Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers
On Judgement of Another
It happened that temptation fell upon a brother in the monastery of abbot Elias, and they cast him out: and he came to the mountain, to abbot Antony. After he had been with him for some time, Antony sent him back to the community whence he had come out. But when they saw him, they again drove him away: and again he made his way to the abbot Antony, saying, “They would not receive me, Father.” Then the old man sent to them, saying, “A ship was wrecked at sea, and lost all the cargo that it carried, and with hard toil was the empty ship brought at last to land. Is it your wish to sink on land the ship that has come safe from sea?” And they recognized that it was the abbot Antony who had sent him back and straightaway they took him in.
A brother asked the abbot Pastor, saying, “If I should see my brother’s fault, is it good to hide it?” The old man said to him, “In what hour we do cover up our brother’s sins, God shall cover ours: and in what hour we go betray our brother’s shames, in like manner God shall betray our own.”
The abbot Pastor said, “If a man has sinned and denies it not, but says ‘I have sinned,’ scold him not, for you will break the purpose of his heart. But rather say to him, ‘Do not be sad, my brother, but watch yourself hereafter,’ and you will rouse his heart to repentance.”
Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen, “Tell me how I can become a monk. Said the elder to him, “If you want to find repose here and in the age to come, say in every situation, ‘I, who am I?’ and do not pass judgment on anybody.”
A brother asked one of the elders to give an opinion on a hypothetical question. “Suppose I see somebody doing something, and I describe it to somebody else,” he said. “In my opinion, I am not passing judgment. We are only talking [about it], so it is not slander, even in the conscience” The elder said, “If you have a passionate impulse, then it is slander. But if one is free of passion it is not slander. But it is better to keep silent so that evil not be increased.”