Last year as I was wondering what to do for Lent, I heard a message that hit home.  An abbot encouraged his monks not to be so hard on each other. He asked them instead to allow others “space to live in,” to honor others “for who they are.”

The message struck me because I tend to judge people, including myself. Imagine what it would be like, I thought, to have ample room to move around, to make mistakes, and to grow. Today’s scripture from Isaiah echoes the Lenten challenge that the abbot’s words set out: remove from your midst oppression and malicious speech. Help heal others’ suffering.

Over the Lenten season, I tried to notice when my inner critics launched into their destructive chatter. As I tried to quiet them and to presume goodwill, what scripture promises started to happen. Light replaced darkness and gloom. A bright, watered garden full of fascinating people, with all sorts of gifts and differences, began to blossom all around.

How is God drawing you to look upon a co-worker, family member, friend or even yourself differently this Lent?

—Mary Anne Reese is an attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Xavier University’s theology program and belongs to St. Robert Bellarmine Parish..