Recently, the words of an LDS bishop went viral on social media as he discussed the pernicious habit of judging others. Specifically, he used the example of judging brides who do not wear dresses the temple garment can be worn with, even when they are getting married in the temple.
It was a powerful and genuine sermon on how we can better follow Jesus Christ. However, it sparked some interesting questions on if it is ever appropriate to judge and how we can advocate for righteousness without judging others. These four points will hopefully bring some clarity to these questions and help you build enriching and charitable relationships with all those around you.
Refining Our Urge to Judge
The urge to judge is natural. As with all of our natural inclinations, our ability to judge needs to be refined and used for wise purposes. We need to judge between good and evil. We need to judge between good, better, and best. We need to judge between choices and make decisions. We even need to judge if situations and relationships are spiritually safe for us, thus requiring us to make judgments based on the choices and lifestyles of others.
However, when examined, these judgments are often extremely individual and focused on inner reflection. Even when others are involved, the judgment is based on a choice we need to personally make.
Passing judgment on others (as we generally understand it) is a far cry from these personal, spiritual decisions. It is often rash, made without thought, and rooted in pride. It also generally involves judging the very worth of a person on a single, limited view. This type of judgment is condemned by Christ.
Reflecting on Stewardships
A temple matron once told a group of temple workers about a very sad sight. In the bride’s room of the temple, she found garment pieces in the trash can. A bride had taken scissors and cut up her garments so they would fit with her temple dress.
Had she seen the bride doing so or been asked about it, the matron would have spoken up about why cutting up your garments is unacceptable. You may ask, “How is that any different from seeing a bride outside the temple in a revealing dress and wondering where her garments are?”
It all comes down to stewardship. God is the only one who can judge us. However, he has created certain roles and asked certain people to act as judges. The matron had been given the stewardship to protect the temple ordinances and teach others within the best of her ability how to respect and honor the things of the temple.
Elder Enzio Busche offers this great advice about stewardships:
“Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed. In the case of your own children or subordinates, where you have the responsibility to judge, help them to become their own judges.”
When we feel the need to judge, we need to ask ourselves if the judgment falls in line within our stewardships. Are we parents disciplining a child? Are we bishops counseling ward members? Do we have a calling where we are asked to make judgment calls? Are we employers making a decision about an employee? Have we been given a responsibility to judge? If so, Elder Busche’s advice reminds us that even in such situations we can seek to others to judge themselves, rather than pronouncing our own verdicts.
Casting Out the Beam: Solutions to Judgment
When we judge others, it is often rooted in the darkest parts of ourselves. There is a reason Christ said, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
It may be useful to reflect on why we want to judge someone to determine what needs to be fixed within ourselves. Do we lack charity? Are we filled with shame so we try to make ourselves feel better? Does anger at a perceived lack of blessings make us judge those who seem to be “getting off scot-free?”
In the end, there are two great solutions to judgment: humility and charity. Seeking to develop these two attributes of Jesus Christ will help stay the bitter judgments that want to rise within us.
Judgment Is Real. It’s Just Not Ours.
Though Christ commanded us not to judge, it would be wrong to say right and wrong choices do not exist or that there are no consequences for sinful behavior. Judgment is real; it just isn’t ours. God is our judge. He is the only one who knows all of the thoughts and intents of our hearts. He is the one who perfectly understands why decisions are made and how accountable someone is of those choices.
Refraining from judgment doesn’t mean we condone wickedness. It means we place the entirety of judgment in God’s capable hands. As we do so, we will find our hearts filling with charity and our gratitude for God’s mercy increasing.
What have you found helps you refrain from passing judgment on others?