In its simplest form, non-judgment is acceptance. You are accepting the freedom of others and yourself to be who you are without blame or condemnation. It is like no-fault car insurance. The damage is real. A wound has occurred. Someone has to pay. But no one is at fault. Instead, you focus on “what’s important now“. What is the wise response for you to make?
To not judge is to hold a loving, compassionate attitude that does not condemn. Jesus does not condemn us. Neither are we to condemn others or even ourselves. We are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. (Mt 22:39) As you do so, you will experience love. I don’t mean messy, clingy, co-dependent, romantic love that leans on other people for you to feel fulfilled. I mean spiritual love that leans on God.
I work with many people who are struggling with their marriages or their divorces. Ultimately, every person explains the reason for their unhappiness in this way: “I just don’t feel accepted by my partner.” This is the evidence that they feel judged by their loved one. When a person feels accepted exactly as they are, he or she feels affirmed and validated as worthy of being loved.
Judgment is the intention that lies secretly in your heart. It is the desire to blame, convict and condemn. The end purpose of judging is to pressure other people to change so that we ourselves will feel better, safer and happier. Often it works. Judgments cause other people to react. They almost always work on a child, whose boundaries and assertive skills are too weak to withstand a well-placed judgmental comment or threatening command. When you were a child, judgments molded you. As an adult seeking inner peace, you must unlearn those judgments. You will most easily recognize them by the terms “trigger” and “button.” When people push your buttons, they are triggering your judgments. You, in turn, are doing the same to them.
A person can speak the same sentence with the same words in a way that is either judgmental or non-judgmental. “That is fornication,” when stated evenly and calmly is a non-judgmental statement of fact. “That is fornication!” can be a knife-like accusation that will send chills down the spine of the accused. A person can take the same action in a judgmental or non-judgmental way.
A young man, still studying in post-secondary education, informs his parents that he has decided to move in with a woman and her child. The father responds by ceasing to provide his son with money that he previously gave to support him, saying, “If you want to be a man in this way, then you must now act like a man who has a family to support.” His actions will be judgmental only if his intention is to punish his son and pressure him to leave this woman and return to doing things “Dad’s” way. If the father searches his heart and is at peace with his son’s freedom to make his own choices, even if he disagrees with them, then cutting him off financially is not judgmental. He is merely exercising his right to do with his money as he pleases. Jesus taught this principle in the parable of the vineyard workers who were paid the same amount for working different lengths of time (Mt 20:1-16). It is the intention in your heart that defines the state of being “non-judgmental.”
We judge because judging gives us the temporary sense that we are in control. To not judge is to feel out of control and even irresponsible. We feel that we are approving actions with which we disagree. This is false. Not judging is not the same as approving. We are only accepting the other person’s freedom to say and do what he or she wants. For example, if a friend begins avoiding you and not reciprocating your efforts to contact him, what thoughts run through your mind? What feelings run through your heart? Do you assume the best or the worst? Do you have thoughts of retribution about the next time he needs you and how you will treat him just as disrespectfully? Suppose you were really counting on this person? What can you do? Keep calling? Send him a letter? What will you write? “Please, pretty please call me?” In reality, he is free to break his promise to you, as hurtful as that may be.
In its highest form, not judging is the ultimate act of forgiveness. You are forgiving your loved one and he/she doesn’t even think she has done anything wrong. When you are non-judgmental, other people are already forgiven for hurting you, even as they are doing it! This is what Jesus did with his executors as they hung him on the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 23:34) This is what will let you be on the receiving end of angry, manipulative, unkind behaviors from others and still feel at peace, aware that their words and actions are not about you. This is the hope and the vision for being non-judgmental.
The reality is often a different story. Personally, I have at times required months of intentional effort to become non-judgmental about someone’s behavior. Each time I do, the effect is cumulative. The judgmental “topic” is gone forever, and not only with that person. Whether I felt bothered by his or her dishonesty, hypocrisy or rejection, my eyes were opened and I saw new ways in which to respond to that person in a way that gave me His peace. Such is the impact of non-judgment. You give love and you feel loved in return, though not necessarily from the person you are loving. Your sense of love is coming from the grace of God.
Excerpted from The Non-Judgmental Christian, pg 12-14. For a free download of Chapter 1, please go to www.nonjudgmentalchristian.com