Step 1. We admit that our single most unmitigated pleasure is to judge other people.
We can do this almost without thinking. We can do this with our eyes closed. Someone cuts in front of us in line and we are suddenly an expert on where that guy buys his clothes, his poor color choices and the really bad haircut he got last time. “Must have cut it himself without a mirror.”
Or the neighbor we thought had the perfect family is yelling at his kids. How convenient; we’re happy to take that guy down right now. One less perfect family on the block. We’re feeling better already.
Or maybe it’s just people who are not like us. They might have different color skin, or speak with an accent, or worship a different god, or walk a little gay. We will look for the first opportunity to bring them down — if not all the way down, at least to a place that is lower than we are in our own mind.
Why do we do this, and why is it so much fun? I think, for the most part, we indulge in this behavior because there are always people and situations that need to be set straight, and we can avoid having to face any shortcomings in ourselves by focusing on everyone else. Jesus said that when we judge others, we are bringing judgment upon ourselves, which shows the obvious connection right there.
We judge because we are guilty, and the guiltier we feel, the more we will judge. It’s human nature. If we are really feeling bad about ourselves, we will find something wrong with just about everybody, and because there is something wrong with everybody, we will always be successful at this. That’s why it’s so dangerous; it works.
Judging is natural; it’s human nature. It’s even good from the standpoint that there needs to be right and wrong and a legitimated system of justice so that those who have done wrong will pay. But judging as Pharisees goes way beyond that. It’s personal. We all know we have failed. We all know we have flaws. We all know we are too fat, skinny, dumb, stuck-up, jealous, lustful, crooked, etc., but if we can find someone who is equally all these things or worse, we do not have to face ourselves. We have to do something with this guilt. Either we own up to our own, or we focus on everybody else’s. And which of those sounds more fun to you? No wonder we are such experts on everyone else’s sin.
Judging is basically ducking. Some accusation or assessment for which we are at fault comes our way; we simply duck, and let someone else get it. In fact, we are usually directing this. Constantly deflecting to others what we need to take to heart. But that would be too difficult. That would be too painful. To admit our failure or our mistake would be too belittling to our wounded egos, so we bypass it or pass it off to someone else. That’s why Jesus said the opposite. Judge others and you will be judged by the same standard, for that is indeed what you are doing. We’re judging others to avoid being judged, and Jesus told us we are actually proclaiming our own guilt when we do that.
Marti and I have this imaginary sign we pretend to use when needed; it reads: “I WAS WRONG; YOU ARE RIGHT.” Just last night, in two seemingly insignificant instances (they always are insignificant, but somehow important to us) Marti had to pick up the sign. Twice. I was a little bit smug about it until I got caught needing to pick up the sign myself on another matter (and probably should have picked it up for my smugness). How quickly I had to give up my one-upmanship. I’m always amazed at how hard this is to do, and how stubborn I am about picking up that sign. For every one thing I have on her, she has two on me. I’m never going to win at this game. And that’s the whole point: we’re not supposed to win. In fact, there is no contest. We’re all guilty.
And therein lies the conclusion to this whole charade as well as I can tell from here. We are all guilty. I’m just as guilty as the next guy. We do not even want to pick up this gavel. It’s really very simple. Deflect the judgment you deserve to others, or receive the grace you don’t deserve, and turn that grace outward toward others. That’s the beginning and the end of Step 1.
Let us know how you’re doing with that.