Favorable Interpretation

This post is a follow up to the previous post on judging favorably concerning other persons, the related video on seeing the best in them, and also occasioned by a discussion on another blog (platitudes in attitudes, no longer online).

The fact is, if we are inclined to the more favorable judgment in matters where the truth is unclear, or to the extent that the truth is not perfectly clear, we will also overall be more correct, not less. If someone says something that seems false, we are more likely to understand them correctly if we suppose that they have some reason for saying what they do. Similarly, if we see someone do something that seems bad, and don't know their intention, it is not only more charitable, but probably more truthful, to suppose that they have some good intention.

On Fasting

St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, and Pope Benedict XVI on fasting.

Aquinas – Is fasting a virtue?

An action is virtuous due to its being directed by reason to a noble good. And this is true of fasting. For we fast for three purposes: (1) to restrain the desires of the flesh; (2) to raise the mind to contemplate sublime things; (3) to make satisfaction for our sins. These are good and noble things, and so fasting is virtuous.

More from Aquinas on fasting

Francis de Sales – benefit of fasting

If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church, for besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those whom he knows can fast.

More from Francis de Sales on fasting

Pope Benedict XVI

Fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person…. The ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us to make a complete gift of self to God. May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass.

More from Pope Benedict XVI on fasting

Judging Favorably

As promised, this post is on seeing the best in people–judging them charitably, or favorably, rather than indifferently or strictly.

St. Thomas Aquinas explains in an article on favorable judgment, "whether doubtful matters should always be interpreted in the more favorable way", that when a person's fault is not manifest, we should always tend more to judge him in a positive light, to interpret his action in the most favorable light, rather than in the way that is most likely to be true.

But how can that be? St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross says, "Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love, and do not accept anything as love which lacks truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie." If charity seeks the truth, how can a incorrect judgment really be the charitable judgment?

St. Thomas gives a twofold explanation. On the one hand, it pertains directly to charity to think well of another person when possible, and is contrary to charity to think badly of another possible when not necessary. And on the other hand, it is not a serious problem to be mistaken about a truth such as whether or not someone did something bad. It is a serious matter to be mistaken about universal truths about ourselves and the world (e.g., to be mistaken about whether man has a soul, whether he can be responsible for his actions, etc.), but a mistake about some particular thing is only incidentally bad, and thus when the matter is not clear, but is doubtful, then the consideration of charity or love prevails.