“Judge not, that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:1-2
Confession time: I judge people all the time. Seriously, like all the time. It’s bad. If we’re judged how we judge others, there is some heavy (time-travel-potentially-wrecking-the-space-time-continuum heavy) judgment coming my way.
Why is it that I judge?
Can I use my judgment in righteous ways?
Am I doomed to suffer hellfire because of my years of casting judgment on my unsuspecting fellow mortals?
Is it really that bad?
How can I stop?
I’m not sure, but I’ll try and provide some answers that help me and may help you. Now, there is a certain level of judgment that we need to perform. I don’t really know how to draw the line, but I think we tend to overextend this limited application of “righteous judgment.” Or maybe that’s just me. It’s a bit of a running joke with some of my friends that after I say something judgmental, they’ll call me on it and I’ll reply with something along the lines of, “Righteously. I always judge righteously.” Now, I typically say this with my tongue planted firmly in cheek (that’s true for most of what I say period, so that shouldn’t come as a surprise), but I still say it. And maybe, I believe it. Even if just a little bit.
Why is it that I judge? That’s a tough question that I’m not entirely sure of the answer to. I’m well aware of the culturally pervasive influence of judgment, frequently being on the receiving end (my teenage long hair and mismatched Converse All Stars brought plenty of judging eyes, a purpose filled today by my various bits of liberal paraphernalia and let’s not forget my moustache). Do I judge others as some kind of twisted sense of justice? Perhaps. Although, I don’t think so, since my motivation in doing all those things is partially because I like daring people to judge me (a reflection of my contrarian nature, I suppose. I tell myself sometimes that it’s because I want people to look past outward appearances, and while that’s part of it, my motivations are likely not quite that pure).
I think the reasons I judge are rooted in my introverted nature. I tend to observe people, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people’s interactions, performing mini-investigations into their character, and if it’s someone I know, then gathering all that information and storing it away for future use (you know, like blackmail or buying the perfect birthday present). I can’t help it. And once I have this wealth of information about people, I can’t just hold onto it and not sort through it to reach a conclusion. That would be a crying shame. The info is begging to be used, and by using it I make a judgment.
Are these judgments always negative? No. But, judgment is in part driven by a feeling of superiority. Not that I think I’m better than you, but that in some specific area I am better than you. I mean, the process itself requires me to think that I can determine something about your character based on whatever random set of observations I was able to perform. Usually this results in me putting labels on people. For example: the dude in my religion class that claimed a “cacophony of scripture supported the teachings of hope found in Buddhism”? Pompous and stupid. The guy who’s never read the New Testament, but thinks he can ace his NT final? Really? Do you even love Jesus? The girl who testified about Unbroken claiming that Louis Zamperini suffered more than anyone ever, except for Jesus? Have you heard of the Holocaust? Child soldiers? Blood diamonds? Sex slaves?
Wow. I sound a bit like a terrible person. Maybe I judge people because I hate people. Collectively. They are simply the absolute worst. I like individuals (usually), but people? Ugh. I guess that brings us to my next question.
Can I use my judgment in righteous ways? I hope so. Or perhaps, not my judgment itself, but the skills that allow me to be a prolific judge. I try to implement some of these, but it’s rough. I can usually do pretty good at Church, but it’s exhausting and drains me. Essentially, I try to think about the person as an individual, rather than a part of a category that I assign them. Rather than simply labeling them as something, I strive to understand them and see things from their perspective. Or I create elaborate back-stories that explain their behavior. I analyze them and then try and predict their reactions to certain things, again, compiling a file of sorts, but this time, with the end goal of broadening my own perspectives and being able to relate to individuals that on the surface differ drastically from me. I think this is a part of being god-like, the ability to see things from all perspectives, since often what limits us in getting the entire picture is an understandably limited perspective. The amount of knowledge you have is perhaps less important than the ability to view situations and information in a large variety of ways. Part of this process may include trying to find reasons to like someone, rather than reasons to dislike them. It’s easier to find value in what someone says, if you’ve already established some common interest.
How can I stop? I don’t know. Practice probably. I’ll keep trying—pushing to view people in a better light than the one their frequent stupidity puts them in (see? There I go again, judging). It’s a rough road, maybe even the one less traveled by, but worth it. When I can put aside my judging, expressive eyes and control the twitch of my mustachioed face signaling my disagreement (ok, ok, you’re right—that’s not going to happen. BUT, I can disagree with ideas, without necessarily thinking less of the individual, with whom I disagree), I am able to feel more hope and love. The world simply feels like a better place. And that is worth something.
Am I doomed to suffer hellfire because of my years of casting judgment on my unsuspecting fellow mortals? Hope not. There’s this wonderful thing called repentance that I’m counting on to save me. Obviously, I need a lot of it, but it’s never too late (until it is, but you know what I mean).
Is it really that bad? Depends. It can be. Especially when it prohibits me from treating other people as people, with bits of the divine in them. Treating individuals as categories and labels is dangerous. I don’t want to be associated purely with a label and all the connotations that someone else associates with that label, so why should I do that to someone else? When we cease to treat people as people, there’s a problem. That’s what led to slavery and the holocaust. (Extreme yes, but true. No, I don’t think that most of us are going to perpetrate crimes against humanity because we judged that bro-bag that lives next door, wearing their bro-tank, flat-brimmed hat and constantly trying to get swole.) Treating people poorly, even if it’s only in our thoughts, isn’t Christlike. So, we should stop it and work together to better ourselves and this fallen, messed-up place we call home.