Judge Not, Lest Ye Be a Jerk
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? Matthew 7:3 (Holy Bible, NIV)
There’s a difference between expressing an opinion and being judgmental, hence the Son of God’s advice to Christians. Smart guy, that Jesus.
Opinions are everywhere. From your best friend’s book recommendation: “I loved ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’” to your five-year-old’s dinner-time proclamations: “I hate green beans!”, you can’t avoid opinions, and you shouldn’t, because it’s these expressions of personal preference that help us learn about each other so we can be more discerning about who we connect with and how.
Problems arise when opinions evolve into judgments. Why? Because once an opinion grows from a simple personal preference “I don’t like ___”, to “He/she is bad”, you’re stamping a permanent mark on something that can’t be erased. On Daily OM.com, a February 27, 2008 article entitled ‘Staying Open and Fluid’ states that:
“When we make a judgment…we attempt to have a final say on whether someone or something is inherently good or bad. Judgments close us down instead of opening us up; opinions have a lighter quality and are amenable to change. Once a judgment has been made, there is no more conversation or consideration, whereas opinions invite further debate.”( http://www.dailyom.com/articles/2008/12413.html)
Christians, I’m sorry to say, can be the worst offenders. You only have to turn on the news to see church-goers holding signs with hate-filled messages like “God Hates Gays”, or protests at an American soldier’s funeral, where the signs read “God Hates War”, or a pastor burning the Quran while his followers hold up signs that say “God Hates Islam”. If God hates anything, it’s probably how idiotic we can be.
Judgments come from within our own circles, too. I don’t know of any other profession that garners more judgment than motherhood, and usually from other mothers. If you’re not being judged for breastfeeding in public, you’re being labeled a bad mom for choosing to bottle-feed. Everything you do as a mother is judged in some way. From sleeping arrangements to the choice to stay at home or work, you’ll have some sort of “bad mom” label stuck on you no matter what you do. And that’s sad, because mothering children really does take a village. We should be encouraging each other and supporting one another’s efforts through the challenging years of raising little ones.
If there’s another profession that could rival motherhood for being a judgment magnet, it’s writing. Jack Eason, a writer friend of mine from the UK has been one of many targets of what he calls “Amazon trolls”. (See his blog article here: http://akhen1khan2.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/say-no-to-amazon-trolls.html)
In his case, it appears to be a couple who have nothing better to do than post nasty book reviews. I barely have the time to write a legitimate review, much less a deliberately horrible one. Harsh reviews, in general, can slide into judgmental territory when they go from “I didn’t like ___” to “This author is terrible.” Statements like the latter one don’t give the author anything constructive with which to improve. They only belittle and discourage.
That’s why I urge you to not stop sharing opinions, but to keep a firm grip on your words. If you write a book review, think of the time and effort that author put into his/her work. If you see a mom parenting differently than you do, put yourself in her shoes before you assume she’s a bad mother. If you are a Christian, take another look at Matthew 7:3 and live by example, not by condemnation.
As I get older, I realize how many times I’ve flung judgments around myself. Perhaps idealism fueled by youth blinds us to how hurtful our words can be, and none of us will ever completely stop judging. But, that’s the point Jesus was making in that verse. None of us are perfect, and while you still might make the mistake of judging someone else unfairly, it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it and whittle the plank in your eye down to something more manageable.
Like a toothpick.
Mysti Parker is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale, was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and is the first in a fantasy romance series. Book Two, Serenya’s Song, was published this April. Mysti reviews speculative fiction for SQ Magazine, and is the proud writer of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award.
A Ranger’s Tale: Melange Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble,Smashwords
Serenya’s Song: MelangeBooks, Amazon
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