally and continuously. Pray for that person that they might receive everything you want for yourself, peace of mind, a better relationship with God, health, security, prosperity, and happiness. Even if you don’t really want it for them, and your prayer is just empty words, say it anyway. Persist, and see if you don’t really come to mean it.

The founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson is quoted in our rule as saying that, “in praying for others we learn really and truly to love them. As we approach God on their behalf we carry the thought of them into the very being of eternal love, and as we go into the being of him who is eternal Love, so we learn to love whatever we take with us there.”

God challenges us and invites us to be free from negativity, to refrain from judgment and condemnation. To forgive, and to give. But we cannot do it alone, and we cannot do it without God’s help. And God cannot do it without our cooperation.

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  1. David Cranmer on September 15, 2016 at 22:45

    Additional comment — what I am still trying to learn is how to forgive myself. DavC

  2. David Cranmer on September 15, 2016 at 22:45

    “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” It is a lesson that I have to learn over and over again. And I have found that Br John’s advice that we pray for the one we are having a hard time forgiving has really helped me in the past, not only to forgive but also to understand what is motivating that person and to develop sympathy and empathy for who that person is and what they are trying to accomplish.

  3. judy on August 24, 2016 at 08:51

    “We absolutely cannot convincingly proclaim God’s love and forgiveness, while we remain unloving and unforgiving ourselves”…..a harsh truth.

  4. E. Scott on August 24, 2016 at 06:47

    Thank you for this message. I have been trying to pray for a family member with whom I am extremely angry. Your message is helping me forgive myself for not feeling like it’s doing much good, and encouraging me to keep trying, for my own sake as well as his.

  5. Judgment | The Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana on August 24, 2016 at 00:05

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  6. anders on February 4, 2016 at 11:46

    Thank you for bringing clarity to forgiveness. It’s one of those words that can feel like taking a hand spade to a mountain. Your view seems to say it’s more of a “giving for”. Giving for what? Giving for grace? That’s also something hard to wrap my head around as I’m sitting in a traffic jam. So Ill keep it simple and open ended: forgiveness=giving for something beyond my power and understanding, and it is good.

  7. anne godwin on February 4, 2016 at 09:24

    Just what l needed this morning, after a very biased and ugly meeting last night. l will need to read this for a good while, but it will help me through my day. Thank you, thank you, and God bless. Anne

  8. Barbara M on December 22, 2015 at 10:41

    Thank you for this beautiful message on forgiveness and non-judgment, and for suggestions to pray for those who may have hurt us. A very helpful message in this season of being with family near or far, often with some history of difficult family dynamics.
    Thank you Br. Braught!

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