It taught him that he had been scarcely more misled by Thorpe’s first boast of the family wealth than by his subsequent malicious overthrow of it; that in no sense of the word were they necessitous or poor, and that Catherine would have three thousand pounds. ~ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
General Tilney learns a very important lesson on believing the assessment of a person’s situation and character based on the opinion of another. When Thorpe is smitten with Catherine, she is extremely wealthy. But, when he is slighted, she is extremely poor and has low character. Neither assertion proves true. Catherine is both well provided for and a young woman of strong integrity and manners. In believing Thrope, General Tilney makes himself look like a fool.
How many times do we look like fools because we, as General Thorpe, take the word of, perhaps well-meaning, people rather than giving someone the benefit of the doubt? Rather than extending the grace we’ve been extended?
“…Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment….” ~ Jesus, John 7:24 (ESV)
I think, and feel free to disagree, that we can also say that we should not judge others as they have been judged by man. Rather we should judge with right judgement. We should give everyone a chance while also being discerning. Take what is said about them with a grain of salt; but, as with all people, keep our eyes open for lions in sheep clothing. Not so that we can condemn or judge them, but we don’t want to leave our kids with individuals that exhibit dangerous behaviors.
Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. ~ John 2:23-25 (ESV)
While we do not judge each other in a condemning way, we do need to be aware that we are all human—we are all battling something and may fail at times. We don’t judge someone who struggles with substance abuse, but maybe we don’t send them into a bar by themselves or ask them to drive our children somewhere (especially if they are recently sober). In taking precautions, we are not judging them for their sin but protecting others from the consequences of that sin—and protecting the one who is struggling to change from relapsing or hurting someone in a way that they would never intend.
While we are not to be fools like General Tilney, we are also to be discerning like Christ.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves….” ~ Jesus, Matthew 10:16 (ESV)