Instead of criticizing others, notice good things, no matter how small.
Posted in , Oct 11, 2013
The other day I saw a sign in front of a church that read: “You’re a temple, not a courtroom. Don’t judge.” It made me smile, but it also made me face a hard truth: We all judge each other way more than we should. James 4:12 poses the sobering question: “But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Scripture tells us that our worth comes from being children of God. If only that message fully penetrated our hearts! Unfortunately there are times when we aren’t sure how we measure up, and so we measure ourselves against others—preferably to our advantage.
We gauge our worth, and the worth of others, on surface issues, “judging by mere appearances” instead of looking to Christ and the Gospel to help us judge correctly (John 7:24). We negate the truth that God loves each of us infinitely — and equally. Every time we criticize, we add negativity to God’s creation.
Sometimes we become judgmental when we see our personal weaknesses mirrored in someone else. Oh, how irritating that speck of sawdust (Matthew 7:3) in the other person’s eye makes us! What we can’t bear to see in ourselves, we critique in others.
We “have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear,” for we are a rebellious people when it comes to recognizing our faults (Ezekiel 12:2). We need to take off the blinders of pride that make us assume we are in a position to comment on the weaknesses of others.
At times we contribute to judgmental attitudes by remaining silent when someone else speaks unkindly. It’s an old and familiar problem: How do we stop gossip? The most direct way is simply to say, “Stop! None of us is perfect.” But if we haven’t the courage to be so bold, there are still ways to counter harmful words. The simplest method is to append a positive statement to the end of each negative one.
If someone says, “I wonder how long it’s been since she’s bought new shoes!” we can reply, “I don’t know, but I’ve been impressed at her wonderful help with outreach.” We can shift the tone of a conversation that begins “He’s always dominating conversation!” by noting that the person also has many good ideas to share.
We can get a start on this by noticing good things about others, no matter how small. Try it. Next time you are in a group of people, whether at the mall or at a church event, set yourself a goal of finding one positive thing about each person you see. When you see it, mention it.
The more we refuse to “grumble against one another” (James 5:9), the more we will “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).