Judgmental. Critical. Holier-than-thou.
Do those terms sound familiar?
I’m writing this today, because it’s heavy on my heart. Not because I’ve been judged, but because I often find myself being judgy, and it’s not cool, and I’m working to fix it. Not simply because I don’t want to be a jerk, but because the Bible says
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.” –Matthew 7:1
And if the Bible says we shouldn’t, then we need to do our best to follow that principle.
But sometimes it’s such a struggle isn’t it? We see people face consequences they “deserve” because of their poor choices, or we see a mom who isn’t nearly as good at mothering as we are, or a coworker who just can’t seem to get his crap together, or even a person wearing an inappropriate outfit. It’s tempting to look at them and assume we’re better. That because we aren’t a hot mess (seriously, who isn’t a hot mess?), that others are clearly lacking the gumption, skills, or good sense it takes to be successful.
Last week I wrote two blogs. One was about comparison, and the other was about transparency. I think the reason that we compare ourselves to one another, or we fail to be transparent, is out of fear of being judged by others. If we want to have authentic, genuine relationships, we need our friends to know that we won’t judge them when they share the less-than-savory parts of their lives with us. If you’ve ever had a friend who is openly judgmental of everyone, you know what I mean. That isn’t the person you’re telling all of your secrets to.
Judgement is the instrument Satan uses to scare us into living lives lacking transparency, while drowning in a sea of comparison.
Why does judgment seem to be so much easier than compassion? Why are we so quick to make ourselves feel better by finding fault in others? Because we like to feel better about who we are, and the quickest way to do that is to determine the shortcomings of others.
I’ve noticed something though. A lot of the things we judge others for could have happened to us, but we somehow escaped consequences. Some of us have made the same choices, we’ve just ended up with a different result.
· Pregnant teenagers are simply teens who have sex and end up with a baby. If you were a teenager who had sex, then this could have happened to you just as easily.
· Drug addicts and alcoholics start as recreational drug users. Ever tried drugs? Taken some shots at a party? The outcome could have been worse than that hangover.
Any number of things happen because of the choices we make. We can’t judge others for our same choices just because we didn’t suffer the consequences of them. That isn’t fair, and it drives a wedge between us as human beings. The book of Matthew 7:5 goes on to tell us
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”
Before we comment on the lives of others, perhaps we should look at ourselves. Maybe we aren’t so perfect, either.
Ever met that mom who just seems to be a disaster? She never has a band-aid, and her kids are a wreck, and they’re fifteen minutes late for everything. (Yeah, that’s me.)
I know you’re a perfect parent, and that you’re always on time, and your kids have matching sailor suits, and you lost your baby weight in sixteen seconds. Good for you. Be nice to the mom who runs in late with spit-up on her shirt, dragging a two-year-old with a full diaper behind her. Maybe her husband is deployed and she’s parenting alone. Maybe she just worked a double shift. Maybe she has postpartum depression, and is dealing with it silently because she already knows you’re judging her for the other stuff. Take the plank out of your own eye first, friend. Then ask if there’s any way you can help.
Your coworker. Man, he just can’t seem to get it together. He’s always late, can’t seem to get organized, and never makes a deadline. You seem to be able to get to work on time and finish your projects early. What’s that guy’s problem? I don’t know. Have you asked him? Maybe he’s going through a divorce. Maybe he’s got a sick parent. Maybe he’s raising kids by himself. Perhaps you could gently ask him if he’s okay, and if you can help in any way, instead of being critical. Remove the plank, so you can help your brother.
You guys, did you know there’s an entire website out there dedicated to judging and laughing at others? People of Wal-Mart is a site you can visit simply to look at (and laugh at) photos people have taken of poor outfit choices made by Wal-Mart customers. Now, is wearing a g-string and a tube top the most modest choice when heading out to buy eggs? Probably not. However, seeking out this website in order to judge and make fun of others is absolutely not okay. Taking photos of people without their permission, then putting them on the internet for others to laugh at is abhorrent. Take a look at yourself. Have you ever made a regrettable fashion choice? Remove the plank. And be nice.
If I’m being honest, I’m judgier than I would like to be. I try not to be a gossiper, or talk badly about others (though I have done these things), but my inner voice—she isn’t always nice. In my heart, sometimes love doesn’t win and I’m left looking at a person through foggy glasses. I don’t see the whole picture, or I don’t care about their story. I just see a mess of a person who is clearly inferior to me. And in those moments, I hear God’s quiet whisper “Remove the plank, Becky.”
Sometimes it’s easier to leave my plank there, and go on judging. Maybe I have personally been affected by someone’s mistakes. Maybe someone I love has been affected. It’s hard to look past the errors of others, and try to understand someone when our lives have been shaken by a crappy decision, or a rough patch. But we have to forgive. We have to allow grace to flow from us. We have to remove the plank in order for God to work in us.
The Word reminds us that He is the Ultimate Judge. We’re down here to love Him and each other. Judgment isn’t part of our job. Love is. So, it is my hope that next time you meet someone who made a poor choice, or doesn’t have it all together, or who others are mocking, you instead make the choice to remove the plank. Be understanding and kind. Show compassion. Be real with them, and build a relationship based on authenticity.
Remove the plank so that you can help your brother.