The problem with jumping to judgment
I am a great “athlete” in only one “sport.” I excel at jumping to the wrong conclusions about people who irritate me.
Hal Becker shares a hypothetical story that captures me well. He writes,
“You are in your neighborhood department store, where you’ve gone to buy some clothes. The guy in front of you has two little boys, and they are having the time of their lives. They are playing hide-and-seek behind the clothing racks. They are screaming, laughing, being really, really loud. They are acting as though they are on a playground.
“As you wait in line, you give the father some dirty looks, since he should be a better father and manage his kids with more discipline. When the father completes his shopping and motions to the kids that it is time to go, you give him one more dirty look as he walks away, leaving clothes on the floor that fell off the display racks where the kids were playing catch-me-if-you-can.
“You step up to the counter, ready to unload to the clerk, ‘Can you believe that father and the way he let his kids just run amok in this store?’
“But before you can open your mouth, the clerk says, ‘Sir, I am so sorry for the gentleman and his two boys. Thank you for your patience and understanding. That father told me that they had just come from their mother’s funeral. She died from cancer a few days ago after a difficult time on Hospice care. It was tough on the family to watch her wither away and die.”
“The clerk goes on to tell you what the father said to her: ‘This is the first time in weeks that I have seen my boys actually laugh and try to have fun after such a long and trying ordeal. I could not bring myself to take away their enjoyment. Here is my Visa card. If there is any damage to the displays or the clothes, just charge it to my account. I just needed to give my boys a few moments to laugh and enjoy themselves after so many months of sadness.’”
Like the man in line, I have a tendency to jump to the wrong conclusions about people who irritate me. Therefore, Jesus warns me (in Matthew 7:1-2), “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Discussing the inappropriateness of the judgments we pass on others, Max Lucado writes,
“Not only are we unworthy, we are unqualified. We don’t know enough about the person to judge him. We don’t know enough about his past. We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn’t see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk but cannot see the tack in her shoe. We mock the fear in their eyes but have no idea how many stones they have ducked or darts they have dodged.
“Are they too loud? Perhaps they fear being neglected again. Are they too timid? Perhaps they fear failing again. Too slow? Perhaps they fell the last time they hurried. You don’t know. Only one who has followed yesterday’s steps can be their judge.
“Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God’s work is complete?….
“Be careful! The Peter who denies Jesus at tonight’s fire may proclaim him with fire at tomorrow’s Pentecost. The Samson who is blind and weak today may use his final strength to level the pillars of godlessness. A stammering shepherd in this generation may be the mighty Moses of the next.” (In the Grip of Grace, p. 40-41)