I have always considered myself to be a confident person. I have never been the type to obsess in front of the mirror or count calories. I’ve been on exactly zero diets in my life and have never missed a meal. “Getting ready” is a loose term used to make sure I have on adequate clothing to leave the house.
In high school, I noticed an interesting trend about myself. As long as I could find an area where I was better than someone else, I wouldn’t feel inferior to them. I will give you some insight into my teenaged head and how I rationalized my so called “confidence”:
There’s a girl in my class who is prettier than me? Well, at least I make better grades than her.
That girl who is much smarter than me? Well, at least I have more friends.
The girl who has way more friends than me? Well, at least I am skinnier than her.
And on and on and on. As long as I could find an area in which I was “better”, my inferiority vanished, and confidence flourished. I felt justified in who I was. Or so I thought.
The core of this kind of thinking is rooted in comparison; but deeper than that, it is really found in judgment. I looked to my left and right, judged the characteristics of those around, and sought superiority and identity in any place I could exceed their weaknesses. I used judgment to find justification.
Why do we judge?
My friend Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it the best: “If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it I certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. But if we are on the look-out for evil in others, our real motive is obviously to justify ourselves, for we are seeking to escape punishment for our own sins by passing judgment on others, and are assuming by implication that the Word of God applies to ourselves in one way, and to others in another.”
We judge seeking justification. Casting judgment comes easy when we don’t believe God at His Word.
Paul tells us in Romans that “in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” (2:1)
Yikes. Here we are walking around condemning our self in the very act of trying to justify ourselves.
The solution for judgment
The gospel of Jesus, as it is for all problems of humanity, is the answer for judgment. There’s no need to over complicate it, Jesus is tried and true and somehow, for all of time, keeps on being the answer we are all looking for. The closer and more intimate we get with Jesus, the more we see our depravity. We are humbled by our sinfulness. We are broken by the deceit in our hearts. And that is the best place to be, because we are leveled and see ourselves as we should; broken and messy, but so radically loved by God. We realize that the evil in others is the exact same evil that lives within ourselves. There is no justification apart from Jesus and the cross. None. Not being skinnier, prettier, or smarter. Nothing. Only Jesus can justify. He is our only hope. Love for God and judgment of others cannot co-exist. They are enemies of each other. The more we see God, the more we understand our depravity, and Jesus’ completed work on the cross gets bigger. And the only response to that is for our love toward God and others to grow.
A few nights ago, I was sitting around with a few friends discussing this very idea, and the question asked was “what do you judge people for?” In my blindness, I answered, “you know, I’m really not a judgmental person at all. I don’t really care what other people do.” Later that night when I was driving home, God brought me back to my high school self, the Katie who found her validation and identity in the judgment of others. Humbled by that, I realized I am still not that far from who I was then. I use judgment in hopes of combating insecurity. I judge other people’s marriages to validate my own. I judge the work ethic of my peers to feel good about what a hard worker I am. I judge people’s relational issues to validate my friendships. I judge people’s theology to feel like I have a better knowledge of God.
Thank God for sanctification. I hold tight to the promise that He is making me new, that He is daily transforming my heart to be more like His. I pray as I mature in Christ, I would deeply find my security in the justification that was obtained for me on the cross.
“Judge not.” – Jesus
Until next time,