2. If something pushes you to criticism in any matter regarding a brother or the monastery, try to pray about the matter instead, without passing it under the judgment of your reason. If you turn within yourself through prayer, humility, and mourning, you will find a spiritual treasure—just keep pride and criticism far from you.
3. Be attentive, my child, that you not judge any soul. For God permits the one who judges his neighbor to fall, so that he learns to have sympathy for his weak brother. The mercy of God supports all of us, but if we become proud, God will remove His grace and we shall become worse than the others. It is one thing to condemn someone and another to be fought by thoughts of condemnation. To condemn is a terrible passion, but to be fought by such thoughts and to fight back—this is an occasion for crowns.
4. Each person must bear the weaknesses of others. Who is perfect? Who can boast that he has kept his heart undefiled? Hence, weare all sick, and whoever condemns his brother does not perceive that he himself is sick, because a sick person does not condemn another sick person. Love, endure, overlook, do not get angry, do not flare up, forgive one another, so that you resemble our Christ and are counted worthy to be near Him in His kingdom. My children, avoid condemnation—it is a very great sin. God is greatly saddened when we condemn and loathe people. Let us concern ourselves only with our own faults—for these we should feel pain. Let us condemn ourselves and then we shall find mercy and grace from God.
5. Love one another, and do not be embittered out of egotism. Humility is a sure guide; it does not let the one who possesses it hit the reefs of carelessness and be shipwrecked, but as a luminous guide it leads him faultlessly on sure ground. Egotism is the most evil of evils; it causes all our lapses through unsubmissive thoughts. Fear this and strive to get rid of it, for the more it remains within us, the more it will wound us with the proportionate pain. I beg that you not criticize one another, for this is downright egotism. Excuse your brother’s fault; this is evidence of humility and love. The brother who acts thus will find much grace from God, but he who judges and scandalizes his neighbor should know that not only will he not find grace, but even if he has something he will lose it, so that he may learn the lesson of humility through suffering. Be particularly afraid of inner criticism, that is, thoughts of criticism, because it does not come to light through the spoken word, in which case it is likely to be corrected by someone who hears it. Be careful, I say, about criticism from within, which imperceptibly makes us fatally guilty and deprives us of the life of divine grace and offers as a most bitter drink the death of the soul. I pray that love and freedom from criticism will reign in every expression among you, so that the Holy Spirit may rest in your souls.
6. Experience has shown that it is wrong to accuse and condemn someone without letting him defend himself. As also the sacred Gospel says: “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (Jn. 7:51 ). If we are not attentive, many sins of condemning others heap up within us, and then repentance is needed. How often a person repents because he spoke! Let us bear in mind the words of Abba Arsenios: “I have often repented for speaking, but I have never repented for keeping silent”. If we are often deceived by the sense of touch, how much more so we are by people’s words. Therefore, much attention is needed, for the devil prowls around roaring to devour us (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8 ).
*A “violent” or “forceful” monk or person is one who strives vigorously to “do violence to his nature constantly” (Ladder 1:4 ), for “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (Mt. 11:12 ).