A FRIEND once said to me, ``One thing I admire about you is that you always seem willing to forgive.'' I was startled to learn my private vow was so public. I remembered another face from many years before--and myself, trembling with fear at her front door. I'd come to confess a serious mistake I'd made, to seek her forgiveness before she found out about it from others. Her love meant everything to me.
She greeted me with a radiant smile. I told my sad story, only half-hopeful for understanding, compassion, forgiveness. After quickly, firmly stating what I'd done was wrong, she never referred to it again. She seemed to fix her gaze on something beyond me and my shame. Then she chatted lightly on other matters. As I turned to leave, she said: ``I heard all of this last week. Come visit us again, soon.'' She patted my arm affectionately. Her judgment-- condemning the act but not me--had already been rendered. Her loving forgiveness gave birth to my lifetime vow to express forgiveness too.
Since then, I have learned that judgment is not a single event at the end of a lifetime when one's deeds are weighed by a mighty Jehovah who rewards or punishes accordingly. Judgment comes each time we distinguish between right and wrong and cast off the wrong acts--ours or anothereven as we forgive the individual. On the one hand, for example, we might be tempted by the frozen hatred of pride, prejudice, resentment, fear. On the other, we might hear a plea for forgiveness, mercy, and love. Is there a rule for judging ``righteous judgment''? Some way to ensure the true righteousness of our judgment? Yes. And prayer shows us how to do this.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``No final judgment awaits mortals, for the judgment-day of wisdom comes hourly and continually, even the judgment by which mortal man is divested of all material error'' (p. 291).
How shall we best help divest ourselves and those we care for of ``all material error''? By separating, as my friend did, the reprehensible act from our pure, spiritual understanding of the real man. The real man, created by God, is always innocent, and this is everyone's genuine individuality. In turning to God in prayer, we see God's perfect creation, and this correct understanding brings healing. It is always divine Love, God, not rejection, that heals.
In Psalms we read, ``Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face'' (89:14). Erroneous actions begin as erroneous suggestions in thought. But condemning ourselves too harshly for our mistakes is no less a mistake than the erroneous act itself. Identifying and then rejecting the wrongful idea--seeing it as wrong and turning from it forever after--is what is needed and is the key to healing. Accurate judgment is rendered and accounts are balanced in the aftermath of this first and most critical victory. But we need also to see that God's idea, man, is never less than spiritually perfect--and that this is our original and eternal state.
Likewise, the temptation to judge and condemn others--the suggestion that we must execute some measure of condemnation toward another in order to maintain our standard as Christians--is also a mistake. Lofty scorn, cold gestures of rejection, condemnation, or gossip never helped or healed a single sinner. Love, not animosity, alone heals, as Christ Jesus showed us throughout his career. Receptivity to divine Love awakens the broken heart as nothing else can. Understanding that this perfect, spiritual man is the only reality brings abundant forgiveness and restores wholeness to our lives.