According to this study conducted by Barna Group, 87% of 16- to 29-year-olds believe that that present-day Christianity is judgmental.
In all fairness, the study is a few years old now, and the results may have been different if the researches asked people of all age ranges, but honestly, I’m not surprised.
I would have answered the same.
Christians (just like most of the rest of the population) ARE judgmental.
Sure, sometimes it comes from a passion for the truth. We want to see God’s laws upheld and we’re not afraid to fight for what we believe in.
But not always.
Sometimes (often times), it’s because we’re prideful, stubborn, and ignorant about what life is really like for other people both inside and outside of our church walls.
The Difference Between Judging and Being Judgmental
Before we dive into why being judgmental is a problem and the practical steps we can take to stop being so judgmental, however, we have to make a distinction.
You see, there is a BIG difference between simply judging/discerning a situation and being judgmental towards another person/situation.
Both the Bible and common sense tell us we should judge — in the sense of using discerning right/wrong or making wise decisions.
We do this when we teach our children not to get in vans with strangers, when we steer clear of co-workers who constantly cause drama, when we stage an intervention for friends and family members who are making poor choices, and when we bring alleged criminals in front of judges for sentencing.
This is judging (discerning), and this is wise and good.
I have a whole article on why this type of judging is right and necessary (complete with lots of Bible verses) here: Yes, Christians Should Judge
Furthermore, it is NOT “being judgmental” to lovingly, yet firmly warn friends and family that they are making unwise decisions that could get them into trouble.
We SHOULD confront friends and family members who are making poor choices — when it is appropriate to do so. And the video above has TONs of great advice on when you should/should not say something.
Today, however, I’m talking specifically about “being judgmental” in the sense of: “Regarding someone as ‘less than’ — either because of choices they have made or attributes/situations they have no control over.”
This type of judgement IS a problem… and it’s one many, many of us are guilty of way more often than we’d like to admit.
Are You Too Judgmental?
So, are you guilty of being judgmental when you shouldn’t be?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it make you uncomfortable when others make choices you don’t agree with?
- Does it make you angry or uncomfortable when others believe differently than you?
- Do you ever offer unsolicited advice or feedback?
- How is your advice/feedback received? Do others appear receptive, or do they appear uncomfortable or defensive?
- Do you become upset when others don’t follow your advice?
- Do you ever have negative thoughts about people you don’t even know in real life?
- Do you ever assume someone is “good” or “bad” based on very little information? (ex. they don’t take their kids to church, so obviously, they’re a “bad” mom)
- Do you justify your evaluations because “well, it’s true” or “well, God’s Word clearly says…”
- Are you more likely to view others negatively than positively?
Sure, you may be doing it because you love and care about the other person and only want what’s best for them. Maybe because you’re very passionate about God’s Word. Or maybe it’s just a bad habit you’ve developed.
Either way, it’s important to remember: The only person you are 100% responsible for is yourself.
Yes, you may have an obligation to love and care and speak up when necessary (see the video above before you do!), but if you’re trying to control others’ actions or beliefs, you aren’t being loving, you’re being self-righteous and controlling.
And no one wants that!
How to Stop Being So Judgmental
Okay, so let’s say you realize you have a bad habit of being judgmental…
You expect others to follow your advice, your opinions, or your personal interpretation of right/wrong, and now you want to stop.
Here’s how to do just that…
1. Pay Attention and Call Yourself Out
Because judgmental attitudes can often start from a place of caring or from a passion for certain values, you might not even realize just how judgmental you’re being.
This is why, the FIRST thing you need to do is to start paying attention to the behavior, noticing when you act judgmental, and looking for patterns.
- Are there certain people or types of people you tend to be more judgmental of? (Perhaps a certain race, income level, profession, disability, hobby or interest?)
- Are there specific places or situations where you tend to be more judgmental? (Maybe at church, school, volunteer opportunities, or people in the media?)
- What specific negative thoughts are popping into your head?
Start paying attention. Depending on how often you have these judgmental thoughts and attitudes, you may want to take note for a couple of weeks or even a couple of months to really figure out the patterns.
2. Challenge These Thoughts and Beliefs
Once you have been able to pinpoint exactly which people or situations tend to trigger judgmental thoughts for you, it’s time to challenge the validity of these judgments to see how much weight they hold. (Probably not much).
- Are all (people of a certain race) really (negative attribute)?
- Are all (people who voted differently than I did) really (negative attribute)? Every single one of them? Or is it possible they simply see the world a different way, due to their unique priorities and life experiences?
- Is she really a terrible person, or is it possible she just holds a different belief than me on this one point, for reasons I may not understand yet?
- Does this trait actually matter? Do I really think I’m *better* than them because of this?
- Am I actually concerned for their well-being, or am I just offended/uncomfortable and being selfish/self-centered/controlling?
Many times, if you step back and challenge the thoughts and beliefs that pop into your head, you may find that your judgmental thoughts are rooted in something far different than you realized.
This step alone can really help you stop being so judgmental.
*Related Reading: How to Take Every Thought Captive to Christ
3. Be Willing to Give the Benefit of the Doubt
In addition to challenging your judgmental thoughts, it can also be incredibly helpful to get in the habit of giving others the benefit of the doubt.
In other words, when you see others making a mistake/sinning/failing, etc… Instead of condemning them for their sin (even though you don’t have all the information), you choose to believe that they are a work in progress and that there are factors you don’t know.
- For the woman with the out-of-control kids at church: “She’s probably doing her best. Maybe something happened at home. Maybe the kids are struggling with things I don’t know about.”
- For someone who seems to have no ambition/motivation: “Maybe they gave it their all, and nothing worked out through no fault of their own. Maybe there is nothing more they can do right now, so they are waiting.”
- For someone who is extremely rude to others: “Maybe they have a very deep hurt I know nothing about. Maybe they never had positive role models to look up to. Maybe something is going on that is causing them extra stress.”
Could the person just be a jerk? Yes, absolutely.
But the thing is: If you don’t know the WHOLE story for sure, then you don’t know the whole story for sure.
Why not just give them the benefit of the doubt, and go on your merry way? It doesn’t hurt anything, even if it’s not true, and it makes life that much easier and better to just choose to believe good.
(Obviously, if it IS a person you know well and they are just a jerk, it’s okay to distance yourself. This post on dealing with toxic friends and family members addresses this more. You might find this post on setting Biblical Boundaries helpful as well.)
4. Remember Your Own Faults and Failings
Often times, when people say “It’s not my place to judge,” they are basing it on Matthew 7:1, which states: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.”
However, this is only part of the story.
As I share in my post, Yes, Christians Should Judge, if you read the passage in context,
“In this oft-quoted passage, Jesus wasn’t saying “Don’t judge ever.” Instead, he was telling the hypocritical Pharisees, who LOVED to catch others breaking the law: “tend to your own sins first, and then you’ll be in a better condition to address others’ sins.””
This is because, when we remember that we are ALLL just works in progress, we naturally begin to have more compassion and understanding for others.
When we remember our sins, failings and short-comings, it reminds us that no one is perfect, and we all need grace.
NOT that there isn’t a time to step-up and say something. Sometimes we do need to confront friends and family members in sin.
But we should always do it with the humility that comes from an attitude of “Hey, I don’t have it all together either, but I love you, care about you, and want to help you out.”
(And sometimes, just realizing how far you still have to go yourself is enough to make you not want to confront the other person in the first place)
And here’s another podcast you might find really helpful as well: “Are You Too Controlling?”
5. Choose to Deliberately Think Positive Thoughts Instead
As I mentioned earlier, while our judgment can come from a place of caring/compassion or from a place of passion for the truth, sometimes it can just come down to habit.
We get so used to thinking negative thoughts about certain people, that we start to do it without even realizing it.
That’s why it’s SO important to take step #1 above and recognize our behavior. And THEN also deliberately choose to replace our negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Instead of thinking, “She’s wearing that to church??” choose to think, “I’m so glad she could make it today!”
- Instead of thinking, “Wow, he’s overweight,” choose to notice something nice about his appearance or personality. (Bonus points if you tell them!)
- Instead of thinking, “Why is she so obsessed with her stupid home business?” choose to think, “That’s so great that she found something she’s so passionate about!”
Of course, these are just a few examples. But just as you’ve created a habit of thinking negative thoughts, you can just as easily create a NEW habit of thinking (and sharing!) positive thoughts!
Will your friends and family always do things the way you want them to? Nope. But it’s their life. They are a human being, and they are allowed to make their own decisions and learn from their own mistakes.
Just like you are allowed to as well.
Do you struggle with judgmental thoughts or behaviors? (It’s okay to admit it! I do!) Which step above do you think will be most helpful for you today?