We all do it. Yes, even you. Even me. We all observe someone else’s behavior at times and make an assumption about their character. True, good character leads to good behavior. But face it, we are all human and have moments of poor judgment from time to time.
When we observe someone doing something “wrong” or “bad” we can make the mistake of classifying that person as “bad” too. We can then begin a sad downward spiral, thinking that the judgment we just made will predict future behavior from that person. I am guilty of this. We once had a neighbor who was prone to excessive drinking. The loud parties on their deck would cause me great anxiety. The language they used caused me to cringe as I realized my small sons were hearing it. I formed an opinion in my mind about these folks and then it seemed I could find something to be critical about concerning everything they did. Then one day I observed the man playing with his infant daughter and I realized there was a side of him I had never considered. Even with all his faults, that I could easily list if called upon to do so, I had to admit he had one fine quality. He loved his little girl. What else had I missed as I so quickly concluded that the “bad” was all there was?
In the current culture, the first response seems to be to criticize anyone who doesn’t hold the same opinions as we do. And then begins the labeling. We can see it escalating on a daily basis right now. It’s as if we are sorting people and categorizing them based on what we perceive as flaws and then we proceed to cast them aside because they don’t fit our criteria. The fact is, there are no disposable human beings. All are loved and wanted by God.
So when we find ourselves so quick to pass judgment, perhaps we should pause and examine our own hearts. Are we guilty of having a critical spirit? Do we first jump to conclusions and then allow those conclusions to form our opinions of others?
“But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. For it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.” Romans 14:10-13 (HCSB)
Is there someone you are feeling critical toward? Maybe a spouse, or child or parent? Perhaps a neighbor or co-worker or maybe the President? Are you quick to form opinions about someone without giving thought to what you don’t know about that person?
My challenge to you is to think of a person you have been guilty of judging and spend time this week praying for their wellbeing. Not a prayer that God would change their opinions to make them agree with yours, but a prayer for the individual. For their needs and fears, for their health and for their families. You might just come away remembering that they are all human beings created in the image of God and loved with the everlasting love of a Heavenly Father.
A wise quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln says, “If you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.”
Perhaps its time to step away from the ways of the world and begin to look for the good in people. We just might find it.