Jesus said it. Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. It is perhaps one of his hardest commands to us. We human beings are little judging machines, mostly because we want a way to assess the human being we just met for the first time or have grown annoyed with or that simply makes us have to work hard in the relationship business.
So we say things like, “She’s just trying to get attention.” Or “He thinks he’s really hot stuff.” Or “Just like every other black/brown/white/Asian person I’ve ever known.”
The truth is we really don’t know what we think we know about one another. There are a thousand little experiences that help create the people we are: hardship, poverty, bullying, abuse, failure, harsh or absent parents, and the list goes on.
I think that when Jesus told us to not judge, he was telling us to not attempt to be mind-readers or motive-readers. The only thing we are equipped to judge is an action. We don’t know why the action was completed, only that it was. We know that stealing is wrong, but we don’t know why the stealing was done.
Jean Valjean was the character around which Les Miserables was written. Arrested and jailed for stealing (wrong) bread to feed his family (right). An observer might say, “He’s just another lazy frenchman trying to live off the backs of hard working people.” But to say that would miss the huge back story of Jean Valjean’s life.
Judging, in the sense that Jesus meant it, is, at once, arrogant, impatient, and ignorant. Really getting to know another human being is time-consuming and often frustrating business. The opposite of judging is not gullibility; it is patience. Waiting, observing, questioning, and approaching.
The beginning of the process to understand another human being is not to put on the I’m-going-to-be-watching-you hat, but rather to be approachable and optimistic. Future observations may change your mind, but that is the conclusion of a process, not the beginning.
It’s really hard to not judge another. But grace is always lovelier.