Bishop Fulton Sheen, some of you may remember, was one of the most renowned theologians in the 50’s and 60’s. He was especially famous for his weekly television program where Catholics throughout the land tuned in to hear his captivating words. With a great ability to reach vast audiences with clarity and a sense of humor, he taught his audience hundreds and hundreds of important lifelong lessons about our Catholic faith and living out of that faith in the world. He always prefaced his lesson with at least one story. The following is a sample of this.
A woman was speaking to her doctor about the head pain she was experiencing. “Do you have pain in your forehead?” he asked. “Yes.” “Do you have pain in the back of your head?” “Yes” she replied. “Do you feel pain on either side of your head?” he continued. “Very much!” the woman responded. To this the doctor responded, “Your halo is too tight!”
We often think we are wearinga halo. We are the “good” individual; others have faults and they certainly do not measure up to our “perfect” behavior. The perfect person that we are becomes the judge of others. But the Dalai Lama warns us about judging when he wrote: “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” If you scan internet you will see that many people have offered clever and memorable sayings that provide good advice for us on this topic of judging others. Here are some examples:
- Judging a person does not define who THEY are; it defines who YOU are,
- Why is it so many spend so much time pointing out the sins of others and not enough time living in the love of the Divine?
- Don’t judge others just because they sin differently than you.
- Don’t judge others. God likes variety and we’ve all got our own little brand of strangeness.
- We don’t know what it took someone to get out of bed, look and feel as presentable as possible and face the day; you never truly know people’s daily struggles.
- Remember that everyone you meet loves something, is afraid of something and has lost something. We are much alike in so many ways. Don’t judge them.
- Other people’s faults are crystal clear to us while we are so blind to our own.
Basically, it all comes down to the fact that sometimes we are not willing to walk in another’s shoes. We know a person’s name but not their story. It is said that when we want to judge, we will never understand; and when we understand we will never want to judge. We are told that when we look at a stranger it takes approximately three seconds to make a judgment about them – good or bad. Rather than derogatory judgements, we can certainly find something good in every person. After all, they are our brothers and sisters who are more like us than different from us. We have so much in common. We all love our families, have certain goals and desires and want to be happy, but we all also make mistakes. We just have to realize that nobody is perfect! Someone once said, “The more we give a person space to be who they are, the more we give ourselves permission to be who we really are.” We are the people who have heard Jesus’ own words, “Judge not that you may not be judged!” In the Old Testament and in the gospels of the New Testament we will find references that are similar in their message. They remind us that God alone is to be our judge and we, as the people of God and brothers and sisters in Christ, need to accept, lift up and support each other rather than put them down. Bishop Sheen would tell us to loosen our halos — none of us is perfect, but each of us is striving for fulfillment in our own unique way!
We need to pray about this. First, we need to ask the Lord to bless those who have been hurt by our judgements and unkindness. Second, we need to praise and reverence God’s beautiful creative version of every person regardless of their differences. Third, we need to ask God to continually show us how we can better live as brothers and sisters with one another as equals in a world of love. Be careful and listen to the words of Bishop Sheen! Let’s not allow our halos to become too tight!