I was sitting in a coffee shop a few weeks ago, and a group of Christian girls sat at the table next to me. Inches from their circle, it was hard not to hear them gabbing about boys and Bible studies. I tried to focus on my work, but was struck by a statement one of the girls said: “I just feel like I need to stop judging things all the time.”
At first I assumed she was talking about the first verse in the seventh chapter of Matthew where Jesus instructs: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” We save this verse for the big things – real major moral failures that make us want to point the finger.
Sounds simple enough, but a few weeks later, I still couldn’t get the idea out of my mind. And, I got to wondering if Jesus was also concerned about the little things that we judge every day.
For example, I'm talking about the critical look you give the woman at the grocery store whose skirt is too short. Or how you can't help but comment on how late your daughter-in-law lets the kids stay up on a school night. See what I mean? The little things.
The same goes for how you treat yourself. I'm always disheartened when I hear anyone say, "I made a mistake. Gosh, I'm so stupid!" Constantly berating yourself for even the smallest of flaws is very damaging to your self-esteem.
It's hard to turn off the judgmental chatter in your brain. It can feel like everything that happens to you has to run through this filter where you must categorize and moralize it. You can’t seem to stop labeling everything good or bad.
Or can you?
I think a big reason why Jesus tells us not to judge is that we’re ill-equipped to do so. 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that “we see through a glass darkly” and that we only “know in part”. We have imperfect vision. So, when we judge ourselves and others, at best, we are taking fragments of an idea, making up our minds about the rest and calling it truth. We already think we know how it’s supposed to look when, really, we’re quite blind to anything that’s happening beyond our limited scope. Even the smartest of us don’t know everything.
Many years ago I got a plastic wristband from my parents’ church that said Complain Condemn Criticize. It was a reminder to not judge anything or anyone. Not yourself. Not your friends. Not your neighbor next door or your co-workers. Although the church challenge is long over, I still keep that wristband as a reminder to myself that judging things, including myself, is just as mentally and emotionally wasteful as worrying.
Give the part of you that always has an opinion a rest. Just for a day. When those critical thoughts come to mind, just let them go and replace them with life-affirming statements. Remember that we are all God's creation and reflect His image. Pretty soon, you'll see how much lighter you feel when you don’t have to be the judge and jury of life.