You Have No Right to Judge

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No matter where we are in life, no matter our station in life, no matter where we live or where we were born, you and I have this much in common: We have no right to judge anyone else.

There’s a story, which I’m told is a true story, about a man who gets on a subway early one morning in New York City with three kids. There’s no mom in sight and dad appears as though he couldn’t care less what the kids were up to.

As the dad sits on the subway, the kids basically terrorize the other passengers. They run up and down the aisle, knocking people’s newspapers from their hands and spilling their coffee in all directions. All this as the dad sits there staring into space.

After a short time one of the passengers has had enough, and finally shouts at the dad. He yells that the dad should get his kids under control, and asks what’s wrong with him. (If I had been on the subway I might not have been that shouting passenger but I sure wouldn’t have had a problem with what they was saying)

The dad awakens from his stupor and begins to apologize profusely. He tells the passenger that he and his kids are just on their way home from the hospital, where the kids mother and his wife passed away earlier that morning.

Wow!

So, what do you think of the dad now? How many of you were just like me? How many of you judged the man, to be a poor father or an irresponsible father? I did! I’ll bet if you’re honest about it, many of you did too.

Here’s the worst part, I’ve heard or told that story dozens of times, and I still judge. Even though I know how the story ends, I still judge. I say well maybe that father has an excuse but that doesn’t excuse everyone else that takes their kids to a public place and just turns them loose. Don’t you just hate that when people let their kids interrupt your day and disrupt what you’re doing?

I judge with little or no evidence on which to evaluate the person, I judge by applying my beliefs and values to the person I’m judging. My built in bias says if they don’t share those beliefs then there is something “off” about them. I’ll bet there are a ton of people reading this post that are just like me.

It’s taken me many years and it’s still a BIG work in progress but here’s what I know for sure. When I judge someone I almost always get it wrong. When I seek to understand someone, I almost always get it right. Here’s something else that’s almost always true; when I understand, there is no longer a need to judge.

This week let’s first seek to understand. Let’s talk and think in terms of the other person’s interest. Let’s value their differences, let’s see what we might learn from them.

You just might be surprised at how “un” different people are when you really get to know them.

So no judging, let’s leave that to the people in the robes!

11 thoughts on “You Have No Right to Judge

  1. Steve Borek says:

    Interesting story.

    We’re all going through something. That “something” is relative.

    One thing I learned a long time ago. If someone loses their temper with you, chances are good they’re going through a valley that has nothing to do with you.

    I try to maintain a compassionate mindset. Not always easy.

    • You’re right about that, it is not easy. But now that you mention it, when I lose my temper with someone, it is often something else entirely, not the person, that has me upset.

      What a great point!

  2. Judgement often comes instantly on things we don’t even understand. If we had the same scenario before, and land on the same situation, we judge. Even if we don’t understand the ’cause, we still judge by giving our own opinions. If we could only learn to shut our mouth and mind on things that doesn’t really care us, we could save ourselves from stress, and from annoying people who get us wrong.

  3. Jonathan Cotten says:

    Interesting post Steve and I certainly agree that judging hypocritically or superficially is wrong. Yet if I judged the father on the subway would I be wrong? If someone would say I am wrong then is that not judging me? Is the problem that we should not judge at all? Matthew 7:1 is probably the most misapplied verse in all of the Bible. Jesus was not abolishing judging but He was judging those who are self righteous in their judgments. In our society we have lost the framework to make healthy constructive judgments.

    • You make a great point… I wonder what percentage of people truly judge in a constructive way. I’d bet (we no research on this) that’s it is a very tiny percentage. But then, I’d be judging people with no info to do so constructively 🙂

  4. If I remember correctly, Dr. Henry Cloud tells that story from the first person in one or more of his books, i.e. it’s “his” first person account. I’ll see if I can look up the exact page(s) it is found on and report back 🙂

  5. I first read this post last night, Steve. The story you shared brought to mind another similar story I have read before, yet I could not find the source. It may have been in one of the books I’ve read by Thich Nhat Hanh.

    I cannot recall the exact details of the story, so some of what I share may be off from the original account. The parts that I can recall had to do with some men on a train or subway. A homeless man was violently agitated and fighting (escalated argument) with another man. A wise man was present, observing what was happening. He knew that there was much suffering underneath all of the anger. So he used the practice of deep listening to diffuse the situation. The homeless man wound up laying with his head in his lap as he shared the things in his life that caused him pain. It takes a great deal of practice and mature understanding to be able to do this. Not many people have cultivated this much needed skill. (It may even be more of an art!)

    I love that you shared your own challenges with judging simply because it brings up an excellent point. No matter how much we ‘know’ that judging is not the right thing to do, we still do it. Even when we don’t want to. Even when we have the very best of intentions. Desire to treat everyone equitably and fairly. Even when what we want most is to love one another.

    Perhaps the start of cultivating the deeper levels of understanding and the practice of deep listening begins when we recognize that we will and do judge. And learning how to be conscious enough to catch ourselves in the act so we can move to suspending judgment. Recognizing that we may be caught up in our own assumptions about a person or situation. Don’t have enough information or all of the facts. Then we can shift to asking questions to dispel assumptions, etc.

    Learning how to suspend judgment so that we can love one another really does seem to be filled with a great deal more clumsiness then expert finesse! haha

    At least in my experience so far in life! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Steve. And for your willingness to share your own struggles with judging. We’ve all done it.

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