I had an episode in my life recently when I did something that was pretty innocent, conversation happened, my motives were judged, assumptions were made, and people rendered a verdict about the worth of our friendship. So they ended it. I had no choice.
Sounds cold, huh? I must have done something really heinous, right? Nope. Not at all. But they thought I did. And judgment happened, nevertheless.
If there is anything we humans have in common, it’s our quickness to judge.
*For discussion here, my definition of judgment is our inclination to develop a negative view of people’s choices and behaviors, to question their motives, to criticize their lack of intelligence, and to assume we know what they should have done or said or what is best for their life. And civilized people all do this with a smile on their face, but with a smug sound in their voice.
- We judge their marriages.
- We judge their parenting choices.
- We judge the way they spend their money.
- We judge the way they spend their time.
- We judge their leadership.
- We judge their politics.
- We judge their theology.
- We judge their church.
- We judge their words.
- We judge their responses.
- We see what they do and we assume we know why they did it.
- We judge public figures. We judge our co-workers. We judge casual acquaintances. We judge our close friends. We judge our family members.
Because we know.
But here’s the problem. We never know the whole story. And there is always more story.
We may hear what someone says or see what they are doing, but we cannot know the motive…at least not completely. And we definitely don’t know what happened to get them to this spot…even though we think we know.
- Unless you were there, you don’t know.
- Unless you hear first-hand, you don’t know.
- Unless you can see behind closed doors, you don’t know.
- Unless you know their pain, their behavior won’t make sense.
- Unless you know their past, their choices may seem ridiculous, or even disastrous.
- Unless you’ve walked in their shoes, you can’t know.
- Unless you’ve carried their burden, you can’t feel the weight.
- Unless you’ve lived their life, you simply can’t see the whole picture.
So we’ve just got to stop assuming we know what’s in another person’s heart…what’s behind their decisions…what’s causing their reaction.
You may say, “Well, I know enough and what they are doing/saying is wrong or bad or destructive or malicious.” That may be true, but you don’t know the whole story. You may be hurt or disgusted or angry, but until you become acquainted with their motive (the story behind the story), your reality is incomplete.
And when you only know part of the story, there’s no room for judging.