Friday, January 21, 2011

Judge Not

I have been thinking recently about the concept of judging others. It seems we hear very often that we should love the sinner and hate the sin. My question is, how is this possible? I know that I can be very judgmental. However, now that I have come to see things the way that I do, I am much more considerate and lenient when it comes to judging those outside the church, but I am more harsh than ever in judging those in the church.

I think I have a hard time being able to judge a behavior as bad while not simultaneously, in some far reaching place in my mind, also judge the person engaging in the behavior as bad. For example, I don't think I could sit in front of a person who had earned some form of recognition, who I know had also killed a person, and not think of them as anything other than a murderer, no matter how great the accomplishment. Supposedly, I am told, I must look not on the behavior, but I must look at the individual, somehow, as separate from the behavior that I have come to identify as being what that person represents.

We can only form opinions (judgments) about people based on their behavior. Even if we hold as a core value that everyone is pure and wholesome and perfect in their nature, until their behavior proves to us that they are otherwise, the behavior will inevitably lead us to a determination of the kind of person we think they are. Character is a word that comes to mind. A person's character is not determined by what they aspire to be or intend to be, but rather what they actually do. Character cannot be changed by simply wishing it were so. Character can only be changed based on behavior over time. It is also important to note that a person's character cannot be adequately determined by one action alone, but it can only be fairly gaged by consistent behavior over time.

This is what is known as giving people the benefit of the doubt. The doubt that is created when we only have one action to base a judgment of someone's character on is fair and justified, but extremely difficult to rely on when it is all we have. I can't be expected to be able to say that someone is not a liar if they have only told me one thing and it was a lie. The reality is, I don't think I can ever think of that person as anything other than a liar.

It seems to me that those that believe the bible, and what religions teach people nowadays, are stuck between a figurative rock and hard place when it comes to judging others. On the one hand we are told that we should judge not, but on the other hand we are told that God will judge everyone for their behavior (because God is somehow entitled where we are not) and that judgment will be swift, powerful and final. It's a way of saying that I can't judge you but just wait until my sky daddy gets his hands on're gonna get it! (spoken in my best childlike tattle-tale voice)

So, when I was in grade school I remember the conversations children had about how they may not be able to beat someone up, but they would follow up that acknowledgment with some veiled threat about how their dad (or older brother) could beat them up, or that their dad could beat up the other kid's dad. I'm sure I engaged in some of this myself, and I'm pretty sure that there was no way I was not judging what the other person was doing as wrong (that made me want to beat them up) even though I acknowledged that I wasn't capable of carrying out my judgment myself. My point is that it is literally impossible to not be judging someone when you know someone else will, at some point, be that person's judge. Especially when you believe that their perfect judgment will be right in line with how you would judge. How is this not judging again? I literally think it is impossible to on one hand claim that there will be a judgment (that will be perfectly aligned with your judgment of the person) and at the same time honestly acknowledge that you are not judging. I'm sorry, but anytime we honestly feel that someone will be judged by another party (whether it be a judge in a court of law or the final judgment bar in heaven) it is because we have already judged them ourselves. In fact, some people can't ever overcome their judgment of people even when a court of law sees things differently than they do. We are human and judgment is part of our least I used to think so.

When I believed in a final judgment and execution of God's law upon mankind for their misdeeds (whenever that could take place), I felt like things could ultimately be made right in the world and my feelings, knowledge, beliefs would one day be vindicated. Those suckas gonna get that cap popped in tha shiz so they betta watch out mutha shukka, my sky daddy gonna be the poppa and youz gonna get pwned! Even though I obviously wouldn't say that (cuz I don't talk like that) I am most certainly thinking it. How can I be thinking this on the one hand and on the other hand actually be living the commandment to not judge again? I literally think it is impossible.

Thinking about that, let's contrast to how I feel now. If I remove the belief in a final judgment and God's execution of it. How do I now see others? Especially if I have taken off the pair of spectacles, I used to see the world through, that said I had all of those laws and rules that the judgment was going to be based on in my understanding. If there is no judgment in the next life, the only judgment is my judgment right here, right now. I realize that I am certainly not qualified to be a lawgiver or adequate judge, so I understand that my judgment may not be just. Everybody has the benefit of the doubt, because I am not as certain as I used to be in the existence of the final judgment and that I have all the knowledge of what behavior will be judged favorably or harshly. Then the only question I need to ask is, "What is my judgment based on?" My judgment is only based on what I perceive to be best based on my situation and understanding. If I don't have a full understanding of all the circumstances surrounding a person's behavior, they are always entitled to the benefit of the doubt. It is much easier to give knowing that I am not absolutely 100% correct in my beliefs about what God has said everyone should and should not do. Taking that away makes me much more patient and understanding with those who do things I may disagree with.

The problem I now face is that I am pretty harsh on people who continue to profess belief in the church. I think it is because I used to be where they are and I have come to despise the person I used to be. I was a good person, sure, but I saw everyone else as evil to one degree or another. I do not like that I felt that way. Of course, I understand that I may have just been brought up with some crazy ideas about how to look on others, but I do not see how I could have come to any different conclusion being convinced that God is real, that God has given us laws to keep, and that God will ultimately judge us for breaking those laws. How could I have come to any different conclusion based on those teachings being my reality? Sure, I was given a commandment as part of that set of teachings to not judge others, but it is a contradiction. I could not possibly avoid judging others (for doing what I knew to be wrong) knowing that it IS wrong and God will judge for it.

I guess someone could say, "Well, you are forgetting about the atonement." My responses are, 1) The atonement and repentance does not negate the fact that the behavior is wrong and 2) Since repentance is a personal thing, I have no idea whether or not the necessary steps have been accomplished (to fully satisfy God's requirements) and that the repentance has actually taken place. Not knowing this puts me back in a place of not knowing anything except what I know to be wrong. I propose that no amount of commandments to judge not or principles of correct judgment (such as the golden rule) can ever make up for the tainting of my ability to judge by the purported knowledge that a judgment will take place. As long as that belief is in place (that I have God's laws of judgment in my possession),

As long as belief in God, and judgment, is maintained, as an absolute, I am not truly capable of removing judgment of others from my mind. No matter how hard I try to forget or ignore or deny it, the laws are still there and they have still been broken. Even though I am not the final judge, I can only assume that a perfect judge would have to see things according to the laws I have been given (which I "know" are God's perfect laws). Absent a doubt in my belief that I have God's perfect laws of judgment in my possession, I cannot fully live the commandment to not judge others. The only way to possibly not be able to judge others is to allow the doubt about my awareness of God's perfect laws to creep in. Only then can I be fully capable of withholding judgment of others. The problem is, doubt is discouraged with almost as equal vigor that the commandment to not judge is proclaimed. This creates cognitive discomfort (dissonance) because it is not possible to hold both ideas as true simultaneously. It is either the case that God's law is known absolutely (and we must keep it and those that don't are in violation and will reap His judgment) or that we must not judge because God's laws (rules) are not fully known to us.

Of course, we have to give the benefit of the doubt to those that are not fully aware of God's laws, but two facts remain. 1) They are still breaking the laws. Ignorance of the law is no excuse when it comes being judged for breaking the law and 2) They, at some point will be fully made aware of the laws they have broken and will have to be held accountable at that time. A scripture about sin and God looking at it with the least degree of allowance comes to mind.

I really can't think of any way to get around the tendency to judge being directly correlated to one's certainty of their knowledge of the truth that they claim to have. If anyone has any thoughts on how to overcome this correlation directly I am all ears. Just try not to judge me and what I stand for unless and until you have walked a mile in my shoes, regardless of what you claim to know about what is absolutely right and wrong for people to do in this life. That's the problem, you can't have it both ways. And that is why a civil conversation is not possible with some people...because they keep thinking the whole time you are talking..."My sky daddy's gonna get you good sooner or later so you betta watch out sucka". I think this clouds peoples' ability to judge (or not judge).

1 comment:

  1. I just wanted to post a follow up thought to this post. What I am talking about here is also like living in a society (like ours) where we have laws on the books and we know it is illegal to do certain things. If stealing is against the law where we live and I see you steal something, I know you have broken the law. Regardless of whether or not I decide to turn you in to the authorities for stealing, the fact remains, you have broken the law and I will continually have to wonder when you will get caught for it. You may not get caught for a long time, but does that allow me to ever feel like you have not broken the law? No. As long as I know what the laws are, and I see (or have evidence) that you have broken the law, you are never the same in my eyes and, even though I may not be your judge, I can never see you as anyone other than a law breaker.