How many times has someone called you “judgmental” because of something you said or wrote regarding an article or a person’s opinion? Me? More times than I care to remember.
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But aren’t we to judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2-3) And didn’t God tell Moses that he will take some of the Holy Spirit he placed on Moses and place it on others so that they can share in judging the people? (Numbers 11:16-30) Heck, even God thinks we should be able to judge others.
So why is it that when someone comments regarding an opinion or a statement, they are called judgmental, indicating that it is wrong to judge anyone?
If you ask me- and even if you don’t I will tell you, anyway (after all, it is my ministry, right?)- the difference between judging and being judgmental is not so much in what we say, but how we say it.
Once I was given (what we call) a back-handed compliment: My Boss told me that when we are in meetings what I say is usually correct, but because of the way I say it no one listens.
In other words, I judged correctly, but the way I expressed myself caused people to ignore my comment.
So, nu? How can we judge without being judgmental?
Here’s what I think the difference is: when we judge, we are looking at both sides of a situation and fairly and unemotionally making a statement regarding that situation. The focus is on the event and not the people involved with the event. When we go past the event and begin to make comments about the people involved, specifically their ability, their knowledge, or their emotional and spiritual state of mind that is when judging crosses over into being judgmental.
We can tell the difference between these two words simply from their proper grammatical usage: we can judge, but we are judgmental. “Judging” is something we do, but “judgmental” is something we are.
Of course, whenever someone judges they are, by definition, being judgmental, so where does it turn sour? It turns sour when we stop talking about the issue and turn it onto the person.
Here’s what I mean:
Judging: I understand what you said but when I look at the Bible references you quoted, there is more to them than what you gave us, and in their proper context the meaning you gave is not biblically sound.
Judgmental: I understand what you said but when I look at the Bible references you quoted, there is more to them than what you gave us, and if you were more spiritually mature you would have known that.
The difference is pretty obvious, isn’t it? Both times the comment is being judged, but in one case it is just the comment and in the other case, it is not the comment, alone, but the person, as well.
No one can tell what someone else’s spiritual state is. We can get an idea from what they say and write, and we can usually have a pretty good understanding of whether they know what they are saying or not, but even when we are positive, in our own mind, that the person is an idiot, it is not for us to say.
God is the only one who truly knows the heart, and even when we are absolutely certain someone is way off base, God knows if that is because they are really an idiot, or maybe a truly repentant and God-centered person who has been taught all the wrong things and speaks with concern but from ignorance.
I have never seen anyone who is in agreement with someone else be called judgmental; I assume that is because when someone says something we agree with, well, then, they are a genius! It seems we pull out the “You’re so judgmental!” card only when someone disagrees with us. Whether or not they really were judgmental, if I don’t have an answer to their comment I can always pull the judgmental excuse to redirect the issue.
In my experience, when someone accuses someone else of being judgmental it is little more than a defense mechanism designed to take the focus off the person accused of being wrong and placing it on the other person. It is nothing more than “smoke and mirrors”, and even when it is justified, it shouldn’t be used.
“Wait a minute, Steve! Why shouldn’t I call someone out when they are being judgmental?”
I’ll tell you why, and this is (of course) just my opinion: it won’t help. Even if you put that person in their place, so to speak, how will that help edify anyone? Sure, after you tell that person off they may open their eyes to what they were doing, but now the focus is totally off what you originally wanted to say and on this argument between the two of you. What you said in order to help people know God better, or edify them, or help console them, is now lost in the smokescreen that this name-calling has created.
If you find yourself being called judgmental, don’t reply and don’t just shrug it off: be humble enough to review what you said and if you think, even just think “maybe” you were judgmental, apologize.
And if you just have to let them know why you are right, you are no longer talking about God but just feeding your own pride.
Better that you should show humility and compassion for the feelings of others than to be correct because (just as I had to learn) being correct won’t be of any use if you are correct the wrong way.
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That’s it for today, so l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!