On a sleepy walk one morning with my husband, he aroused me from my sluggish thoughts.
“Do you hear them?”
“Who?” I asked, thinking I heard children in the distance.
We listened attentively as we walked past the soft clucking and earth scratching.
How peculiar yet strangely comforting their early morning foraging communications were.
“Did our neighborhood allow us to keep farm animals in our yards?” I wondered.
Enjoying the smile creeping across my face, I decided the resulting comfort I felt outweighed the answer, and dismissed the judgment on the horizon of my thoughts.
Her hair adorned with dainty butterfly clips along her thick, dark braids woven about her head, Princess Lea style, I was drawn to her immediately, but the serenity of her countenance coaxed in me the courage to speak.
We chatted longer than I intended to stay in the gym sauna, but her kind disposition and openness eclipsed the effects of the heat.
Drawn back to Texas on spiritual pilgrimage, she joyfully recounted her journey. The Buddhist temple not far from my home was the birthplace of her newfound freedom.
Understanding we held different faiths, I suddenly stood on the precipice of a choice: joy or judgment. I could embrace the joy she offered, or stand in judgment of its source.
Finding a way to weave my faith and whispering a prayer in the closing moments of our conversation, I disallowed judgment to plunder the wonder of the encounter.
Score: 2 successes to a lifetime of losses.
Last year, my husband and I read a thought-provoking book, Unoffendable, which continues to hammer away the jagged edges of my worldview.
Sometimes the gentle hands of the Potter are best for molding a fragile human soul; other times a hammer suits.
Of course, God made us reasoning, judging creatures. Without sound judgment, we would cease to exist.
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. John 7:24
I’m not talking about right judgment but the kind of judgment Jesus warned against.
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. Matthew 7:1-2
These wise words from my Good Shepherd remind me of the harm judgment brings upon others and to my own soul.
Yet I daily live in the tension of my sinful tendencies and godly desires.
There are a thousand reasons why I judge, most of them about me. I judge others because they:
- Live differently
- Dress differently
- Look different
- Speak differently
- Believe differently
- Vote differently
- Worship or pray differently
- Have more, or less, than me
- Are part of a group I’m not in by choice or exclusion
- Appear to be a burden on society
With this newfound understanding, how do I not judge? While I’ll never be free of judgment before meeting my Savior face-to-face, I’ve discovered 3 strategies helping me navigate this slippery slope.
1. Staying close to my Shepherd
I know, I prefer 3 easy steps too.
But cultivating my relationship with Jesus is paramount in the journey towards judgment-free living.
Without Jesus, I’m left to my own devices, non of which are wise, healthy, or life-giving.
My brother and I read a fantastic, eye-opening book, Insight; we were astonished to find out that 85% of people (including me) are self-unaware.
Self-awareness helps uncover potential reasons for judging others.
My cognitive biases block truth more than I realize. Pride makes me better than. Selfishness solicits comfort and ease:
“Don’t overthink, rock the boat, or paddle upstream against cultural trends. Simple, black-and-white answers and viewpoints, please.”
Additionally, understanding how the patterns of thinking I carried from my childhood impact my mindset today helps me recognize false narratives and limiting beliefs.
Self-awareness helps me understand the why behind my judging tendencies and the fast thinking I prefer using to analyze people and situations.
I’ll be honest, it takes work, but the benefits brought peace and joy I wasn’t expecting, because:
Judging others is exhausting work.
3. Reframing my thinking
Recently, I caught myself judging someone and began praying. I heard the Spirit whisper, “Whenever you’re tempted to judge, simply pray, ‘Save them to the uttermost.'”
I rarely get it right, but I’m working on simple prayers vs judgmental verdicts.
Henry Nowen profoundly stated in his insightful book, Here and Now,
“Imagine that you could say: “I am judging no one!” Wouldn’t that be true inner freedom?
“The desert fathers from the 4th century said, ‘Judging others is a heavy burden.’
“I have had a few moments during my life which I felt free from all judgment about others. It felt as if a heavy burden had been taken away…. I experienced an immense love for everyone I met…”
It’s messy and uncomfortable, but this free living is remarkably enticing. Difficult on a good day, I keep plugging away at self-reflection and intimacy with Jesus.
Taking one step forward—sometimes two steps back—I believe Jesus honors our hearts and helps, heals, even hurls us toward victory.
What is one thing you could do to discover where you are on the judgment continuum? Maybe pray about cognitive biases, insecurities and prejudices, or find an accountability partner to talk and pray about reasons why you may judge, or perhaps learn more about self-awareness?
Join me on the journey to freedom from judgment! It’s a burden Jesus alone is meant to carry!