Withholding Judgment

One of the most wounding things we do to ourselves and to one another is to pass judgment. Passing judgment is not about being discerning or recognizing something, or using good judgment. Passing judgment is actually defined as a legal action, confined to a court of law, or to condemn or accuse someone from a position of assumed moral superiority. This is where we wound each other and we wound ourselves when we pass judgment or condemn or assume moral superiority.

Many people have left the church over the years because they have felt judged. In other words, they felt that judgment had been passed on them. They felt condemned, as if by a court of law, and so chose to no longer associate in a community of believers that they didn’t feel were safe, supportive, or understanding.

Feeling condemned creates a feeling of shame. This is not what the Bible refers to as repentance. Repentance is a response to Spirit when we realize that we have been trying to live life apart from the Creator. It is not the power of light that brings condemnation and shame it is the powers of darkness. God never uses guilt, shame or coercion to try and change us or try to make us love.

In light of this, it is amazing that we so quickly pass judgment. Well, maybe it’s not so amazing. In our humanness we resort to a stance of superiority without the least hesitation, because that’s what passing judgment is about, seeing ourselves as better than someone else. Before we go off on how many times we have had people pass judgment on us, maybe we should take a closer look at ourselves first.

I remember sitting in church one day when I finally got it for the first time. I had felt misunderstood, judged, condemned, spited, you name it, I had felt it and experienced it. I caught myself passing judgment on those who I felt were critical of me. It was at that moment that I realized that I was no different in my thinking than they were. I realized that if I were in their shoes and saw my life from the limited perspective that they saw it from, that I would pass judgment, also. I knew this, because that is what I had just done to them.

The other thing that I realized was that I was expecting them to be able to discern the deeper meaning of my life experiences (lessons) that I had gone through, when I was barely capable of understanding them myself. What hit me that day was that I needed to extend the grace and understanding—to withhold judgment—to the people that I felt judged by. That was the beginning of healing and peace for me in relationship to my church family.

The other way we pass judgment is to pass judgment on ourselves. It is difficult to make progress in life when there is a constant, nagging, little voice in your head that constantly hurls judgments at you. We will make inner statements to ourselves that are extremely critical and negative and sometimes they are not just quiet ones. Hang out with most people for long enough and you will have the opportunity to hear their negative self-chatter. Just watch for the first mistake they make while trying to accomplish something, and there it is, “You idiot!” “You are so stupid” “Moron” The things we tell ourselves, are things that we would hopefully never say to someone else.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what effect this has on the Spirit? What effect it has on your own psyche? What effect it has on those who hear you?

The challenge I would offer each person today is to listen for the voice that passes judgment in your own heart and mind. It is a voice that generally wounds and is an action reserved for the court of law and ultimately for God’s final judgment. Until then, I’m going to choose to live a more “grace” full life, asking Spirit to help me extend grace to my fellow travelers and to myself walking forth on a path of blessing instead of cursing!