Without realising, we judge a lot. But how much of it is good, and how much of it do we need to reconsider?
We as people can do a lot of things really well. We all have different skills, abilities and talents that help us leave our mark on the world. And while we love to recognise the good parts in ourselves and in others, there’s another thing that we do really well but don’t often want to admit. We can do it with our eyes closed, we can do it without concentrating, we can even do it without actually knowing we’ve done it. And we do it really well.
How many times today have you passed judgment on something? You’ve probably browsed through this website quickly to see if there’s anyone you know in the pictures. You’ve probably picked the articles that look the most interesting and skipped over the rest. Hopefully you’re reading this one . . . But how many times have you judged another person? Whether it’s what they’re wearing, who they’re with, what they did last weekend. How many times have you, maybe without even meaning to, created a quick opinion of somebody else based on what’s in front of you?
In the blink of an eye.
A recent study conducted by two Princeton psychologists discovered that it takes less than a tenth of a second for us to form a quick impression of somebody else, based entirely on what we see. That’s less than the time it takes to blink! It’s not to say that every judgment we form about another person is a bad one. But in that exact same study, they also found that more than 90 per cent of those snap judgments were negative.
There’s a lot that can go wrong with this habit. Not only can we subconsciously make up a story about someone in our heads that’s so unbelievably damaging and untrue, but we can allow these tiny judgments to dictate who we invest our time in.
When judging fails.
A little while ago, I was late to class at uni, not unusual. When I stepped into the room, I had a few seconds to choose where I was going to sit. After a quick glance around, I located some friendly looking people and went to sit with them. In that moment, I was choosing to sit with these nice-looking individuals because most of them were smiling, and because everybody else looked scary. While I thought I was helping myself, this split-decision backfired within minutes. You see, I thought the group of guys in the corner looked rugged and intimidating, so I didn’t sit there. I thought the loud group at the front were too outgoing for me so I avoided them too. I chose the small, happy-looking group near the door because they looked the least terrifying.
Turns out the guys in the corner were exchange students from Germany and didn’t speak much English, so they were probably more scared of me then I was of them. The loud group at the front had just finished singing “Happy Birthday” to one of their classmates, and didn’t say anything after that for the entire session. The group that I chose to sit with based purely on what I saw, lost their smiles as soon as I put my bag down. They had to make room for me on their table, and that was a huge upset because their laptops were already set up in a perfect circle before I arrived.
I passed an immediate judgment on more than 80 per cent of that classroom, resulting in picking the wrong group, and had nobody to blame but myself.
As Christians, we stand by loving everybody no matter what their individual circumstance or beliefs. And even though this is one of our main convictions, we are only human and we’re going to struggle more than once in our journey. Luckily for us, our verdicts regarding others count for absolutely nothing. But there is still a constant need for us to better ourselves. Believe it or not, there are actually tips on how to avoid judgment, formulated by our very own Creator, as He obviously knew we’d need a bit of assistance here.
1. Pray for wisdom and discernment before you talk (Proverbs 10:13)
Many of us are guilty of speaking without thinking, and often regret what follows. Formulating an opinion based on a situation we know little about has the potential to cause more harm than good, so God suggests to practice a bit of compassion and understanding before we act.
2. Treat others how you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12)
When we get dressed in the morning, we don’t pick our clothes out thinking to ourselves, “I really hope someone hates this outfit and throws food at me today.” No, we usually dress in what we think looks good. Nobody wants to be treated poorly, even if they say otherwise. So before we do or say anything, visualise somebody saying it to you first, then make your decision.
3. Respect diversity (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Do you ever look at somebody else’s family and think to yourself, “They’re so weird”, then you send yourself on a mind trip wondering if your family are the actual weird ones? Whether it’s multicultural, multilingual or multicoloured, we are all normal. We have all been hand-crafted by the exact same God, with not one single person being more or less perfect than the other. So before wondering how God could possibly love that person over there, wonder first how He could possibly love us.
4. Let God be the final judge (James 4:12)
As much as we like to think we do, we will never know enough to judge another person fairly. We won’t ever have that truly complete, unaffected understanding of another person that goes deep enough to build a fair conviction. Each and every one of us have our own stories, scars and personal journeys that cannot possibly be understood by any other than the One who created us. He did not give us the capacity nor wisdom to judge the way He does, so let’s not try.
Being quick to assume can affect our ability to reach out to others and it often takes a hard lesson in humility for us to realise it. We are human and we will always make mistakes, but God has already got that covered. When we used to forget how to feed our tamagotchi, we’d look up the instructions. Much the same, God has written an entire book on how to navigate our way through life! He’s done the hard part already, all we’ve got to do is look it up.