Editor’s note: Following the passing of Contributing Editor and Columnist Janet Jenkins, we’re sort of feeling our way around her absence on the editoral page. We had some series of Church Page articles to run today and felt moving Rich Grimes from his usual spot to the editorial page was a good thing.
One of the biggest problems in our society, and you can see it everywhere, is being harsh and judgmental. What compounds it is that many who are, do not think they are. It ruins relationships, job comraderie, church success, just about everything. I have seen relationships collapse, church members leave, people giving up jobs they love because of it.
It is nothing new. In the Bible, Jesus was condemned for hanging out with sinners or befriending Mary Magdalene, a former prostitute who needed salvation. He was even called Beelzebub when he healed the sick. David was condemned for feeding his hungry men on the Sabbath and Moses, poor Moses, was always ripped by even his relatives.
The Pharisees were known for it and the bottom line is, it showed up everywhere. The sad thing is that it usually involves pre- judgement, a lack or refusal to listen to the other person and never giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. No matter how pure another’s motives, the person placing the judgement has no time for that--it is better and handier for them to think the worst. Being judgemental is a killer.
This story illustrates it all. Imagine you are walking through the woods and you see a small dog. It looks cute and friendly. You go up and try to pet the dog and it snarls and tries to bite you. Suddenly, the dog seems not cute but fearsome. You get angry with it and do not like it. But then, the wind blows some leaves away and you discover the little guy has his foot caught in a trap. Now you can understand and feel compassion for him. You know he reacted as he did because he was in pain and suffering.
In Jesus, the Pharisees failed to understand that Jesus tried to be a friend to everyone, including the Samaritan woman at the well. Jews hated Samaritans and this was a no no. But Jesus only saw one thing, this woman needed salvation and a friend. Hence, he responded.
In our day and age, we are so hard wired we think too often that anyone who would befriend someone has an ulterior motive. Facebook is a perfect example of that. It is wrongly assumed that if you have certain people on it, you are up to something. Many relationships have tanked because of that. If you are running for office and you have the support of someone not so cool, it is assumed that a deal has been made. And so it goes. Too often, we allow our minds to think the worst and let them head down a dark tunnel. That is why it is important to pause and give the other person the benefit of the doubt before we act out.
Secondly, we need to try to see where the other person we are judging is coming from and what their motives are rather than clobbering them. We can be of a positive mindset or negative. But at least we should be neutral. We should not condemn other’s behavior until we know why they do what they do.
We can avoid being judgmental and destroying things by depersonalizing, too. Like the little dog, one person’s pain, even hidden, can explain a lot. Everyone struggles.
I think though this is a big key and I so seldom see it. We need to look for the basic goodness in others. Sometimes, all the good a person has done is never valued and it is if someone only focuses on something they do not like or assume is wrong. We , too often, under appreciate others and tend to want to beat them up all the time for even imagined shortcomings. And with this, we , too often, have an unforgiving attitude which leads to more judgment. We, too often, cannot let go of the past and it taints all the good and promise of a future.
Another thing we need to know is that we are not perfect either. Isnt it interesting that we do not want anyone to focus on our past mistakes but we too often like to constantly beat them up on theirs. Fortunately as Paul knew, God does put the past behind. He said in Romans that he was upset that he did things he wished he had not but he then added , “ forgetting those things that are past, I press on…” When people do that for themselves and others allow them to do that… all things improve.
Another key to avoid being judgmental is to reframe things. If something happens you do not like, allow that that person’s motives are also good but that they solve and deal with problems perhaps differently than you do. Or maybe they have a different timetable. This allows you to be more open minded and understand them better. Just because people take different roads does not mean they have gotten lost.
Sometimes we judge others because somewhere in our past we have done the same thing. We need to allow that we are far from perfect , too.
I have already alluded to this… give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people do the best they can, cut them some slack.
The bottom line is this: judging another person will actually drive the person away from you , not endear them to you. Judging another person does not define who they are but who you are. Jesus said, “ judge not lest you be judged.” How true. Most people are well meaning and not out to cheat or do bad things. Their motives are good and they bear no ill will. Naturally , all people err. But to condemn and rip on someone and judge them without listening, without forgiving and without letting go and moving on together in any situation, is not Christlike nor is it wise. We do not serve ourselves well when we judge others based on our own agenda. If doing that was proper, none of us could have a chance in anything. Fortunately our Lord does not operate that way and neither should we.