In her book, Interior Castle, Teresa Avila invites followers of Christ to, “look at our own shortcomings and leave other people’s alone” (page 69). This is wise advice for us. Fewer things are harder for us than to practice introspective confession and honestly evaluate our faithfulness to our call to live according to the ways of Christ. While we know we are destined to sin, that sin is inevitable, and that our sin will wound and hurt our God, ourselves, and even the people we love, it is still difficult to admit our errors, mistakes, and sins. We can be prideful people. But there is nothing more profoundly important to producing spiritual maturity than the practice of confession. In fact, one of my favorite definitions for spiritual maturity is: spirituality maturity is not measured by the fact that we sin less, but measured by the fact that the distance between our sin and our practice of confession lessens. There is nothing more powerful than being someone who confesses sin, asks forgiveness from God, and seeks to apologize to those whom we have wronged. Nothing is more subversive and “Reign-of-God-shaped” than practicing penance and reconciliation.
But Teresa’s instruction have a second element. Not only are we called to be people who practice introspection and examination of our own interior (and exterior) lives, we are also to be people who let go of the temptation to judge others. The Scriptures are clear, God alone is judge. It is not our call or burden to identify the sins and shortcomings of others. Here Teresa’s advice mirrors the teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 7:1-5, “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye, when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter our of your brother’s or sister’s eye.”
We are relieved of the burden of judgement. Thanks be to God! We are called to practice love…and there is not purer form of love than confession.