Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
“Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1). But judging operates on autopilot. Without even thinking, we do it. A critical eye here, a complaint there, and assumptions everywhere. But at least in theory, most of us don’t want to be like that.
It is the reason that Susan Boyle’s January 21, 2009 audition for Britain’s Got Talent has over 195 million views on YouTube. Being judgmental was thrown back into our faces that day and we loved it.
When Susan was introduced, Simon Cowell rolled his eyes and the camera panned into the audience. People made faces and laughed at her. All had judged her to be a fool—too old at 48 to imagine she could become a star, poorly dressed, and having a bad hair day. When the lights dimmed and music for “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Miserables began, the crowd grew silent, expecting a ridiculous performance. Instead, Susan stunned everyone.
The judges spoke for us all. Piers Morgan: “When you stood that with that cheeky grin and said, ‘I want to be like Elaine Paige, everyone was laughing at you.’ No one is laughing now. That was stunning, an incredible performance. Amazing! I’m reeling from shock.”
The crowd gave Susan a wild, standing ovation, only 3 ½ minutes after they had judged her deficient. Two years earlier, Susan’s mum had died. She had been her caretaker and could not stop grieving. Susan often turned to the Blessed Mother, whom she calls her spiritual mother, for comfort. As the youngest of nine children from a strong Catholic home, Susan had struggled with school but found happiness as an adult in the church choir. Then, to get her mind off the loss of her mother, Susan entered the talent show.
The world fell in love with her. But did we learn the most important lesson from Susan Boyle; that judging others is to dehumanize them by deeming them less than ourselves? Susan surprised us but is she only worthy of our admiration because she has the voice of an angel? If Susan could not sing, would she have deserved our judgment?
Susan is less worthy of our admiration for her voice than for the guts it took to risk ridicule and failure when she walked on stage. The Susan Boyle story reveals our shallow values on how easily we judge which is not loving as Jesus told us to do.
By the way, it needs to be said that judging is also not a matter of discerning right and wrong. Rather, it is looking upon some one in an unloving way and deciding they are less than we are. And so, since we judge without thinking, we must think not to judge.
Ten Ways to Stop Judging
(1) When critical thoughts slip into your mind, think about God tuning into your thoughts. How does it look to him? Consider how it pleases God if you strive to think kindly rather than critically of someone.
(2) “The measure with which you measure will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:1). Love others, pray for them to make up for what is lacking and you will receive back from God in full measure.
(3) When your mind strays to critical thoughts, force yourself to come up with positive attributes about that person. "Make it a practice to judge persons and things in the most favorable light at all times and under all circumstances"— St. Vincent de Paul.
(4) If you are a parent, remember how much you love your own children faults and all, and imagine how much his parents love him. Or perhaps they didn’t love him, which would be tragic and bring out sympathy. In either case, it helps block negative feelings.
(5) Pray for anyone that irritates you and push the irritation out of your mind.
(6) Think of the person as a child of God. Remind yourself that God loves them as much as he loves you.
(7) See Jesus Christ in everyone you meet. “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” (Matt 25:40)
(8) Think of Susan Boyle, who showed the world which had once judged her a fool, the beauty of a dream no matter the outer appearance.
(9) Remind yourself that you have plenty of faults and God wants you to worry about the beam in your own eye.
(10) Read Scripture pertaining to judging such as:
Matthew 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you..
Luke 6:37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;
James 4:11-12 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?