Stupid spell-check and Grammarly1 keep telling me that judgmentalism isn’t a word! Probably a bunch of uptight, stuffed-shirt, retired English teachers sitting around making up rules just to make my life miserable just because they don’t have any students to torture anymore with their red pens bloodying up my heartfelt essays about how I could relate to Tess of the D’urbervilles. No longer getting to enjoy the power they felt from frowning on my soul-baring essay because I left out some commas and didn’t know “cuss” wasn’t a proper word, now they are sitting in a room somewhere dictating their judgments and rules to some tech nerds who are making millions of dollars still putting little red lines all over my papers and totally killing my vibe as I try to write an article about not being judgmental. So, screw you “behind the scenes English teachers and tech nerds”! I’m going to use judgmentalism, judgmentalish, and judgmentaliscious and defy your little red squiggly line!! I hope it makes you squirm tonight as you nerds go home and watch re-runs of Star Trek and you English teachers pore through Shakespeare’s plays looking for veiled insults you can use with your less educated peers! 2
So yeah, that just happened…I sat down to write a post about not being judgmental and as I was writing, I was reminded about my pet peeve of judgmental English teachers who I totally judge for being judgmental…and you see my dilemma. LOL!!!
We all know that we hate being judged. I hear people say all of the time that they hate judgmental people. And I feel that way too. I can’t stand it when I feel judged or when I am around someone that is hyper critical. But there is also this one nagging truth that I can’t escape….I’m incredibly judgmental!
If you don’t believe me, come watch TV with me! I judge everyone on TV (because they are really asking for it by being on TV!). And if I’m being totally honest, deep down, I really enjoy judging them (it’s judgmentaliscious!)
However, that is not who I want to be. I want to see the best and encourage people to build relationships and community. But here I am, 46 years old and I have more judgmental initial thoughts than I ever have, probably because I know more people (and I use FB) . But, I also have a greater appreciation of people and a greater ability to look past those initial judgments and truly appreciate the wonderful variety that is humanity.
Here are some things that I am working on that help me not to be ruled by my judgmental thoughts:
1. Understand where your judgmentalism comes from. Our judgments about people are generally based on past experiences or judgments that are passed on from people around us. Sometimes, these judgments can be helpful. Finding a suitable mate would be almost impossible without making judgments (and some of you could stand to be MORE judgmental in this area!). And, sometimes, being judgmental can protect you. My brother told me after he got mugged for the third time, “Maybe it’s Ok to think that someone dressed like a thug might actually be a thug.”
Some of us want so desperately not to judge people that we ignore common sense.
I don’t really believe that it is possible to completely stop making some judgments about people. But it is possible to understand our judgments and not let them control how we act towards people. I frequently say, “don’t let your feelings control your reality.” Certain characteristics in people can cause strong reactions in us because of past hurts. It is important to identify these feelings and learn not to use them as an excuse to transfer judgments and bitterness onto an undeserving new person. Basically, all of my negative judgments towards other people come from two sources: people I’ve had problems with in the past, and/or people that somehow touch on my insecurities.
One area where I’m the worst with this, is judging rich people. I joke that I’m a reverse snob. I have a lot of resentment towards some wealthy people who were royal jerks to my hubby and me when he was in grad school. I still kind of expect wealthy people to act like that towards me and, occasionally, that belief is reinforced by more jerky wealthy people. However, if I let my past experiences control me, I would miss out on some amazing friendships I have with some really awesome wealthy people.
2. Get to know people’s stories: For many years, I worked as a tutor for at-risk youth and ESL students. I worked one on one with my students so they opened up to me and shared their stories (maybe to get out of work) and I knew a lot about them that their teachers and sometimes their parents didn’t know. This part of my job shaped how I judge people more than anything I have ever experienced. I would learn about these horrible things that my students were going through and then I’d hear their teachers make judgments about them based on the incredibly limited knowledge they could glean from spending an hour a day with them (and 20 other kids). What surprised me most was how certain these teachers were in their judgments.
There was one young man, Carlos, who I used to work with. Carlos had to beg his parents for permission to come to school. Many teenage boys in migrant families quit school when they are old enough to be able to convince officials that they are 18. So as young as 12, some of these kids quit going to school to work on farms and help with the family income. Carlos wanted to get an education. He believed he could do a lot more than Christmas tree farming, so he worked out a deal to do odd jobs after school. As long as he could keep money coming in, he could keep going to school. I sat in a teachers’ meeting where we discussed Carlos and the plans to help him. The consensus among all of his other teachers was that he was “unmotivated” and probably on drugs because he was displaying typical behaviors of drug users (weight loss, sleepiness, being fidgety, staring, mood swings, and failing to turn in assignments). I couldn’t share the truth about Carlos because if anyone followed up, he would be moved and no longer allowed to go to school. I tried to argue with his other teachers but to no avail, they were convinced their condemnation of Carlos was completely just.
I am constantly reminded of this when I misjudge someone. I’m convinced this is what Jesus was talking about when he gave the illustration from Mt 7 (below). We cannot possibly know what really motivates someone from our limited interactions with them.
3. Be honest about your own shortcomings: In Matthew 7, Jesus says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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.
Just like in the story about Carlos, we can only see glimpses into other people’s lives. We cannot make accurate judgments about anyone’s reasoning. We don’t know anyone’s heart. When we, instead, spend time focusing on our own shortcomings, we realize how far we are from God’s ideal of perfection and how much he loves us anyway. It kind of makes our judgmentalism seem pretty stupid. (and not so jugmentaliscious! Lol)
I like to say that our attempts to be better than other people when compared to God are like stacking sheets of paper on the floor. Then standing on our 100 sheets of paper and bragging because we are closer to the sun than the people in the room with us. We can spend all of our time adding sheets of paper but we are never going to reach the sun.
4. Understand what you can control. As I discussed earlier, I don’t think it is possible to completely quit making judgments about people. I do, however, 100% believe that you can control what you do with the judgments you make. The Bible verses in Matthew use the Greek word krino, which means to make a decision about or to condemn. You can’t help having an initial reaction to someone, but you can keep that reaction from controlling how you relate to them.
In Philippians 4:8, the Bible says, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
We can’t control every thought that enters our head, but we can choose what to focus on. To help me re-train my brain, I hung Bible verses and my own sayings around my house to remind me every day to look for the good in people and value everyone. I hand lettered3 “Love each other as I have loved you” Jn. 15:12 on a painting of the woman brought to Jesus after being caught in adultery. She was caught but Jesus didn’t condemn her. I want to love like that. I choose to focus on that rather than all of the negatives I hear, often from myself.
Think about how huge God is. For religious people, we throw around the word God A LOT. We talk about him being or friend, brother, and father. Sometimes, we lose sight of how huge God is. Just think about GOD and what that word means. Creator of the entire universe. He is beyond our understanding. He is perfect and holy. Imagine if the president of the United States called you up and said, I’m coming over to your house. Then he (or she) came over, went into your back yard and said, “I’m here to save these ants.” That doesn’t even compare with how crazy it is that God sent his son to earth to save us. How can we live with a love like that and condemn others who are practically the same as us?
5. Celebrate growth and quit measuring others by a cultural standard: Change is hard. It took me 20 years to quit being viciously snarky to my loving husband and I claim to have God living in me and helping me with my life. I have had better behavior modeled to me my whole life and I still struggled… How can I be so impatient with other people?
The image that changed me on this more than anything was reading the book When Invisible Children Sing by Chi Cheng Huang4.
In this book, he tells the story of street children in Bolivia and how they are not being reached by ministries for orphans because the street children do not know how to behave with other kids. Many of them have been on the streets for generations and don’t know how to live with rules. Huang helped start ministries that would care for these street children without requiring them to fit in with a new culture they weren’t familiar with. I was incredibly moved by his story. When I read it, I was working at a private Christian school and frustrated by what I call the “prep gospel” which holds up the upper middle-class family as the Christian ideal. I was profoundly impacted by imagining what it would take to change the street children in Bolivia to the American cultural picture we were painting of what it means to be a Christian.
Anytime someone embraces following Jesus and wants to live more like him, it is cause to celebrate and encourage.
6. Get involved in people’s lives. There is no way to do most of the things I listed above without getting out there and getting involved in people’s lives. Do the work of going past superficial relationships and get to know people’s messiness and let them see yours!
I have recently struggled a lot with this. I enjoy being involved with big ministries. I dream of doing huge things for God, but everything that I have tried since I moved to RI has been a colossal traumatic failure. I’m still reeling from some of the aftermath! In my healing process, I have been learning that the most important thing for me to do is the basic teaching of Jesus, to love my neighbors. Maybe he will call me to do huge things like write an amazing blog that millions of people read and Andy Stanley asks me to come inspire him at his church…but the most important thing I can do is be faithful with the people God puts in my path every day. Those are the lives that I can impact. Those are the people whose stories I can know. I don’t want to just give handouts to people, I want to get involved in their lives…
7. Make sure your religion is truly based on a relationship with God. This is a common thing for Christians to say. It’s another one of those phrases that sounds great but we generally don’t take time to really consider it.
I recently read the book With5 by Skye Jethani which discusses how we relate to God. It was a challenging book for me…the kind I throw across the room! It challenged me to really examine how much I’m really living in a relationship with Jesus versus having a religion that I use to control my world or feed my ego as I try to impress people with the great things I do for God.
Obviously, all of us would say that we don’t use God to try to control our world, but judgmentalism is completely a sign that we do. When we condemn others, we do it to feel better about ourselves. We condemn their actions in an effort to make ourselves feel better about who we are. This is completely wiped away when we are walking closely with God. So much so, that how critical and condemning we are of other people is a quite accurate measure of how far we are from Him. The Bible puts it this way, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates (or condemns!) a brother or sister is a liar”! 1 Jn. 4:20 BAM! (if I were speaking, I’d drop the mic)
Ouch! Even I am bothered by that and I wrote it! I’m sure we can all stand to grow in this area. That’s ok! I won’t judge you…at least not in the condemning sense (probably)! 😳
1I actually love the Grammarly app! It’s free and I highly recommend it if you don’t like editing stuff for hours! I’m not getting paid for my endorsement either, cause I only have like a dozen readers! To get the app, click here
2I used to be an English teacher. Also, my hubby is a statistical analyst. He jokes that he is a nerd that nerds find nerdy.
3 I share my hobby here, if you are new to handlettering, I’d love to connect with you! Mawmaw Thia’s Sayings
4To buy When Invisible Children Sing from Amazon, click here
5To buy With click here
Also, shout out toNate and the 98 for the picture and for modeling not being judgmental!