Dorotheos begins that chapter by reproaching us to remember the sayings of the Holy Fathers ,
For is, as they used to say, we do not despise little things and think they are of no consequence to us, we shall not fall into great and grievous things. I am always telling you that bad habits are formed in the soul by these very small things – when we say, “What does this or that matter,” – and it is the first step to despising great things. You know how great a wrong it is to judge your neighbor. What is graver than this?
According to Dorotheos there are three distinct ways we judge our neighbor (Page 132):
- Running a man down. Running a man down is saying that so-and-so has told a lie, or got into a rage, or gone whoring, or the like.
- Condemning a man. Condemning a man is saying, “he is a wicked liar, or he is an angry man, or he is a fornicator. This is a very serious thing. For it is one thing to say, “He got mad” and another thing to say, “He is bad-tempered:, and reveal the whole disposition of his life. It is serious to judge a man for each one of his sins. As Christ himself says, “Hypocrite, first take the board from your own eye, then you can see to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.”
- Despising our neighbor. Despising our neighbor is the most serious and most difficult to deal with. We no longer judge ourselves but we demand to usurp God’s right to judge. We become only concerned with the burden of others. We have plenty to be concerned about but we turn the scrutiny off ourselves and onto others demanding a reckoning.
Dorotheos goes on to say, “… a man can know nothing about the judgments of God. He alone is the one who takes account of all and is able to judge the hearts of each one of us, as he alone us our Master. Truly it happens that a man may do a certain thing (which seems to be wrong) out of simplicity, and there may be something about it which makes more amends to God than your whole life; how are you going to sit in judgment and constrict your own soul?” (Page 135)
We need to only scrutinize our own behavior and thoughts and words. We need not judgment but love and overlooking shortcomings – we need to not dwell on the sins of others.
What did Blessed Ammon do when those brothers, greatly disturbed, came to see him and said, ‘Come and see, Father. There is a young woman in brother X’s cell!’ What tenderness he showed the erring brother. What great love there was in that great soul. Knowing that the brother had hidden a woman in a large barrel, he went in, sat down on it, and told the brothers to search the whole place. And when they found nothing he said to them, ‘May God forgive you!’ And so dismissing them in disgrace, he called out to them they should not readily believe anything against their neighbor. By his consideration for his brother he not only protected him after God but corrected him when the right moment came. For when they were alone he laid on him the hand with which he had thrown the others out, and said, ‘Have a care for yourself, brother.’ Immediately the other’s conscience pricked him and he was stricken with remorse, so swiftly did the mercy and sympathy of the old man work upon his soul.” (Page 137).
The chapter ends, “If we were to love God more, we should be closer to God, and through love of hi we should be more united to our neighbor the more we are united God. May God make us worthy to listen to what is fitting for us and do it. For in the measure that we pay attention and take care to carry out what we hear, God will always enlighten us and make us understand his will. (Page 139).