I sometimes get criticized (judged) for being judgmental, do you? This accusation usually arises when I have made a negative comment with which someone disagrees. I submit, however, that we are ALL judgmental. Last night, for example, I found a dead mouse in the pantry, no doubt a result of my efforts to poison him and his family who have taken up residence in my house. I judge their presence to be harmful in several ways:
1. They eat our stuff. Little holes in the rice bag, nibbles in the butternut squash, obvious nipping at the bread we accidentally left out, etc.
2. They are nasty little spreaders of various diseases.
3. They scare the dickens out of the wife as they scurry about.
4. They make noises in the voids in the walls and ceilings they inhabit.
5. Their droppings are unsightly.
It is my judgment that they must go and my further judgment that traps and poisons are effective in this regard.
On the other hand, we also share living space with some little geckos. I judge their presence to be good. They eat various pests such as cockroaches, spiders and other unwanted critters while doing no harm otherwise. They can stay. So, am I being “judgmental” when I “judge” something to be right and good?
Furthermore, in this democracy, we cherish the freedom to express our opinions. By definition an opinion is (for our purposes) “a belief or judgment (notice that word) that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty, a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.” Everyone has a right to their opinions. Is my opinion “judgmental” only when it happens to disagree with yours?
There is also a growing number of people who take “live and let live” to the nth degree. For these folks, nothing is wrong unless it harms another person (not at all easy to determine). All is relative and there is no absolute truth. Your truth may not be my truth. You have a right to believe what you believe but keep it to yourself. Under these rules, it is improper to make judgment about good and bad, wise and foolish, right and wrong. These folks are highly intolerant of intolerance. They have a negative opinion of those who express their opinions. Their truth is that there is no truth. It is their judgment that judgment is…well…wrong.
I think what many folks mean by “judgment” is “condemnation.” I do not have the power or prerogative to condemn anyone for anything…that’s God’s business. There is a big difference between judging or discerning between right and wrong and pronouncing eternal damnation. Christians have access to criteria for making decisions about what is right and what is wrong in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles (messengers). Using these standards and principles I can confidently say, “It is wrong to steal.” In fact, our whole society agrees having codified it into law. But, if I dare to make that judgment, I had better be sure that I, myself, am not a thief. We must judge ourselves before we dare to pass judgment on others. If I am honest enough for self-examination I will judge that it is wrong for me or anyone else to steal.
The other day at the coffee shop a man began making trouble for the young woman at the cash register. He was loudly complaining because they refused to give him something for free. Becoming increasingly obnoxious, he kept at it, holding up the line and causing the staff a good deal of distress. Filled with negative judgmentalism, I got up from my table and began to interfere, politely suggesting that he basically shut up and shove off. This emboldened the staff who threatened to call the police. He did leave and I went back to my table and resumed writing and drinking my coffee. As I left the shop, the manager profusely thanked me for my judgmental intervention. It may have been foolhardy, but was it wrong? You be the judge. Oops!
For those who would like to have a look at relevant Bible passages: John 7:24; Romans 2:1; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 5:12-13; James 4:10-12