Perhaps the best-known and most misunderstood Bible saying is “Judge not, lest you be judged” from Matthew 7:1.
Most of us find it overwhelming to be around people, including spouses, who are being very judgmental and negative.
Dr. John Gottman talks about the “four horsemen of the Apocalypse” that can predict with 94 per cent accuracy the likelihood of divorce: 1) criticism 2) contempt 3) defensiveness and 4) stonewalling.
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. Yes, there is a place for constructive criticism with our spouses, family, co-workers 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.
Billy Graham, who turned 98 this month, insightfully said this year that being judgmental and constantly criticizing others is wrong in the eyes of God.
It is not one of the gifts of the Spirit, like the gift of encouragement. Graham, who has spoken in person to more than 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 such judgmentalism 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.
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 always loving, tolerant and kind.
All of us need to grow in becoming less judgmental in our lives. Is there anyone in your life that you need to stop judging?
Rev. Dr. Ed Hird has been the rector at St. Simon’s Church, 420 Seymour River Pl., since 1987. stsimonschurch.ca