True Inner Freedom

Judging others . . . deciding what’s right and wrong about how someone else is living, or dressing, or eating.  Trying to weigh up someone’s actions and declare them “guilty” or “innocent.”

Why do we do it?

Yesterday I wrote about how so much of that comes from fear.  But I think another reason we have a tendency to judge people is a result of our modern times – being right is seen as the ultimate “win”.  We want to be right.  And if someone disagrees with us, we will tear them and their argument apart in order to be right.

This is not the way of Christ.

He tells us to view others as better than ourselves.

He tells us to treat others as we would want to be treated.

He tells us to love even our enemies.

Henri Nouwen, in his book Here and Now, addresses this burden of judgment:

“We spend countless hours making up our minds about others.  An unceasing exchange of opinions about people close by or far away keeps us distracted and allows us to ignore the truth that we ourselves are the first ones who need a change of heart and probably the only ones whose hearts we indeed can change.

“We always say again: “What about him? What about her?” What Jesus says to us, as he said to Peter, who wanted to know what would happen to John: “What does it matter to you.  You are to follow me” (John 21:21-22)

“Imagine your having no need at all to judge anybody.  Imagine your having no desire to decide whether someone is a good or bad person. Imagine your being completely free from the feeling that you have to make up your mind about the morality of someone’s behavior.  Imagine that you could say: “I am judging no one!”

“Imagine – Wouldn’t that be true inner freedom?”

Are you brave enough to share with us the folks that you find yourself drawn to judge? Or maybe you’ve overcome a long-standing judgment you’ve held against certain types of people…I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

13 Replies to “True Inner Freedom”

  1. I’ll go first.

    I used to have a harsh view of people living on the street. I was happy to help them at soup kitchens or on outreaches, but I think in my heart I always was quick to label them as lazy or addicts or weak people who made terrible choices.

    Then my business went into a tailspin, and I realized that without family and a network of close friends that could have been me on the street.

  2. I have a real problem with judging two kinds of people – those who are “willfully ignorant,” as I judgmentally call them and those who put themselves before others – i.e. in traffic or in relationships.

    Of course, I judge these particular groups because these are problems I have myself.

    Thanks for this important insight, Shawn.

  3. I may sound juvenile, but I judge people that don’t wash their hands after going #2. I just don’t get it.

    Oh and I judge spoiled only-children, and rich, know-it-all types.

  4. I find myself judging people with a poor work ethic. I guess because I grew up in a big family that always stessed working hard. This seems to be a tough one for me.

  5. I was speaking with a researcher, physiotherapist and Yoga teacher about the work he was doing around pain, which was quite revolutionary, and a lot of his sources were Australian. I asked why that was the case and he said they were more interested in exploration than arriving at a final answer. Now I’m sure they argue in Australia but we do have this tendency in North America, especially the States, to NEED a solution – to need THE solution. We have to be the best, the smartest, the most successful. That is what this country was built on. Anyway, I think if we could live in mystery a little easier we would argue and judge a little bit less.

    I judge myself – I’m a real a-hole!
    I judge Christians more harshly than any other group in the world. That is who I struggle with. I have an easier time with drug addicts and violent men (both of whom I work with).

  6. I’m thinking a lot about “gossip” and judgment lately…
    And it really makes you feel better not to judge people.
    I’m no saint, no perfect girl on this, but I’m trying to stop… usually I catch myself judging someone for the appearance… and guess what? that’s one of the things I’m most self conscious!

    stop judging them is lessening my self consciousness ;)

  7. OK, here goes. I have a tendency to over-judge the typical all-about-me-shallow-feel-good Christians that are cheapening Christianity, who are quick to follow the cutest pastor, quick to ignore those I need, and slow to mature. There, I said it. Now, I am going to pray that God shows me where I am worse.

  8. I judge students who plagiarize; those who text, chitchat, or sleep in class; and those who have some breathtakingly inane excuse about why they didn’t come to class or do the work, but then want me to give them a break anyway. (You overslept? Through my NOON class? Check your priorities, kiddo.)

    I judge people who believe that gay marriages somewhere will somehow threaten, undermine, or dissolve straight marriages. This is logically equivalent to saying that the definition of driving has always been the operation of a motor vehicle by a straight person, and that granting LGBT people drivers’ licenses will invalidate the licenses of straight people. But somehow, Britney Spears’s 55-hour first marriage is totally okay with them, because of the biology of the participants.

    1. Regarding your first paragraph, I don’t think it’s judging to hold someone to something that they’ve agreed to do.

      Regarding second paragraph…it’s definitely difficult not to judge people whose opinions seem utterly ridiculous. But I don’t know that judging someone b/c of a particular belief helps further any discussion or change any minds. A year ago you and I would have disagreed on quite a lot, more than we do now anyway, but during the last year I’ve moved a considerable distance on some things that probably bring our views on the world closer together. For me, it took someone with an opposing viewpoint and a willingness not to judge me that opened up an ongoing dialogue and helped me understand things in a different way.

      But maybe I’m just being judgmental about your judging.

      1. Yea, it becomes nuanced. There are times to judge. Jesus judged for sure. He certainly expressed a commentary full of judgment to those who were not loving. It is a hard place to find but there is a place where we might have different beliefs about when people deserve love and not judgment or judgment with love or maybe a different word than judgment. Judgment as respectful disagreement is okay; judgment with hateful disrespect of one’s dignity, not okay. We can’t not judge. Maybe the piece is not judging people’s personhood if we disagree with their lifestyle. THAT is where we think we are better, not just different.

Comments are closed.