St. Thomas Aquinas gives you permission to judge others

By Matt Perryman

“Don’t judge me. You can’t judge me.”

That’s going to be scribbled on the epitaph of our civilization.

An ex from many many years ago used to repeat those lines like a skipping CD whenever one of her many many bad decisions came back to bite her.

The greatest sin of our culture is to have an opinion on someone else’s poor life choices.

Don’t judge, unless someone is judging — then you judge them straight to hell.

What you’re supposed to do is be “nice”, get through your day with a fake smile plastered on your mug, and never once think of thinking a negative thought about another person’s misconduct.

There’s logic in this, you understand. Nasty people are prone to seeing the speck in another’s eye while ignoring the 2×4 in their own. Nobody likes a hypocrite.

But, as I like to say, a good idea pushed too far becomes a bad idea.

Consider the following short paragraph, which I came across the other day:


… as the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 6), for the sake of some good that will result, or in order to avoid some evil, the virtuous man will sometimes not shrink from bringing sorrow to those among whom he lives.


That’s from the Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Thomas is one man in history who might have out-Aristotled Aristotle himself.

(Aristotle is “the Philosopher”, if you were wondering.)

This short passage comes from the Angelic Doctor’s discussion of the virtues of friendship.

What does he mean by this?

Be nice — cheerful, agreeable, and pleasant to be around — until it’s time not to be nice.

It’s not a matter of either/or.

A good friend will be pleasant to be around. He also won’t hesitate to call you out on your Bee Ess when needed.

Friendship means acting pleasantly around others, until displeasing them serves a good purpose.

You aren’t being a good friend by helping them continue down a path to ruin.

People who enable addicts are being nice. In being cheerful and pleasant, they’re consenting to the addiction and helping make it worse. Not what I’d expect from a somebody who truly cares for the well-being of a friend.

The virtue of niceness turns into a vice.

I’m sure I don’t have to list the many, many examples of this vice all around us today.

When judging others is called for, you’re doing the wrong thing by failing to judge.

Matt Perryman 

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