A couple months ago, I wrote a post about “The Good Way to Judge Others”. This post was a summary of thoughts I had about the concept of judging. By the time I was done with the post, I had cut out a bunch of notes that didn’t support the main idea. However, the pushback that I received on that post all involved those things that I had cut out.
As a result, I thought it would be good to revisit those notes in this post. I know they won’t address all concerns about judging, but I hope that the notes will provide some additional clarity about this complex topic. So here it goes – three separate notes about the topic of judging others:
1. The word “judging” can be used to describe a wide array of actions
Here are just a few possible actions:
– Making some kind of assessment about one aspect of a person’s life
– Assessing someone’s overall moral character based on an action the person took
– Considering someone less valuable that yourself because the person has inferior traits compared to you
– Determining someone’s destiny based on actions the person has taken
– Calling someone’s lifestyle wrong or immoral
It is possible that some of these actions could be labeled something else, like “assessing”. But the array of definitions that could be used shows the need to be specific about what one means when using the word “judging”. For simplicity, I will assume that the use of “judging” involves all of these actions for the rest of this post, unless otherwise specified.
2. People who accuse others of judging may also be judging
When someone makes a statement like “You’re judging me!”, there is usually a moral claim behind the statement – judging is a bad thing to do. The person accuses the other of doing this bad thing.
But the person making this statement is potentially doing this bad thing as well. The person uses the information that is available to make an assessment about what the other person is doing, which is one potential definition of judging. Under this definition, the person who says judging is a bad thing ends up doing that bad thing.
This dilemma can be avoided by being more specific about the action someone is taking towards you, and explaining why it is wrong to take that action.
3. The “Judge not” passage in the Bible does not condemn all judging of others
There a passage in the Bible that says “Judge not, that you be not judged”.
So that’s it. The Bible tells us to not judge others. Case closed, right?
Not exactly. In order to understand if this passage is explaining that we should never judge others, we need to look at the entire line of thought being expressed in the passage. In this case, the line of thought comes from Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.
Here’s the passage in it’s full context:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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.
At first, Jesus appears to condemn judging in terms of pointing out the immoral actions of another person. But Jesus then turns the focus away from judging and shifts it to self-evaluation. He indicates that one’s focus should be dealing with personal immorality rather than trying to point out and fix the moral shortcomings of others.
However, the passage does not rule out all moral judgment. It actually points to the proper circumstance to judge. Let’s look again at the last sentence – 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. Jesus is saying that addressing your own immorality (the log) is necessary before making a judgment about someone’s moral shortcomings (the speck), and helping the person to address those shortcomings.
This passage does provoke questions like “How do you know when you are able to make a moral judgment about someone?” But the passage is not saying something like “Judging others is never an appropriate thing to do”.