Judgmentalism

A perspective on being judgmental

What would you say if I asked you, “on a scale of 1-10, how judgmental are you?”? Does it matter?

In spite of my awareness that judgmental attitudes are detrimental to my relationships and wellbeing, I fear asking my wife if this is an issue for me out of concern that she will confirm it and score me higher than I would. It’s challenging being a zero!

Having reflected on my own actions and behaviours, I am trying to be more understanding of others and open-minded, aware that everyone experiences and perceives life differently, not always the way I do, which would be more preferable and acceptable.

Looking at scripture, I am aware we are called to intentionally accept others and be less judgemental. Well, not “less” judgmental, just not judgmental. That’s a big challenge! It’s not something I have heard preached, instead it is usually mentioned in passing. Just because Agatha seized two mince pies when there was barely enough for everyone, don’t be judgmental. Since Agatha is a very generous lady, putting that exhortation into practice is difficult.

Seriously though, perhaps it is helpful to lift the lid on this topic and see what we discover.

An excellent place to start is to identify the distinction between judging and being judgmental. There is a subtle difference, but one that matters.

Judging refers to the act of making a determination or evaluation about something or someone based on facts and evidence. Judges in a courtroom, for example, make decisions about guilt or innocence based on evidence presented to them, and can be crucial to making informed decisions and solving problems.

Judgmental people, on the other hand, make negative or critical assessments of others based on their prejudices, biases, assumptions, or beliefs, rather than on evidence and facts. This approach often involves generalisations, stereotypes, and a lack of empathy and understanding.

Judgmental behaviour can be harmful and should obviously be avoided since it leads to alienation and division, unjust evaluations, and can adversely affect our mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s not good for you spiritually either. Discernment and judgmental are not on the same page! It’s important to be aware of our own biases and assumptions, and, when judging others in a right way, it’s important to do so with love, compassion and empathy. Not easy when you live in a world of milli-second reactions, and your default position is still being developed to the new kingdom 1.0 version, and the update patch keeps failing.

Our comfort is the grace of God and the scriptures which are never judgmental about either those who are in Christ or the unbeliever.

In the Bible

Turning as ever to scripture, there are many examples of individuals in scripture who were known for their judgmental attitudes. One well-known example is the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who are frequently criticised in the New Testament for their judgmental attitudes.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes towards others:

  • Matthew 23:13-33: Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being “blind guides” who “strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” and who “clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence”.
  • Luke 18:9-14: Jesus tells a parable of a Pharisee and a tax collector, in which the Pharisee boasts of his own righteousness and looks down on the tax collector, while the tax collector humbly acknowledges his own sinfulness and asks for God’s forgiveness.

The Pharisees were known for their strict adherence to religious laws and regulations, but Jesus criticises them for focusing on external appearances and for failing to truly understand and follow the spirit of the law, which emphasises love, compassion, and humility.

Our comfort is the grace of God and the scriptures which are never judgmental about either those who are in Christ or the unbeliever.


Another example is found in the book of James, where James addresses the issue of partiality and judgmental attitudes towards others based on their social status or wealth:

  • James 2:1-13: James states that showing partiality to the rich and neglecting the poor is a form of judgement, and that it is a sin. He advises his readers to avoid showing partiality and to instead show love and compassion towards all.

As Christians, we are called to love and serve others, but sometimes our judgmental attitudes can get in the way of truly connecting with and understanding others.

Assumptions

Making assumptions or jumping to conclusions can be harmful and divisive so a few things that may help are found in

  • Engaging with scripture,
  • being empathetic even when you know they other person has lost the plot,
  • having massive amounts of ‘me-time’,
  • and discovering how to receive support in this journey, especially as we strive to be more compassionate, understanding, and loving towards ourselves and others.

Yes, some of that was meant to be humorous, but being judgmental is not something we do intentionally, and in identifying it or becoming aware of our behaviour we must ask for the help of the Holy Spirit and correct our posture. We can’t do it on our own, and it won’t sort itself out.

Parties?

The overwhelming factor of such an attitude that makes it so terrible is it has a tendency to make negative judgments about others without proper understanding or compassion, and this can frequently lead to division, hurt, and cause alienation among individuals and any fellowship groups a person may be involved with. I wonder if at times, we can all relate to that, either as a perpetrator or the victim? For our part as Christians, we are called to love and serve others, but sometimes our judgmental attitudes can get in the way of truly connecting with and understanding others. And you don’t get invited to parties.

Change is possible

I’m not sure anyone identifies as judgmental on their birth certificate, but it is something that can ‘pop up’ at any given time for everyone, the difference is how we deal with it. Changing our manner of viewing life can be challenging, especially if it has become ingrained over time, but if we are patient and persistent, it is possible to see quick changes, especially if you are asking God to help you change. Like a diet, you have to start somewhere, hopefully these prompts may be helpful:

  • Reflect on the reasons for your judgmental attitude. Are you feeling insecure or threatened in some way? Are you trying to protect yourself or feel superior to others? Identify the elephant in the room! Understanding the underlying causes of your judgmental thoughts can help you address them more effectively. Maybe someone is just being annoying and it’s not that you are being judgmental, but lacking in patience. Happily there’s a fruit of the Spirit for that – and it’s available!
  • Practice being “aware” or as “mindfulness” as they call it today. When you catch yourself being judgmental, try to pause and become aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment. This can help you break the habit of automatically reacting with judgment. Life happens in a nano-second, so this may take a while and many attempts before you see results!
  • Challenge your judgments. When you find yourself judging someone, try to ask yourself if your judgment is fair and based on evidence. You may be right, but are you being kind? Are you making assumptions about the person or their actions that may not be accurate? Are you being not quite as humble as you think? Again, you can do something about that!
  • Practice empathy. When I remember to do this, I find it helpful; try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand their perspective. You can’t go very far in someone else’s shoes, either they fall off or you end up walking like a chicken with arthritis, but at least you are open to change – and it is why you should never judge a person by the way they dance. This perspective can help you see them as a complex and very nuanced individual rather than simply labelling them based on a single trait or action.
  • Seek out diverse perspectives. Exposing yourself to a variety of viewpoints can help you see the world in a more nuanced and less judgmental way.
  • Seek support. If you are struggling to change your judgmental attitude, consider seeking prayer, advice and support from your friends and leaders at church – they can be a lot of support and encouragement, plus, it will be a challenge for them too.

The immediate remedy for judgmentalism is to practise compassion, empathy, and understanding towards others. In the Bible, Matthew 7:1-5 speaks about refraining from judging others, and instead focusing on one’s own faults and shortcomings. It’s worth taking a close look:

“why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

The critical feature of being judgmental that makes it a terrible condition is the tendency to make negative judgments about others without proper understanding, context or compassion. It can also lead to division, hurt, and alienation among individuals and communities that you actually love or admire both inside and outside of the Church.

An antidote to being judgmental?

If we are being judgmental then our attitude will be seen as critical, harsh, unforgiving, unfair, condemning – the antidote is for us to be forgiving, compassionate, understanding, humble and loving. Be careful about labelling (or defining) people as ‘judgmental’ as labels can be very hard to remove.

Finally, by not ignoring the issue and by giving it careful thought you develop a sense of discernment internally about it, feeling a check in your thought processes.

We all have moments where we can be judgmental just don’t go thinking that everyone else is exempt. The only one who never had a single judgmental thought or action was Jesus. Drop the mic.

N.B: I didn’t forget, “Judge not lest you be judged” – I just thought you’d have thought of it by now, and you have!

Why you should never judge a person by the way they dance