Stop Being Judgmental — A Word on Heart Opening (People. Matter. 01.17.17)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my all-time favorite theologians. If you’re not all into religion, though, he’s still one of the best writers on theological subjects and life in general. It turns out that he had something profound to say about being judgmental too…
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
Sadly, we spend a lot of time and energy judging other people. If we’re not judging them verbally for all to see, we’re doing so internally. We make assumptions about people based on how they look, what kind of name they have, where they live, work, or go to school, and what their hobbies or preferences are.
In a way, we judge others because doing so allows us to feel a sense of being “better than” of which the only minor benefit is temporarily feeling good about ourselves. And then again that’s not really a benefit because the outcome is negative. We don’t get better; we get worse, we feel worse, we are worse.
Judging others “blinds” us to our own vices, faults, and points of stumbling. It separates us from humanity. It keeps our heart stopped up. It pushes us away from connecting and engaging with people. This is what causes suffering, pain, human disengagement, and social conflict. God didn’t make us to live this way.
People are not born judgmental. We’re not born racist. We’re not born discriminating against people because of their differences, disabilities, age, race or gender. This type of thinking and behavior is learned. And as a result, we become visually and emotionally impaired to ourselves because that’s how we’ve learned to be and treat others. In short, we are what we say, think and feel about others.
But what is learned can also be unlearned. It’s probably tougher to reverse negative thoughts and attitudes. But if we want to feel connected to our fellow man and woman, we need to break the habit of judging them and allowing ourselves to feel the temporary pleasure of being “better than”.
Isn’t it interesting that when we’re on the receiving end of harsh criticism, everything suddenly becomes unfair? Judgment stems from a cold, closed heart — when we are the subject and when we are the perpetrators. We think “being judged” is painful and unfair. It is. It’s the same for everyone else. They may not show it or say anything but deep down in the recesses of their souls is where it hurts the most.
We need to let our hearts open up wide so we can see people for who they are. Not as “things” to be used and taken for granted and hated. But as human beings with souls, hearts, minds, and spirits who possess enormous amounts of brilliant talent, skill, and potential — without assumptions, presumptions, and misconceptions.
Judgment is so pervasive in society that it isn’t going to stop on its own. It will end when individuals choose to stop being judgmental and treat everyone with kindness and respect. Kindness and respect are not just nice words to put on a poster in your bedroom or to plaster on the back of a t-shirt. It should be a way of life. It should be part of what defines us. Until it does, we’ll continue to collectively feel that deep pain.
When we refuse to judge others we open our hearts to the goodness we were born with and to the grace everyone is equally entitled to.