It’s a complicated question…..one I have wrestled with as I often question, as an individual and as a church leader, whether I am being judgmental or simply using my God-given judgment. Scripture surely helps, and we will examine what the Bible says in our next post. But, to begin with I have found that determining clear definitions and guidelines helps.
Definitions of Judging, Judgment and Judgmental
Judging: To form an opinion or come to a conclusion; to be able or qualified to give an opinion
Judgment: The ability to make objective decisions or come to sensible conclusions; discernment; judiciousness
Judgmental: To display an excessively critical and unhelpful point of view; condemning, censorious; critically nitpicking and finding fault with another person, group of people, idea, or situation
Clearly, there is a difference between making judgments and being judgmental. But, how can you tell? Here’s what works for me.
When I Am Using My Judgment
Practically speaking, I find I’m using my judgment when:
- It’s my job – When as a leader I am called upon to make judgements concerning whether or not someone lives up to agreed upon standards of both spiritual and organizational leadership.
- I need to set boundaries – When I make judgments that people are unhealthy for me, my family, or those I am responsible for in order to protect myself or others from danger or being hurt.
- There is dishonesty – When the dishonesty of another requires I genuinely express how I feel and what I know to be true.
- The law requires it – When I am aware of confirmed illegal or unlawful behavior.
- I am qualified – When I have sufficient experience, knowledge, and understanding to render an opinion or observation.
- I have been a witness – When I have personally witnessed the behavior or heard the words from their mouths.
- I have walked in their shoes – When I have first looked inward and examined my own similar faults and selfish motives. When I have sympathized and empathized with the other person.
When I Am Being Judgmental
I tend to cross the line into being judgmental when I’m:
- Excessively fault finding
- Aware my comments are harmful or have hurtful consequences
- Using words that evoke in me feelings of superiority, jealousy, or pride
- Avoiding my own faults by pointing them out in others
- Intolerant of people not like me
- Rating others based upon their appearance or associations
- Not empathetic and sympathetic
- Not qualified to comment
As Christians trying to be salt and light in the world, and as church leaders striving to model biblical behavior, being judgmental is something we need to understand and work to counteract. Why? When we are unaware of our judgmental tendencies, we become angry, hateful, and defensive. Such a trait not only alienates us from others, but also from God. Therefore, it is important to guard against. Here are some approaches I use as personal safeguards against being judgmental.
- Practice Presence – Before speaking, spend time with the person, seek to understand, empathize, and really listen.
- Beam Removal – Make sure I look inward first, face my shadows, and get the beam out of my own eye.
- Demonstrate Grace – Realize they have had experiences and relationships of which I am unaware that have shaped their words and actions.
- Value Frame – Ask, what if the person doesn’t get their values from the same place I do?
- Imagine the Impact – Be mindful of the potential impact of my judgments and the law of unintended consequences.
- Judge the Sin, Not the Sinner – Maintain a nonjudgmental attitude toward an individual’s essence by separating problematic acts from the person.
- Know the Facts – Make certain I have verifiable information before speaking or acting.
- Remain Open – Look for additional information that may challenge my initial opinions and change my evaluations.
- Avoid Stereotypes – Don’t form strong judgments based upon brief snapshots or cultural stereotyped frames.
- Avoid Prejudice – Be aware of my own tendencies and don’t base judgments on underlying prejudices.
Next post we will examine what the Bible says about judging others.
Posted on August 6, 2019