I have never felt comfortable with the following scripture:
“Judge not, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1)
It has always felt ‘off’, and I didn’t quite get it.
Reminiscent of a school playground threat: “If you do that to them, well, I’ll do it to you! So there!”
I think of God as an infinite source of wisdom, power, positive creation and love, yet this short sentence suggests a churlish and spiteful demeanour.
Or does it?
I view the Bible as a collection of life-affirming knowledge gathered over millennia by my countless forebears. Advice worthy of attention, yet this verse seems out of place.
Or does it?
Have I misunderstood?
My understanding has shifted after revisiting these words with fresh eyes and ears.
Firstly it tells me that it is not a good idea to judge.
The kind of judgement, that is, which carries a finality and a decree absolute.
It is never a good idea to think I know something (or someone).
The moment “I know”, I punctuate my learning with a full stop and thereby cease the inflow of new information.
Until the moment of ‘knowing’, I am attentive, observant, thoughtful, open to further knowledge, and my opinion (my judgement) is still forming.
Once I decide that I know all there is to know (as if that were ever a possibility!), I form my conclusion, and what was a fluid process up to that point, with options, becomes static.
I now know.
I form a judgement.
It can be anything: a person, an idea/concept, a play, a meaning, the best way to do something, the right of it etc.
To know it is to freeze it in place.
I give it a label, box it and store the judgement in my mind.
It is like putting the thing in a cage.
In my mind, and therefore to me, the thing is now limited.
Imprisoned in my mind by the filter of my judgement.
When I direct this attitude towards another person, I limit my belief of their strengths, abilities and potential to the measure contained within my judgement.
I create a ceiling of expectation.
If the person concerned is a random stranger passing through my world, it is only a minor issue, but it rapidly becomes of concern if I am in life with that person: my child, partner, employee, co-worker, friend etc.
My judgements will hold me back from helping them achieve their potential.
(Why would I encourage and support them to reach for goals I have deemed them incapable of? – Waste of time)
Worse still, if I speak out my pronouncements, thereby blighting others with my labels.
My judgements cannot be correct.
At the very least, they are outdated, and at the worst, they are just plain wrong.
Judging can become a habit.
It is a bad habit.
It is also a destructive habit.
Judgement installs limitations, firstly on others and then it rebounds back on the judge.
If I don’t actively and determinedly develop a habit of not forming final opinions, then the judgement’s spotlight of attention will turn itself inwards, and I will be its next victim of limitation.
I can’t do that.
I can’t stop that
I can’t be that
Over my pay-grade
Out of my league
My opinions make a difference.
I will only achieve what I believe I can.
I will never be more than I believe I can be.
My beliefs and judgements form ceilings to growth and endeavour.
Hold all knowledge lightly and be open to new ideas.
Be ready to believe the best about myself and others.
Don’t make final decrees because they limit the world, and they limit me, further limiting the world.
Do the world a favour and judge not!