3 Notes about Judging Others

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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”.

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Why I Have Fun

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Recently I’ve experienced more freedom in opening up to others and having fun. The fun could involve cracking a joke or making a fool of myself in front of a group of people. But people could question my motives behind these actions. Am I just trying to get attention from people? Trying to inflate my ego?

There likely are times when I am led by these types of motives. But there are also other motives that drive me to have fun:

The motive to tear down misconceptions about Christians

Many people perceive Christians as people who never have fun. I could see how people could think that way. Besides, what’s fun about going to church? And why are people never allowed to mosh at Christian concerts? Plus Christians don’t let loose in bars!

When someone with this perception sees Christians actually having fun together, the person can be surprised by the whole experience. That experience allows someone to see Christians – and perhaps Christianity – in a whole new light. But for me the experience doesn’t involve getting drunk just to show people how much “fun” you can be – it involves my next motive.

The motive to provide an alternative source of fun for others

From my experience in the business field, I know that for many people fun consists of a specific formula. After work, go to happy hour. On the weekends, go out to bars or clubbing. Basically, these places provide opportunities to talk and to momentarily escape from “the real world” with the aid of alcohol.

I want people to see that it’s possible to have fun beyond the obligatory bar-hop. That desire drives me to enjoy different types of events that don’t involve heavy drinking, and to invite other people to those events. Even a conversation about what I did over the weekend could cause someone to see that there is opportunity to have fun beyond the bars.

The motive to live under the joy found in Christ

There is profound joy in knowing who Jesus Christ is, and living under the freedom he provides. This freedom is not found in living without constraints. It is found when living under appropriate constraints that allow joy to be maximized and harm to be minimized.

When I am having fun under these constraints, I can experience the joy that Christ provides in a tangible way. These experiences lead to gratitude towards God – I’m actually drawn closer to him, especially when I can have fun without worry about what other people are thinking about me.

These three motives lead me to put high importance on fun. It’s not the most important thing to me – I often skip fun events for the sake of spending time on something I consider more important. But it still ranks as one of the main things I want my life to be remembered for.

At the same time, I recognize I’m not always led by these motives when having fun. Desires to be liked and noticed by people may seep in as well. So should I stop having fun out of fear of having the wrong motives?

I don’t think so. I will often have mixed motives in the things I do in life. And I often won’t know which mix is leading me at any one moment!

But through the mix of motives, God’s grace is present. He sees me the same way whether I have the right or wrong motives behind what I’m doing. I can take action even when I lack perfection.

Whatever my motive may be, I know there are incredible things that can happen out of having fun. It can build relationships and lead people closer to knowing Christ. So I carry on – having fun and enjoying the life God has given me.

 

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Beauty Is Not The Focus

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I go to a party. A woman is there. It’s obvious to most men there that this woman is beautiful. Throughout the night, I observe this woman getting constant attention from men. The next day I hear stories of how a man she never knew before messaged her on Facebook, or asked for her phone number.

This is the type of situation I have observed over, and over, and over again.

The only thing I can conclude? Beauty is the focus.

I am certainly not immune to this focus. There have been times when beauty is the one thing that triggers me to take action. For example, I’ll see a picture of someone I consider to be beautiful, and want to contact that person only because of my desire to be with someone beautiful. Or when I think about a woman, beauty will be the first and primary thing that comes to mind.

Beauty may draw an initial physical attraction towards someone. But this type of attraction is often based off emotional experiences that slowly fade away over time. As a result, it is not ultimately what holds a relationship and eventual marriage together.

There are several factors more essential than physical attraction:

Spiritual outlook – One’s view on God will drive many decisions the person makes. If two people have very different spiritual outlooks in a marriage, it will be very difficult for them to come to an agreement on important decisions in life.

Moral character – If someone has poor moral character, that person could easily drag a spouse in a bad moral direction. Moral boundaries that were once clear now become confused. The spouse could be negatively affected for a long time after being led in this immoral direction.

Enjoying time with someone – In any relationship, there will likely be times that the couple will enjoy being together, and other times where they won’t. However, if the couple consistently does not enjoy spending time together (especially in the early stages of a relationship), the relationship will become a miserable experience over time.

There can probably be more added to the list, but at the very least the importance to connect with someone on these three factors in a relationship is greater than the importance of being physically attracted to someone.

As a Christian, I’ve started to think about what my response to this idea of physical attraction should be. I obviously can’t avoid the fact that I’m attracted to certain people because of their outward beauty. But I wonder if that beauty could point me to the creator of that beauty – God – instead of driving me towards obsession over the person.

Beauty could also drive me to focus on other things about a person that have greater importance – things like the person’s relationship with God, the person’s moral character, or the joy that flows out of the person’s life.

I’m not sure what this shift in focus would look like practically, but it’s a concept I want to start to consider. Instead of a focus, beauty could be a pointer – a pointer to something much greater.

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The Good Way to Judge Others

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I wanted to write about an idea that is commonly brought up, is emotionally charged, and can be expressed in a simple way:

You can’t judge anyone.

When people say something like this, they likely are against the idea judging in general. They can give different reasons for being against it, like it makes someone feel less valuable, or it causes us to make assumptions that may not be true about someone. No matter the reasons, many people think that judging someone is always a bad thing to do.

But what if there is a good way to judge others? If there is one, it would have to incorporate things that are true, such as all humans have equal value, and we don’t have complete knowledge about someone’s life or about the future.

In light of these true things, let’s exclude the following actions from a potential good way to judge:

– Making an all-encompassing judgment about someone’s entire life
– Considering someone less valuable than ourselves
– Claiming authority over someone’s eternal destination (like heaven or hell)

And then let’s include some actions into the potential good way to judge:

– Putting focus on the idea that the judging will help us, rather than hinder someone else
– Using the knowledge that we have without making assumptions about things we don’t know
Referring to the present instead of the distant future (since we don’t know what will happen in the distant future)

Based on these excluded and included actions, we can define a potential good way to judge:

Making some type of assessment about someone based on knowledge you have about the person, for the purpose of taking the best action towards the person.

This definition still incorporates an element of judging – making an assessment about someone. But the purpose of making the judgment is good – understanding how to take the best action towards that person. And the judgment can even be necessary to help us take the best action.

The concept of a first date can show how this way to judge is both good and necessary. After a first date, someone may make an assessment that the other person does not share the same moral values, based on present knowledge about that person.

This assessment is good because it helps the person decide what action to take (likely to stop going on dates). The assessment is necessary because without it, the person could stay with someone who has different moral values, and thus could be led down an undesired path.

Dating isn’t the only example where this way to judge is good and necessary. Managers need to make an assessment about someone’s qualifications during a job interview in order to decide if hiring the person is a good idea. Christians need to make an assessment about someone’s religious beliefs in order to understand how to best point that person towards God. And parents need to make an assessment about a child’s behavior before making a decision on how to discipline the child. In all of these examples, some judging about an aspect of a person’s life needs to take place in order to take an action that is good.

Since judging others can sometimes be a good thing, a generalization like “you can’t judge anyone” throws out something that could be good. But of course, there are still circumstances in which judging is a bad thing to do. So how could should we talk about the concept of judging others?

Instead of using a phrase that indicates judging is always a bad thing, I would suggest explaining why a specific way of judging is bad. Examples could include:

“You make me feel less valuable when you tell me that I’m not smart.”
“You shouldn’t say that he is a hopeless alcoholic, because you don’t know what path he has taken to fight his addiction.”
“You don’t know if that person will eventually go to Hell, because you don’t know the future, and God is the one who makes that determination.”

By being more specific about why a particular judgment is bad to make, we can have greater clarity in conversations about judging, while acknowledging that there are situations where judging can be helpful. Getting into these specifics may be more difficult and more painful compared to making general statements. But I think the difficulty is worth the potential of having clear conversations around this otherwise confusing topic.

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How my Input Strength put me Out of Balance

Based on the results of the Strengthsfinder test, one of my main strengths is Input. This strength basically means that I have a desire to constantly seek new information.

The Input strength can be great for certain things such as research. But for me, this strength has become a liability. Over the past few days, I’ve realized that this strength has caused me to feel out of balance.

This feeling results from a difference between input and output of information. Throughout each day, I constantly input new information into my head, and feel like I never have enough time to output that information through writing or sharing it verbally with others. This lack of balance between input and output results in two difficulties:

  1. I always feel overwhelmed– When I input information into my mind and don’t take time to process through it, I never come to a resolution about what to do with that information. For me, the information overload combined with a lack of resolution has led to a constant feeling of being overwhelmed.
  1. I lose a sense of purpose– When I fill my head with information and never share that information, I feel that I miss opportunities for others to be helped through the things that I share. It’s like I’m obtaining this knowledge for the sake of having it, and there’s nothing I’m actually doing with it. Thus I feel my purpose for obtaining the information is lost.

Now that I realize that I’m out of balance, I want to change the way that I use my time each day. When I have free time, I want to focus on the output instead of the input. For example, instead of constantly checking Facebook and devouring more information about other people’s lives, I can process through information relevant to my own life by writing a few sentences about what I’m thinking.

I know that for me, the input will always be present, because my tendency is to always acquire new information. But focusing more on output could allow me to capitalize on that tendency by putting all that information to use. It would also help me to move away from an information overload and to move towards a better grasp of the information I have.

With these ideas in mind, I hope to share information with others more often. Not only because I believe it can help others, but also because I need to be in better balance with the information I’m inputting versus outputting. This sharing could come in the form of a blog post, a song, or a conversation. I also hope to start a new blog, although using this blog provided a good avenue to start sharing posts again.

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How Chewy and Rap led to Thoughts about Talents

Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the talents and abilities I have, and how to use them. This week, I was exposed to two individuals and one group that have been changing the way I think through this topic.

One individual is Nathan Feuerstein, a Christian who is known as the hip hop artist NF. One thing I noticed right away when listening to NF is his talent – he seamlessly flows through fast and complex rap lines, and does so with incredible passion. I also noticed that his songs are very honest and real. I instantly related to many of the lines within his songs.

This weekend, I talked to a woman who was once a counselor for a camp that NF attended when he was much younger. The woman explained that the campers there created a group chant as a camp activity, and NF led the charge in creating the lines for it. The campers ended up making a chant so memorable that the woman and NF recalled the chant word-for-word when they saw each other several years later.

This story caused me to think about the idea of using your natural abilities. It was clear from an early age that NF was very good at writing lyrics and expressing those lyrics through rapping. And now in his songs, he talks about his passion to use those abilities. Songs written by NF challenge me to build up the abilities God has given me and do the absolute best I can with them.

A group that also provoked thoughts about talents was The 100 Voices of Gospel. This choir appears in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition, and have now advanced to the finals.

The group has received raving remarks from the judges. Some were even hinting at the divine, such as when Alesha Dixon said that everything the choir represents “is my idea of heaven”. The crowd seemed to express a sense of joy and awe. Seeing that type of response was incredible to me, especially in a country that people do not consider to be “religious”.

The 100 Voices of Gospel causes me to realize that talents don’t have to be diminished because they’re used in a church setting or are under a “Christian” label. When amazing talents are used to praise God, it creates an environment that people respond to – one that gives them a glimpse of the spiritual realm.

The last individual that provoked these thoughts in my mind was Candace Payne, known now as “Chewbacca Lady”. She is a Christian woman who bought a Star Wars Chewbacca mask, wore it in her car, and posted the video of her reaction on Facebook.

The video is full of laughter that became instantly contagious. Laughs spread throughout the day, and so did the video – more than 142 million people viewed the video within a week of its release, and it now stands as the most viewed Facebook video of all time.

Putting on a Chewbacca mask and commenting on it may not be a “talent”, but I think this video reveals something important. No matter what you’re good at and no matter what your personality is, God created you in that way for a purpose. He can use those things for something amazing – something like bringing joy to millions of people some random Friday morning.

This video reminds me that as I continue to live and use the abilities God has given me, God will take care of the results, whether it’s making a small impact on one person or bringing something significant to millions. I don’t need to worry about how many people are watching or who is responding. All I need to do is seek God, and live according to the way He created me.

I may not go on tour across America, appear on an international talent show, or go viral on Facebook, but that’s okay. What matters is that God is glorified.

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Warming Up to the World of Tolerance

Recently I attended a discussion group where people of different views come together and discuss a topic each month. This month’s topic was about the topic of tolerance, and asked if there were things that should not be tolerated. The topic was brought up a scientist who identified as an atheist. She seemed to have a low view of people who hold onto ideas that are opposed by clear scientific evidence.

At one point, she made the following statement:

“You are not entitled to your opinion if it is not based on truth”.

She later said that she came off a little strong with this statement, but for me it provoked several thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

One is that “truth” might not be as obvious as it seems to be in your mind at any one moment. For this women, she was confident that she knew what was true because she found that there was substantial scientific evidence backing up her conclusions. But there very well could be an angle to the issue that she did not consider, or a bias that is causing her to interpret the available evidence incorrectly. Understanding these potential limitations gives you a sense of humility, where you are open to the idea that you may not have all the right answers.

Even if the truth is obvious to you, it won’t necessarily be obvious to others. Many factors could cause people to be confused about what is actually true. For example, people might be unaware of the facts required to form the best conclusion about an issue.

The scientist referred to global warming as one of the obvious truths that people are not entitled to speak against. Her reference to global warming caused me to think about my own experiences with that issue.

Through some college classes I took six years ago, I became aware of observable signs that indicate global warming is happening. On the other hand, I recognize that there are people who say the warming is part of a normal “cycle”, where the Earth gets warmer for a time period, then colder, then warmer, and continuing on. I am not informed enough to understand how much of the warming taking place is due to a standard “cycle”, and how much is due to human activity.

I could blame a few things for my lack of understanding:

    1. My educational background

  • Through High School and College classes, this topic was not taught to an extent where I could fully understand the issues.

    2. My effort

  • Since learning about it six years ago, I haven’t put forth much effort to gain a better understanding of the global warming issue.

    3. My will

  • I am simply not interested enough in the topic of global warming to look deep into the evidence and arguments out there.

These factors don’t only apply to me in relation to global warming. They can apply to you and anyone else in relation to various topics. You may be well informed and have a great interest in a specific area (i.e. religion, science, politics). But that does not mean that everyone else has that same knowledge and passion.

So how do you respond to people who just “don’t get it” – don’t grasp a concept that you care about? It comes down to the Christian principal of having grace in conversations. Not turning down people because they have a lesser understanding than you about a particular topic. But instead, listening to them, recognizing when they are confused about an issue, and sharing the knowledge you have with them so that they can have a better grasp of the issue at hand.

And even if they still “don’t get it”, understand that you are still talking to a person worthy of your attention and respect. That’s what tolerance is truly about – respecting a person even if you disagree with them and even if you think you know more than them. The scientist’s “cold” statement above likely came from a lack of tolerance for people who are not as well informed as her on certain issues.

For her, I would suggest a “warming up” – continuing to draw the best conclusions based on the evidence available, while also accepting that people may draw different conclusions due to their educational background, effort, or will. This perspective would at least warm her up to having tolerance for people who seem to deny the cold, hard facts.

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