In a recent post I shared about my struggle with emotional word vomit, aka criticism. I’ve come to realize over the years that a very close friend of criticism is judgment. In fact, I think that the former is perhaps birthed in the spirit of the latter. It’s in my judgments that I become critical. And I find that I have judgments, or, as we like to soften them by calling them, opinions, about everything. (Being an opinionated person is a real struggle. Seriously. I would love to be unhampered by my continual opinions.) I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say at some time, “well, you are entitled to your opinion.” But are you? We live with a very real idea that we are indeed entitled to have any opinions we want. From politics, to the behaviors of others, to sports teams, to social policy, to the education system, to religion, to civil rights, we all have these opinions. And I won’t say that you can’t have any opinions, but I will assert that we often form many more opinions than is healthy and in areas where we have no business asserting an opinion.
The Bible very clearly tells us how God feels about us exercising judgment on others. Jesus speaks on judgment in Matthew 7, instructing us not to judge others, “for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (v2). This verse gives me that slightly queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Oh dear me, I do not want to be judged in the way that I have judged others. Have you ever found that those judgments have come back around and bit you right in the butt? I have. I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself encountering a situation or acting a certain way and realized that I had previously executed judgment on another person in that situation or acting that way. Talk about humbling. I’m thankful that God allows me to experience those things though, because I need some humbling. Who am I to look at another person’s situation or actions and determine their motivations, or how out of line they are, etc?
Just today I found myself on my phone, texting, GASP, while driving. (I really really don’t condone this behavior. Please don’t get hung up on that part of the story. ) I was feeling desperate because my daughter Sophie had a very hard drop off at school, and had been struggling for a couple of days because her daddy is in China. So I was writing to a close friend, asking for prayer. My need felt immediate. Maybe I should have waited, but my mommy’s heart couldn’t. As I was carefully navigating through traffic, I realized how many times I’ve been quick to judge others who were on their phones while driving. I get so irritated with these people. Can’t it wait?! Get off your phone! I have places to go! You are putting my life in jeopardy for a silly text!? So self-important, I know. But today it hit me, what if these people on their phones, whom I assume are just so self-absorbed and addicted to technology (see that snap judgment there?) have circumstances, feelings, and needs beyond what I can see? What if they, too, are calling out for the support of a friend during a difficult moment? You see, we can never know what is motivating someone else in a situation like that. Maybe he cut you off in traffic because he’s a jerk, maybe she nearly ran you over the parking lot because she’s paying attention to twitter. But maybe, just maybe there’s something else going on.
I’ve come to realize that I only ever see in part. Even in my own circumstances, I can’t be a judge, because I’m only seeing one perspective, only part of the picture. And when it comes to the lives of others, even if they are making a selfish or sinful choice, I must always remember, there’s more to that person than what I’m seeing. And I’m not above the choice that they are making, either. John Bradford is attributed with saying, “But for the grace of God, there go I.” I love that reminder. I’m only one step away from the same types of mistakes that others may make. Only one step. It is only God’s grace that keeps me from destruction. It’s better for me if I turn my eyes to my own business, and when it comes to others, look only with eyes of love, not rose colored glasses, but love, full of grace and understanding, rather than judgment and criticism. I want to be one of those people who chooses to believe the best about others, who chooses grace, who chooses understanding, not judgment.