“Judge not lest you be judged” are haunting words for me. I am coming to realize that a constant problem of the human creation is the propensity to judge others. I think there are a variety of reasons for this but for our purposes here, suffice to say it is the natural consequence of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. (I write extensively about this in Becoming Love)
I am aware that when I judge, I really do so through my own opinions, the way I was raised, in short, my limited worldview (even a Christian worldview). We all see through a glass darkly, and as such, we can never see perfectly to judge perfectly. Where this causes us difficulty is in our relationships with others - those we like and those we are not so keen on. We want to learn to love well, but we cannot judge and love at the same time. I think it was Mother Teresa who astutely observed that when we judge others, we have no time to love them.
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” - Matthew 7:2 NIV
How can we learn to stop judging and begin seeing more clearly?
This is all well and good but to know something in your head is one thing but how can we learn not to judge or move towards being less judgmental? It is a process of learning to love well, and this is accomplished through much prayer and lots of grace! We can’t do this without the help of the Holy Spirit. I am finding personally that with the help of Holy Spirit , the following is helpful, and perhaps you might find the same!
Start by looking at someone you like or drawn to. As best, you can, set aside your experience with them, what you think you know about them and then your opinion of them. Try to see them as if for the first time. Familiarity leads us to a place where we can take things for granted and fill in the blanks from our assumptions which may or may not be accurate.
Look widely and closely for things that perhaps you have not noticed before. While you are noticing these things, try to avoid the temptation to judge them as good or bad, and resist the habit to like them or dislike them - they just are.
Familiarity also breeds a sense of staleness, a sense of two-dimensional seeing instead of a multifaceted person. Resisting this opens us to discover new aspects and depths of the person, gaining a new understanding of who they are and perhaps why they are the way they are. This increases our capacity to love and reduces our likelihood to judge.
“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! - Mt. 6:22-23 The Message
Now try the same exercise with someone you dislike, with someone who offends you. Prayerfully, look at the things you dislike, all the things that offend you about them. Avoid labels, be honest and specific. Resist the temptation to label them as it is too easy to dismiss them without actually looking deeper or asking better questions. Labels like lazy, dumb, cheap, ugly, attractive, good, bad, annoying, etc., is in a sense, a shallow way of seeing people, a kind of blindness.
Consider that your clinical assessment of this person may not be all that objective. Perhaps what you see as an “issue” or brokenness may actually be a personal bias or the result of your own conditioning. You may also discover that which offends you most about them is not all that different from what you dislike about yourself. This may be uncomfortable and challenging to consider.
“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” - Matthew 7:5 NIV
After reflecting this way, it is helpful to consider that the issue may be a result of their experience; their hurt, up bringing, fears, and their own faulty thinking and preconceptions. In this light, we begin to see that the issue may have its source in their hurt, pain, and misunderstanding and not an intentional attempt to annoy, hurt or offend you. You may just discover; it isn’t really all that personal! As you allow this to settle, as you begin to see them differently, be aware of how your attitude towards them begins to change, and perhaps forgiveness may be a possibility now.
Jesus said “Father forgive them. They know not what they do.” - Luke 23:34
Note: Understanding and forgiveness don't somehow make the hurtful and destructive things the other says/does somehow okay. It is not a commentary on the goodness or badness of an action or a person, rather a different perspective on the person, a loving, judgement-free perspective, without affirming unhealthy behaviour. It is from this posture we can become free from judging others as we begin to see them in this new light. An amazing benefit is the freedom we experience in forgiving.
Repeat this process with others as you feel led to. See how they are transformed before your eyes! Enjoy the freedom of compassion and forgiveness which has an impact on you in ways perhaps more significant than the other person. By releasing the debt of others, we release ourselves from the life-poisoning bitterness that pillages our life! As we begin to see these people differently, we will be amazed at how much easier it is to love them. I think we will also see that as we learn to love them well, they will respond to that love in ways that brings healing to them as well.
Now a BIG challenge!
Do the same thing with yourself! Try to see yourself, those things you see as defects and deficiencies through the eyes of divine love. With the Holy Spirit, see yourself through the eyes of understanding, mercy, humility and where necessary, offer yourself the free gift of understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness. You will be amazed how those things you dislike about yourself you will begin to accept and learn to love. At the same time, you will discover that those things that are indeed unhealthy will be healed too. You can experience genuine transformation yielding a deeper sense of peace, rest, freedom in your own life!
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” - Luke 7:47 NLT