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“Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). We have heard since we were young children that we shouldn’t judge other people. And we were also taught to stay away from strangers, avoid people whose behavior was questionable, and not hang out with “the wrong kind of friends.” How confusing. Indeed, we do have to make some judgments in life for our own safety. Given that we know that some judgments are necessary, let’s focus on the judgments that are really just criticisms.
We can find the criteria for that type of judgment in the scriptures: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:2-5). This scripture counsels us that we need to be cautious about judging other people with a yardstick that we do not apply to ourselves.
In these latter days, our judgments have become more public, powerful, and harsh. Just take a short look at the comments on one of the many controversial issues on Facebook. I am appalled at how harsh peoples’ judgments are. I am shocked at how many people fee entitled to tell other people how “stupid” they are (and that is the kindest word they use) just because they disagree. I am disgusted by the language that is used to verbally beat each other up because they have differing opinions and views in life. And I am completely disgusted at comments that say “go kill yourself” just because someone else doesn’t like what you said.
If we continue reading the scriptures, we find additional clarity on what it means to judge. In John 7:24 we are taught to “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” We do need to make some judgments throughout life. We do need to judge others in regards to our safety in order to protect our family, our homes, and ourselves. We do need to judge if others are a major negative influence in our lives. We need to judge if our children are surrounded by friends who are pulling them into bad habits and attitudes.
So, what does judgment and criticism have to do with stress? It depends on which side of the judgment and criticism you are on. If you are the person being judged and criticized, your stress level is going to be overwhelming. You may constantly feel threatened, fearful, and in danger, never knowing when, where, or how the next attack will occur. Aggressive criticisms and judgments are called bullying. We have huge problems with bullying in our schools and on social media.
This is not only a very scary social problem but a scary indicator of the character of the many people who indulge in this behavior. Many of our kids, and even many adults, are dealing with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts because of the bullying that is rampant in schools, workplaces, and through social media. Being the target of judgments, criticism, and bullying is highly stressful. If you are being bullied, tell someone about it, even the police if need be, and then get professional help to deal with your feelings.
What about the other side of this judgment exchange? Is there stress in being the person who is judging, criticizing, or bullying? The answer is still yes, but not in the same way and certainly not even close to the same intensity. The person doing the judging, criticizing, and bullying often doesn’t realize that they are creating their own stress. They believe their stress is caused by all the “idiots” whom they feel compelled to judge. They wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the Internet challenging and correcting people if there weren’t so many people who viewed life differently. I am reminded of a plaque that I have seen many times, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone understood that principle and tried hard to be kinder?
The truth is that engaging in constant judgments and criticisms changes the focus of the brain to be negative and see only the negative in other people. This focus increases stress for everyone involved. Being judgmental and critical does not solve anything. It doesn’t make people be more like you. It doesn’t change anyone’s opinions about controversial issues. It doesn’t make you look better or smarter or “right.” Instead, it creates dissention, conflict, anger, hatred, animosity, and war. It creates stress.
When we look upon others, their appearance, or their behavior with a filter of negativity, criticism, or judgment, we will definitely find what we are looking for. If we look upon others, their appearance, or their behavior with a filter of love and acceptance, we will not only avoid a great deal of stress but we will build powerful Christlike relationships.
At the end of the day, you need to honestly ask yourself what energy you bring to the world. Are you judgmental or accepting? Are your words poisonous or uplifting? Do you work toward peace or do you increase divisiveness? Are you the solution or the problem?
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!