(Due to the fact that I will be undergoing cervical spine surgery on March 17th, it may be a few weeks before I am able to post again. This post is a longer one, but maybe it will cover for my absence. You all will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.)
But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:31
Nobody likes to feel judged. I hate feeling judged about my house, the status of my finances, my relationship with my husband, my chosen form of birth control, my other medications, the number of children that I have, my children’s behavior… The list could go on and on of things that I have felt judged about at one time or another. I know that you have experienced the same thing. We all want to be accepted and loved for who we are, no matter what that might mean.
Why do people judge? First of all, we need to understand the word “judge,” and what it really means. This word is often over-used in society, especially in Christian circles. The actual definition of the word “judge” is: “to form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration.” When Scripture uses the word, it implies that “careful consideration” is the act of measuring something or someone against a set standard. So I think we can agree that when we judge something or someone, we are forming a belief based upon the impression that we get from that thing or person, when compared to a pre-determined set of rules or guidelines.
Scripture talks about judging others, being discerning, and testing to be sure something is truly of God. It is not so much the “judging” that is the issue, as is the measurement with which we judge. So, maybe better questions would be, what are the reasons that we may feel judged, what standard is being used, and how should we be responding to judgments, based on God’s Word?
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. 1 John 4:1a
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14
1. Why do we feel judged?
a. Our Insecurities
If we do not feel confident about what we are doing or in who we are, we will often feel judged by others, even when no one is actually judging us.
The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. Romans 14:22-23
Often, we interpret what someone says and turn it into a judgment. This is especially true, if we know that they feel or believe differently than we do. We must be careful not to make assumptions. We need to be discerning.
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:20
c. Actual Judgments
Sometimes, we are actually being judged. Whether someone states this flat-out, or infers it. We have all felt the sting of someone’s disapproval. How we respond to these is so important to our testimony. None of us are perfect. We all need correction once in a while.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3
2. What standards are used to judge?
a. Past expectations
I am a bit rough on things. I tend to break things, unintentionally and rather frequently. I truly don’t mean to, but somehow, I just do. After I got married, I would get so scared to tell my husband that I messed something up. I was so afraid he would get mad at me. Was it because he set this standard? No, it was because of how I grew up. If we broke something as a kid, it was bad news! My father’s personality was like mine. He was very verbal about his thoughts and feelings, and he wasn’t a big fan of fixing things, because of my negligence. He would get frustrated if a kick ball rolled into the garden. On the other hand, my husband is very even-tempered. Very little upsets him. In nearly 20 years, I have only seen him truly mad a handful of times. He has never yelled at me, and has never even made me feel stupid for breaking something. It took time to re-set this standard in my head, and allow myself to act accordingly.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:12-14
We often set standards based on what society expects of us. Think about something as simple as beauty. Commercials, TV programs, billboards, and magazines set a standard for beauty that leaves 99% of us lacking. Society sets many other standards as well. Money = success, Sex = love, Possessions = happiness, etc. If we are not careful, we will find ourselves judging based on the false standards of this world.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. I John 2:15-16
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 2 Timothy 2:4
Sometimes, we judge – especially ourselves – simply based on what we desire. For example: If we desire to be a mother and we are not, we assume that we are a failure. Our desires is such a shallow and frustrating standard, because we have little to no control over how to measure up.
For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. Proverbs 8:11
Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. Proverbs 19:2
d. Other people’s wishes
This is another one that is exasperating. The mother-in-law thinks that you should be spending more time reading to your 6 month old, while your husband thinks that books are a waste of time, if your child cannot even speak yet. What do you do? Most of us try to please both. Because you feel that either way, you are going to be a failure in the eyes of somebody. Not to even mention that we totally frustrate ourselves in the process. I love what Dave Ramsey says: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” This is often so true, unfortunately.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Colossians 3:22
e. “Written” rules
Whether they are literally written on paper or not, this standard is usually much more attainable, and most of the time, it is much more reasonable. This would include school procedures, government laws, and most importantly, God’s instructions in Scripture.
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:29b
3. How should we respond to judgments – real or perceived?
a. First of all, we need to establish a correct standard of measurement for ourselves.
God’s standard should be the standard we hold ourselves against. Anything else will have us frustrated and leave us feeling like empty failures. Only the truth can set us free, and only the truth can point us in the direction of how we should live – in every single area of life. If someone comes to us with a judgment, we should be open to listen, and then, we need to search our hearts and determine if the judgment is accurate. We must be honest with ourselves, before God. God does use others to exhort and correct us. Even though it may be uncomfortable, the direction of others can save us a lot of heartache later on.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. Proverbs 12:1
The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. Proverbs 15:31
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence. Proverbs 15:32
b. Next, we need to establish a correct standard of measurement for others.
We all make judgments every day, all day long. We judge if the people around us in a parking lot look safe. We judge if the cashier looks smart enough to get us checked out in a hurry. We judge the mom in the next aisle, when her child screams out a swear word. We even judge other drivers, based on their speed and decisiveness. And that is just our list of judgments before lunchtime! Are we supposed to judge others? The answer is “yes.” However, Scripture is very clear that we need to be careful to judge everyone, including ourselves, by the same standard – God’s standard. We also need to have discretion, and exhortation needs to be coupled with grace.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment. John 7:24
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
c. Lastly, we need to practice grace and forgiveness.
We are going to fall short of the standard – again and again. So is everyone else around us. Ultimately, if you do not enjoy being judged for petty things, avoid judging others for these things as well. Choosing to give grace and forgiveness – to ourselves and to others – will certainly go a long way in allowing us to live more peaceful and joyful lives.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. Hebrews 12:14-15
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace. 1 Peter 4:10
But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. 2 Corinthians 8:7
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37
Original material by Holly M. Besser. Perfect Joy Ministries ©2014. May not be used or re-printed without permission.