Judgment – or Loving?

We certainly like to judge, don’t we? While both secular people and church people love to judge, I believe that church people get a whole lot more excited over the opportunity that secular folk do. Perhaps that’s because church folk believe, on a more or less conscious level, that they can bring the wrath of God onto those they judge.

The problem with all of this is two-fold. First, Christians are instructed in the Bible not to judge. Of course, that doesn’t stop them. The second problem is that God is not wrathful. I refer you to Julian of Norwich on that point, with whom I completely agree. Dame Julian points out that since God is unchanging God cannot one moment be loving and the next be angry as this would involve a dramatic change in the person of God. I would say that it is impossible to be both loving and wrathful – that wrath drives out love.

Despite all this, we judge. We judge the lady down the street because her kids are “wild”. We judge people’s dress, their hair, their homes, their cars, their occupations, their illnesses, their health, their friends, their lovers, and just about everything else we can get our judgment on. We do this either because we think God needs the help or (more likely) because we feel woefully inadequate ourselves.

If I feel inadequate, one of the unhealthy ways for me to feel more adequate is for me to convince myself that everyone else is even less adequate than I am. I look at people I meet not as an opportunity to expand my circle of friends but rather as an opportunity to expand the group of folks I have decided are not as fine as I am. Even the church leads the way on this, declaring as sin a truckload of things which are not sinful at all. Parts of the church even declare love sinful, and virtually every corner of the church is way too concerned about how we express our love as they press their collective noses against our bedroom windows. If an individual worried about sexual activity as much as the church does, we would diagnose them sexually preoccupied. For my part, I think it’s too bad that the church universal can’t have sex, because I can’t help but think if it would just get laid it would relax about sex.

It’s time we stop worrying about everyone else and start worrying about ourselves. If each of us spent half the time we currently spend judging others and used it to work on ourselves and getting our own house in order we would very soon lose the need to judge others. If we could all relax (perhaps take a laxative) and rest in the simple truth that just as there is diversity in nature there is diversity in human beings – and that is OK, it is the way it is supposed to be – we wouldn’t need to spend all our time judging and could put our time to the much better task of loving unconditionally!

When I was completing my undergraduate studies at Wisconsin Lutheran College (a very fine school, by the way) I was exposed for the first time to the notion that judgment can be loving. They told me that by excommunicating someone from the church (which means declaring them unwelcome, expelling them, kicking them out) they were actually acting in a loving way because even though their feelings might be hurt the change existed that this action could cause them to repent and fall into line with the behavior and thought control mechanism that is the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS). To me that sounds remarkably like the physically abusive parent who is pounding the snot out of their child while announcing, “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” Judgment, and even more so judgment followed by exclusion is never loving and is always abusive.

In truth, every major religion cautions against judging in their scriptures. Christianity’s “Judge not, lest ye be judged” and “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in someone else’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” need to be ringing in our ears before we even think about judging someone. And, from the Dhammapada, “Do not consider the faults of others or what they have or haven’t done. Consider rather what you yourself have or haven’t done.”

Stop judging and look within – and you will find that your practice of judging isn’t nearly as attractive when you use it on yourself.

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