“None of us has ever seen a motive. Therefore, we don't know we can't do anything more than suspect what inspires the action of another. For this good and valid reason, we're told not to judge. Tragedy is that our attention centers on what people are not, rather than on what they are and who they might become.”
- Brennan Manning
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”
- Stephen M.R. Covey
Today, everything just came together in one big explosive revelation.
I've always known my tendency to judge others, perhaps my natural inclination to do this comes from the need to have everything organised neatly, people included. Not that it hardly even begins to qualify as an excuse for judgemental behavior. Sometimes I will speak of what I have judged about others, as if reviewing a product, sometimes I keep it to myself. I judge everyone around me, from the closest friends to people I do not know so well, and I judge myself too.
Over the past few months, I have found that some of the opinions I have formed about some people simply cannot hold water as I spend more time with them. For example, there are people whom I have been greatly annoyed by in the past but am now starting to have an increasing respect for them. Some of these perhaps were genuinely people changing over time, but many I suspect were things that were always there but I had always been blind to them because I stuck to my opinions and was quite proud of my assessment of them. Its a fallacy that we tend to look for evidence that supports what we believe while neglecting evidence that prove otherwise.
Today, because of a couple of surprising things some people have said to me that I never in my life would have expected them to, and also because of people telling me what they thought of me (in a helpful manner not the judgmental manner), it made me think back to all these assessments I have been making of people, of myself. I realise that there were so many things I have not noticed but I have took what little I know to become the absolute truth, and passed judgement on others, putting them into a neat little box and declared 'this person is like this'.
It is ironic, because despite knowing in theory what it means to judge others and how we are called not to judge, I have allowed myself to overlook what I do all the time, and instead have been attempting to handle my struggle with judging people by being nice and respectful to all regardless of what I think of them. With that air of superiority that thinks 'oh what a poor guy to have to live like this, I should be graceful to him'.
That is not grace, quite the opposite, that is condemnation well disguised.
I'm glad I have been reading The Screwtape Letters again recently, it reveals to me many of the traps that I have been allowing myself to fall into when it comes to my attitudes, especially towards other people. Sin is not always glaringly obvious, sometimes it subtle, even disguised as virtue (I will probably post a series of letters from the book when I'm in Taiwan, watch out for the one on unselfishness).
And now I'm scared. I find that I have built up so much judgement of people and now I fear I don't really know anyone. Some time back the question 'what is truth' haunted me, and one of the ways it did was the seeds of this today. How do I know anything I have believed about another person is true?
And its crazy. I don't know how to even begin to tear down these habits I have formed, these judgements I have made on people. How subtle, how difficult it would be for me to try to abandon these perceptions I have already created and engraved into my mind for so long about others. To really start to see people as how God sees them (and not pity people as how I would think God would pity them).
It will be a long uphill struggle, and I'm afraid that the task at hand seems way too huge to be able to overcome that I very much wished I can factory reset my mind. It feels like discovering stage 4 cancer and trying to fight it but it has spread throughout the body it can't simply be removed. I always had the nagging knowledge of something not quite right but it was always fuzzy, now it is much clearer.
But this I know, it is not about what I can do, it is about what Christ can do in me. And it is indeed certainly His will that I may grow in His likeness.