Growing up in church, I was often on the receiving end of being judged by others. I’d like to think things are different now compared to what they where when I was a teenager. However, in my adult life, it has been no different. I have grown accustomed to being judged by others. but it doesn’t have the same affect on me as an adult that it had on me as a teenager because I have changed the way I respond to judgment. Lately though, I have noticed other’s who are the judger’s and those who are on the receiving end. I found that judgment in the church is still very present but the church is not the only place judgment takes place. It takes place on our jobs, in our relationships and even with our children. I have come to believe it is a part of the every day life of most humans. One has to be very diligent and mindful to abstain from the temptation of judging others.
Judgment, is defined as “an opinion or a conclusion.” For purposes of this column, I think judgment is best defined as one who comes to a conclusion about another. So what does that mean exactly? Conclusion means the end of a thing, so when we come to a conclusion about someone, based on how they look, what they wear, what they say or what mistakes they have made, we are summing up their whole existence by what we are judging them on. It is sort of like stereo typing people but worse and that is unfortunate. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. I grew up in a church that believed women should not wear make-up or cut their hair. As a young girl, I wanted to be pretty and I didn’t feel pretty so I would cut my hair in an effort to make myself more attractive and I would dabble in make-up, just enough that maybe no one would notice I was wearing any. As a result of these actions and others, I was judged as a “sinner” and worse, someone that “didn’t love God enough to obey the rules.” If you are a sinner then that meant you where not going to heaven. This had a profound effect on my life for many years because my heart did love the lord and my intention was not disobedience, my heart was looking for acceptance and that need led to my actions. The thing is, judgment is saying, “I am right and you are wrong. I am better then you because I don’t do what you do.” It places superiority on the person making the judgment while placing fault on the person being judge. In this way, it is different from stereotyping. Stereotyping can be negative, and when it is, it stems from fear. Stereotyping can also be positive in that sometimes we seek to understand a person’s culture, beliefs or actions by way of observing their overall look. Does that make sense?
I chose to write about this topic because I believe there is something we can learn from this subject. Judgment requires assumption. When judgment is present, we assume the person knew better and chose to “do it anyway” or we assume “he/she thinks he/she is so smart” or “the Bible say’s that and you are wrong!” All those assumptions are predicated on the person having a bad motive. But I have found that for the most part, people try to do the best they can. Their motive is coming from a pure and honest place. That doesn’t mean that mistakes don’t happen but it does mean they where not done in malice. What if, people just don’t know any better in their heart? What if people are broken and hurting and they try to do the right thing but their own insecurities and fear get in the way? Should those people be judged or should those people be helped by those of us who have walked in their shoes?
There is a tenent in the recovery programs that says “Take what you want and leave the rest.” I had learned that saying when I went through Alanon many years ago, and it was an extremely valuable tool for my self-help tool belt. It taught me that I may not agree with everything being said in the walls of an Alanon meeting, but I could take the things that applied to my life or circumstances and leave behind that which did not apply. This approach prevented judgment in that it allowed for each person to find their own path with the understanding that we are all on different paths but seeking the same result. When I went back to church after many years of not going, I found this same principle applied there as well. Over the years, I have traveled a lot and been to many churches to hear many preachers. I do not agree with everything preachers say, but I accept them for who they are and where they are on their journey and I do not take offense when a preacher says something that I disagree with. I think to myself, either I have more to learn or he has more to learn, but I try really hard to accept them where they are without judgment. How many times have we formed an opinion about someone else, only to find out that once we get to know them, they are nothing like what we thought they would be?
The point I am trying to make is, what if instead of assuming the worst about a person in any given situation, we can say to ourselves, maybe they just haven’t learned what I have learned yet, and God bless them as they continue their pursuit! Isn’t that approach more compassionate and empathetic? Doesn’t it leave room for change. As Christians, we must first always remember that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and for those who do not subscribe to a religious based belief, isn’t kindness toward one another a better way to live? Judgment is not based in love, but it is based in pride. I think we all forget from time to time what it took for each of us to become the people we are today. We all struggle, we all make mistakes, we all have regrets so lets try to remember where we came from and show kindness to those who are still struggling. As we go about this holiday season and let us practice the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”