To Judge or Judge Not: Getting Personal

tug of warPart Two

(To read Part One, click here)

A few years back, a publisher friend named Richard stunned me by announcing, after we’d completed a successful project together, that he would never work with me again. When I asked why, he said it was because I was “lazy” and “dishonest.” I grilled him as to how he’d reached this conclusion. He knew I was lazy, he said, after I failed to make changes based on the notes he’d given me (notes I disagreed with). He said my “excuses” were proof that I was dishonest. When I protested further, he said I was “deluded” and that he understood my true motives better than I did.

It was the most offensive thing anyone has ever said to me. Oh, sure, a few road-ragers have shouted viler things at me. But this was my friend, this was someone who mattered. It hurt like hell. And I mean that literally—judging has the distinct whiff of hell about it. But why did it hurt like hell? Because he hadn’t simply judged my words or actions, he’d judged me. He’d assigned motives.

There’s only one Being in the universe who knows us completely (even we don’t), and therefore, only He has a right and a reason to judge our motives. So, what constitutes right judgment for the rest of us?

Jesus tells us not to put ourselves in God’s place, but rather to identify with others, putting ourselves in their place. He challenges us to understand and strive to restore them. Right judgment has a disarming humility to it (“Trust me, I had a lot bigger log in my eye than you do, brother!”), making us instruments of grace and helping others to grow. Wrong judgment has the opposite effect: it puts them on the defensive, obscuring God’s grace and causing them to avoid growth.

Some time after the incident with the publisher Richard, I began pausing while praying the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-14) when I got to the words “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Debtors (or “trespassers”) are those who have sinned against us, who’ve judged us, or who we perceive as having done so. Each time I got to this point, I would forgive Richard specifically. Soon, I began to pray for his well-being and his family’s. My feelings were mixed, but on some level, at least, I meant it. Initially, I had no expectation of reconciliation, but in time I began to hope that maybe… And then one day, prompted by God, I called Richard and asked him to meet me for coffee.

We beat around the bush for the first two hours. Then I finally confronted him, telling him that I felt judged (I avoided making “you” statements, but boy did I think them!). I told him that the wounds were still there. After some FAQs, he admitted he barely remembered using those words “lazy,” “dishonest,” and “deluded.” And then, to my astonishment, he admitted that he’d lashed out at me because he felt judged by me! I’d taken him for granted, he said, written him off as being motivated purely “by money” when, in fact, his motive in doing the project had been his love for me as a friend.

“I had no idea,” I said. (I really hadn’t.)

“I know,” he replied. “I don’t think I realized it myself until just now.”

I asked his forgiveness, anyway. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t made his feelings clear previously. It mattered that he needed healing, just like I did. And then he asked my forgiveness in return. It wasn’t movie-cute. We didn’t cry or hug. But something was different. Something had changed.

Somehow we were friends again.

reconciliation-sculpture“Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ himself” (Ephesians 4:15). Love is the balm that restores. We need to check our hearts—or better yet, let God check them for us—before we can exercise right judgment. So, if you can’t identify with your persecutor, don’t approach him (or her). But if and when you’re ready to go to him in a spirit of humility…

Don’t you dare hold back!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Culture, For Pastors and Teachers, Memoir, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to To Judge or Judge Not: Getting Personal

  1. Pingback: To Judge or “Judge Not” | Mitch Teemley

  2. smzang says:

    “Judge or Judge Not” is the difference between telling and showing.
    You have a talent for teaching by example. That makes it real.
    Picture a big Blue Ribbon pinned to this article. There should be..

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sean Nemecek says:

    So good! You really nailed the sense of Ephesians 4. Speaking the truth in love is always about building up not judging.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. What an uplifting story! Thanks for sharing it. We really don’t know what’s going through other people’s minds and hearts, and I’ve had times like that when suddenly everything is explained,and I too said, “I had no idea…”
    There’s a lot to be said for giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it’s the creative writer in me, but I’m the one always trying to think of a good reason the person may have done or said what they did. It may not turn out to be true, but it creates a lot of good stories that I have yet to turn into novels. 😉
    PS I love the suggested approach, “My log was a lot bigger than yours…” Humility does tear down walls.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. That is such a powerful story! That kind of thing has happened to most of us on one end of it or another. We all need to realize that we have an Enemy who would love to divide us. He will sow thoughts in our brains that are not true in order for us to distrust others and judge them. We must constantly be aware of that or we may end up saying or doing things that do not honor God and have no basis of truth whatsoever!

    Liked by 4 people

  6. The thing that always cuts off communication is name calling. Name calling is not saying someone did something but that someone is something. It locks the situation in and ends discussion. I do not have the nerve to confront (many women don’t) so try to forgive, move on, and try to remain friends. By not confronting, I never know why disagreements occurred.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Bruce says:

    Hi Mitch, I’ve learned that when our assumptions about others or there’s about us, over rides the perceived intent by either, brokenness happens. It is only when we come to understand that our and their assumptions are often based on misunderstood intent that we begin to see the possibility of error, at our end or their’s. This is not carved in stone but it happens enough that it should cause us to pause. Reconciliation is such a beautiful thing. You did good! Grace and blessings my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Perfect story. Thanks for putting this out there.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. These were very good lessons, Mitch! Thank you for sharing them with a personal touch to boot! The traps of our own making are often the most difficult to recognize… Just sayin’

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Ron says:

    You measure a man’s worth against the 10 Commandments even Jesus said that in the New Testament. Mans gods told you not to judge him. Everyday we judge just don,t judge the church that is what we teach the children don’t judge the altars of man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Sorry, I’m a little fuzzy on what you’re saying, Ron. Can you clarify?

      Like

      • Ron says:

        We judge everyday by a set metrics, The churches tell you not to judge others we do by the Word of God given to Moses, that is all I am saying. Then I look at America falling and no one judges. We judge everyday in the spirit or out of the spirit, human nature.

        Like

  11. roninjax says:

    Excellent insight. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am always inspired and encouraged in my walk with Christ by your authenticity and wisdom, Mitch! Thank you for this powerful post! You’re the best!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Ron Whited says:

    Thanks Mitch. Reading this makes me feel as though there remains a glimmer of hope for us all…

    Liked by 4 people

  14. JulieBarbera says:

    Wise words, Mitch! Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. grAnnie Roo says:

    I didn’t merely read this, I felt every sentence.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Piano girl says:

    Walking in another’s shoes. Such an important truth! Thank you for sharing your story, Mitch!

    Liked by 2 people

  17. long4h2o says:

    What a powerful testimony of prayer and reconciliation. Thanks for sharing your witness.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Ann Coleman says:

    True forgiveness is hard, because it forces us to acknowledge not only our own feelings, but the feelings of the person we are forgiving as well. And that doesn’t come naturally. But I agree that is exactly what we are called to do, and when we do manage it, we are so much better off. Thanks for this power post!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Praise God! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Bill Sweeney says:

    Powerful story, Mitch. Only God sees our hearts and knows our motives. I am convicted that this kind of judging is the root of what’s wrong in our politics today. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Tina says:

    I need to read the first part of this still, but this is a wonderful post. You likely won’t remember me saying that you posted something that I needed for one of my pieces (it was a while back) but I’ve finally posted that piece. Thanks again Mr. T! ❤

    https://godskidspeaks.com/2019/02/28/pride-goes-before-the-free-fall/

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Pingback: Pride Goes Before the Free Fall – God's Kid Speaks

  23. Many times what we feel we are receiving from others is not true . I am my own worst enemy for Miss judging what I think others are thinking about me. I am glad you took the leap of faith and brought this up to the other person. That takes real strength.

    Liked by 1 person

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