Saying “no” to judgementalism
by Ed Hird
Perhaps the best-known and most misunderstood Bible saying is “Judge not, lest you be judged” from Matthew 7:1. When Jesus famously tells us not to judge, he is not telling us to be undiscerning, but rather not to condemn and reject other people with whom we may disagree. Most of us find it painful to be around people, including spouses, who are being very judgmental and negative. Dr. John Gottman predicts, with a reported 94 per cent accuracy, the likelihood of divorce due to the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’: criticism; contempt; defensiveness; and stonewalling. Yes, there is a place for constructive criticism with our spouses, family, coworkers and friends, but it needs to be rooted in an environment of love, acceptance and encouragement. This is why Gottman found that in healthy marriages and relationships, people make five positive comments for every negative comment.
The world famous evangelist Billy Graham, who turned 98 last month, insightfully said this year that being judgmental and constantly criticizing others is wrong in the eyes of God. Being judgmental is not one of the gifts of the Spirit, like the gift of encouragement. Dr. Graham, who has spoken in person to over 260 million people, observed that a judgmental attitude also blinds us to our own faults. (Have you ever noticed that judgmental people almost never criticize themselves?) Jesus said that being judgmental is like having a log in our eye while trying to do eye surgery on someone else’s speck of sawdust. Judgmental people are often very insecure, and are constantly seeking to build themselves up. One way they do this is by tearing other people down. But in reality, said Graham, they end up tearing themselves down also, because no one wants to be their friend. Judgmental people are often the loneliest people on earth.
Jesus gave us a difficult task: to judge or discern nonjudgmentally: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:54) At the heart of judgmentalism is prejudice, which means to pre-judge, to judge too quickly before you have taken time to examine the facts. It is not a sin to have moral convictions about right and wrong, but we need to take the time to carefully listen to other people’s viewpoints and never condemn other people when we disagree with them. I will always remember my sister advising me about a difficult situation: “Be kind.” We can all learn to be more kind like Jesus, gentle like Jesus, humble like Jesus, and nonjudgmental like Jesus. Even when Jesus challenged people to repent and turn from sin and selfishness, He was loving, tolerant, and kind.
You can’t reach people for Christ to whom you are being judgmental. Judgmentalism just drives them away. With the Festival of Hope coming to Vancouver March 3 to 5, perhaps we could prepare for it by pulling the log of judgementalism out of our eyes. Is there anyone in your life that you need to stop judging?
The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird is Rector of St. Simon’s North Vancouver, Anglican Mission in Canada. He is the author of ‘Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit’. stsimonschurch.ca