“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” These words, written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, helped me better understand what it means to judge.
We pass judgments on people every day. We notice the color of their skin, the symmetry of their face, their clothing, their personality, and their behavior. We automatically categorize people based on what we observe within minutes of knowing them. This person is a goody-two shoes, a rebel, a freak, a geek, shallow or deep, smart or dumb, shy or outgoing, ugly or attractive. This person is a gossip, a cheat, an adulterer, a liar, a non-church goer, a druggie, or a glutton.
Later, we look at ourselves in the mirror. “I’m unique and special,” we think. “I don’t fit into any of these categories; I’m whole. Sure, I’ve made a few mistakes, but I think I’m a pretty good person.” When we take a glimpse at our flaws, we rationalize them or simply ignore them. It’s as if we take off our glasses and see our own sin with blurry eyes. As soon as we turn to look at another person, we put on our glasses, and then look through a microscope to notice every fault of his or hers. We criticize a person’s behavior and become blind to our own.
Judging other people distracts us from working on our own shortcomings. In Luke 6:41, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” We don’t have any authority to point out another person’s wrongdoings when we’re not even working on remedying our own. We can’t see clearly to determine what is right or wrong when we are blinded by our own rationalization that we are a decent person. We forget that we’re all in need of God’s grace.
When we focus on how God has been merciful to us in the past; how He’s forgiven us of everything we’ve done wrong, we realize that everyone needs grace. No one’s perfect and everyone has made mistakes whether they are considered tiny or huge, willful or misguided. If we look at others with love and grace, being mindful of what God has done for us, we’ll open ourselves to others more quickly. It will be easier for us to avoid writing someone off. We’ll take the time to get to know all kinds of people and hopefully learn to love them just as God loves us: unconditionally.