I like to judge people.
It gives me a momentary “rush,” makes me feel good about myself, because, if nothing else, at least I’m better than the person I’m judging.
I’m not sure how I got here. Most of my thoughts about myself aren’t good ones. I don’t feel like a good parent, a good spouse, a good blogger, a good Christian, etc. One of the only times I do feel good about myself is when I see someone do something stupid and think “hey, at least I’m not as bad as that guy.”
But that’s crap – I do stupid things all the time. I could provide a very long, very entertaining list of stupid things I’ve done recently but I’m too embarrassed, too worried that you’ll judge me and stop reading my blog. For now, I’ll leave you with the illusion that I’m not a complete dumbass.
Turns out that you can’t judge others and not do the same to yourself. Maybe that’s what Jesus meant when he said “If you judge others, you’ll be judged.” It’s so true. The harsh judgments I pass on others come right back around, almost immediately, like an old, scraggly dog you just can’t get rid of.
Two Lies, Actually
To judge others, I have to firmly believe in two things that aren’t true.
Lie #1 – I’m better than everyone else
I regularly pass judgment on people who are overweight, which is interesting because I’ve spent the majority of my adult life wrapped in 40 extra pounds. Not attractive. Early last year I decided to start working out and finally decided to get rid of the problem. I spent most of the year exercising – really hard – counting calories, getting frustrated, kicking the bathroom scale, etc. But it worked. I’ve only got 10 pounds to go.
Now, when I see someone who’s struggling with their weight, I don’t sympathize, I don’t reflect on how freakin’ hard it is to get into shape. I pass judgment. I silently slap labels on them; “lazy,” “undisciplined,” “weak.”
If I were a healthy person, I’d understand that sometimes it’s super hard not to eat more than we need. Sometimes we get depressed, stuck, angry, in need of comfort, without hope. Food addictions, any addictions, are borne out of sadness, desperation.
But compassion and understanding don’t feel good, and they don’t fuel my need to feel like I’m better than everyone else, so I embrace a lie – “I’m better than you” – pass judgment, and move on.
Lie #2 – I’m worse than everyone else
I got picked on a ton in Junior High, most of the time for the way I looked. I entered my adult years with some pretty serious body-image issues, so I worked out, took steroids, found some muscles, learned to take up for myself, and stopped getting picked on.
But the body-image issues didn’t go away. I grew up with the idea that looks determine a person’s overall value. As long as I look good, I’m OK. If I don’t look good, I’m not OK. Even now, I spend too much time worrying about how I look. Never mind all the unattractive people who’ve brought change to our world like no pretty person ever has. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t pretty. The Bible says Jesus wasn’t pretty either.
Looks don’t matter, they definitely don’t determine someone’s value. But I’ve embraced the lie that they do, that I only matter if I look good.
Unfortunately, this is only one area where I’ve embraced un-truths that have left me feeling like I suck.
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
So I judge people to feel better about myself which ultimately makes me feel worse about myself so I judge people more harshly which makes me judge myself more harshly… blah, blah, blah, over and over and over…
The first step off this merry-go-round is to stop judging people, to say “no” to the rush that comes from marginalizing someone for whatever appealing fault they’ve embraced. That hurts though. It puts me face-to-face with the way I feel about myself.
So the second step is come to grips with the fact that I’m not a bad person – to be at peace about me, even when I’ve screwed something up. That’s much harder than step #1. I’ve done this my entire life, it’s part of my daily diet, what else will I eat?
At some point I’m going to have to embrace a new vision of myself, to take note of the good things I do, the gifts I possess, etc., to stop believing lies about me and do the hard work of reflecting on truth. But for some reason, embracing the truth about myself and others is hard, like working out is hard. This isn’t a gym I’ve spent a lot of time in.
But I do believe that lifting this weight will get easier over time, that I’ll ultimately be able to lift more if I stick with it. I look forward to the day when the first thing I feel is compassion, understanding – peace – when I see someone do something dumb.
One day I’ll be able to extend the same to myself.
Make “Do Not Judge” Part of Your Personal Development Plan
Most of the time, when we think about self help, self improvement, etc., we compile a list of things to do, craft a personal development plan, or simply try to think positive about ourselves. That’s all meaningless when we’ve made a habit of passing judgment on others.
Removing this from the diet of what we feed our brains is the surest, quickest way to think differently about others…
… and ultimately ourselves.