I talked about this subject a bit in my blog post, Stay in Your Lane, but it keeps coming up over and over again in my coaching, so here is a little more to add to your perspective.
Have you ever felt judged? That hot flash of embarrassment or humiliation that makes your cheeks flush, and the instant reaction of anger and defensiveness that comes with it. Ugh… such a horrible feeling!
Once when I was serving as a new Young Women’s President, I was attending a Ward Council meeting and the Bishop was reviewing the budgets. I was pretty young and had recently moved into the ward and had never before served in a Presidency. I had ZERO training in this position, let alone budgets. I had just been told that if we had activities, the ward would cover the expenses. Well, when it came time to discuss the YW’s budget, it appeared I was quite a bit over our limit and the Bishop wasn’t very pleased. I wouldn’t say he scolded me, but I felt pretty lousy and insecure in front of all the other leaders that were clearly more educated and financially responsible than I was. And since I hadn’t even been told the amount of our budget to begin with, I felt defensive and resentful of the entire situation. I felt judged.
On the flip side, have you ever been the one to issue judgement of someone else? Perhaps you’ve been critical of the way someone dressed, the color or style of their hair, the words they said, they way they raise their kids or spend their money? Have you judged the actions of family or friends that don’t behave or live in a way that you approve of? Maybe they stop going to church, vape, cover their bodies with tattoos or make other lifestyle choices you believe are wrong. Maybe you even criticize your spouse for not being a righteous leader in your home or for the way he spends his free time?
Being either the giver or receiver of judgment is painful. There is simply no way to feel unconditional love while swimming in the judgement pool. Even saying things we think sound nice like, “It’s so sad that she’s making these choices”… or, “I wish I could help him see how he’s ruining his life…” will cause the one judging pain. You see, when we judge another person, we are the ones not living the gospel. We form judgements that make us feel holier or better than. We feel that our judgment is righteous because we really do care and we are firm in our beliefs and proud of our faithfulness. But other than the caring part, this is the opposite of what Jesus taught. And when we are out of congruence with our own beliefs, the internal discord is painful,- and most of the time we don’t even realize why.
When we believe we know how someone else “should” be, live or act, we are in the wrong. Can you consider the possibility that perhaps your loved one really should be going through this? Is it possible that this is exactly the path that they need to take to experience their own journey and grow in the ways they need to grow? When someone else’s faith waivers, can you trust that the Lord is aware and it’s not your problem to solve? Most of the time our judgement comes from or own insecurities or fears, not from a place of hope and faith.
While I was discussing this with one of my best friends on Saturday, she reminded me of how the Savior was the perfect example of “practicing the pause.” In the New Testament, (John 8:7-11) when the woman was taken in adultery and brought before him, her accusers were in an uproar and wanted His reaction immediately. But rather than jump in to pronounce judgement, He paused. He took his time, bent down to write on the ground, thought things through, and then spoke the famous words, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
When Jesus then stood up and saw that it was just the two of them left, he said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.”
Such an incredible example for all of us! There was no shaming or scolding. There was no stink eye, guilt trip or long lecture on all the things she needed to do and change…just unconditional love, compassion and forgiveness.
Next time you are tempted to judge, ask yourself, “Why?” Are you making it mean something about you? Do you really want to hold the role of judge and jury? Remember a time when you felt judged. Was it useful or helpful in any way?
By the way, please don’t be offended for me! The Bishop I referred to earlier is one of the finest men I know! In NO WAY was he intentionally shaming or embarrassing me. Much of my feelings of being judged came from the fact that I knew myself to be a terrible budgeter! I was insecure about it and it was one more bit of evidence I was looking for to confirm that fact. I was ashamed because I knew it was true… I just didn’t want everyone else to know it too! LOL!
What if we can all just drop all of the judgement, for ourselves, as well as for others? No one is perfect, we’re not supposed to be! Acknowledging our faults as just information to consider and work on, is much more helpful than self flagellation. If we can be compassionate with ourselves, it will be much easier to extend that same compassion to those around us.
Unity is not sameness. We need each other’s differences to grow. Next time we’re tempted to judge anyone, let’s all just promise to practice the pause!