THE SCRIPTURES TEACH US
• JST Matthew 7:2-5 — Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment. For with what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And again, ye shall say unto them, Why is it that thou beholdest the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and canst not behold a beam in thine own eye?
- This part of the Sermon on the Mount gives us the standard for judging. Judgment is only in righteousness. We are judged as we judge. When judging, let us make sure we are pure and we see clearly, having all the facts before us. Seek to help and serve, not to condemn.
MODERN PROPHETS SPEAK
Those who presume to judge others usurp the prerogatives of Deity, of him only who has power to impose sentence, that is, “to save and to destroy.”
- (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 3: 267.)
Don’t be too anxious to call yourself a failure or to judge others as failures. When all accounts are settled, you will find that no effort to teach righteousness is ever completely lost. Nothing you do in the way of trying to convey the gospel of Jesus Christ is ever futile.
- (Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975], 339.)
It is the simple Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, which teaches mankind to be true brethren and sisters, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to go the extra mile, to turn the other cheek, to forgive—even seventy times seven—to do unto others as we would be done by, to seek reconciliation wherein we have offended others, to avoid judging others, that we ourselves may not be judged; to be kind, patient, long-suffering, charitable, temperate, humble and God-like.
- (Mark E. Petersen, The Way to Peace [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969], 24.)
IDEAS FOR DAILY LIVING
Here are five ideas to help us make good judgments:
1. First decide whether a judgment is even needed. • Live and let live—In most cases, we can live in peace with our fellows without the need to subject them to our constant judgment. We have our hands full just keeping ourselves on the straight and narrow, let alone worrying about keeping score for the world. • Focus on need—Is there a need to judge or voice an opinion? If not—don’t (see Matthew 7:1-3). On occasion, of course, there may be a need to make a judgment of others—people we are considering for hire, people who want to open a business relationship with us, people who want to enter public office, people we may be interacting with as part of our stewardship in the gospel, or people who would like to be a part of our family circle. If there is a genuine need to make a judgment, let’s do it in righteousness.
2. Place the accent on positive things—Is our philosophy to catch people doing wrong or catch people doing right? We will have greater peace and joy in life if our prevailing philosophy is to find the good in people and bring out the best qualities they have within them.
3. Establish a firm foundation for informed and correct judgment. • Get the facts—Is the information available for making a judgment reliable and accurate? Always get all the facts—seek the information before making a judgment. • Take into account your own bias—Is our perception of reality objective or is it skewed by the situation, past experiences, or our attitude and values? Seek the opinions of people we trust to give us a second opinion and offer a more objective view. • Consider the circumstances—Do the people behave as they do because of unique or unusual circumstances? • Be a careful observer—It is exceedingly difficult to divine the inner motivation of people with any degree of accuracy. Therefore, we are best advised to observe how a person acts in different circumstances and from that fashion an opinion about the person’s patterns of belief and standards of behavior. • Look for patterns—Everyone slips up occasionally. But how does a person act after a misstep or lapse? Does that person quickly make amends, or is there an observable pattern of delay and delinquency that betrays a deficit of character and sounds a warning signal? • Look for the little things—When we need to form an opinion of someone, we can first and foremost understand if that person is aligned with lasting principles of honesty and integrity and if that person’s word can be trusted implicitly. How do we make that kind of judgment? By looking at the small and simple indicators. If someone will cheat in little things, will compromise in language, or lacks that spark of light in the eyes, then beware of the implications for the big things. If someone is uncompromisingly honorable in the little things, chances are that he or she will come through successfully in the big things.
4. Show leadership in judgment. • Start in the family—As parents, we are faced with the on-going problem of helping our children choose good and moral friends. It is always a judgment call. It is hard, but it is necessary. • Teach the principle of giving the benefit of the doubt—A leader in the family, in the workplace, or in the community is quick to be magnanimous and slow to condemn. Set measurable standards of quality performance and enforce them rigorously. But always give people a second chance to rise above their mistakes and learn from their experience. • Go directly to the person involved—If someone’s actions appear to result in disharmony in the community or workplace or even harm to you and those you care about, go to that person and state clearly what you have observed, and then give that person a chance to respond and, if needed, correct the situation. • Keep confidences—Never, in keeping with a wise process of judgment, share feelings that would discredit or hurt another when the whole truth is not known. As the saying goes about gossiping, “Picking up feathers is awfully hard in a windstorm.”
5. Be forgiving and understanding. • Judgment is tempered by mercy—Always give the benefit of the doubt in regard to judgment. If there is a question as to the accuracy of the information or opinions involved, always be on the side of mercy. • Judgment is always two-sided—The same standard you use in judging others will be used in how others judge you. Often the faults we see in others are simply mirror images of the faults we would like to deny within ourselves. When we are tempted to condemn another, let’s quickly see if we are not really talking about ourselves. • Seek higher-level assistance—Let us pray and seek inspiration from the Almighty in understanding the hearts of our fellows and rendering righteous judgment. • Use wisdom—Leave to God the role of being the ultimate judge of lives.
ILLUSTRATIONS FOR OUR TIME
“When Opportunity Knocks”
A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the president’s outer office. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had no business at Harvard and probably didn’t even deserve to be in Cambridge.
She frowned. “We want to see the president,” the man said softly. “He’ll be busy all day,” the secretary snapped. “We’ll wait,” the lady replied. For hours, the secretary ignored them, hoping that the couple would finally become discouraged and go away. They didn’t. And the secretary grew frustrated and finally decided to disturb the president, even though it was a chore she always regretted to do. “Maybe if they just see you for a few minutes, they’ll leave,” she told him.
And he sighed in exasperation and nodded. Someone of his importance obviously didn’t have the time to spend with them, but he detested gingham dresses and homespun suits cluttering up his outer office.
The president, stern-faced with dignity, strutted toward the couple.
The lady told him, “We had a son that attended Harvard for one year. He loved Harvard. He was happy here. But about a year ago, he was accidentally killed. And my husband and I would like to erect a memorial to him, somewhere on campus.”
The president wasn’t touched; he was shocked. “Madam,” he said gruffly, “we can’t put up a statue for every person who attended Harvard and died. If we did, this place would look like a cemetery.”
“Oh, no,” the lady explained quickly, “we don’t want to erect a statue. We thought we would like to give a building to Harvard.”
The president rolled his eyes. He glanced at the gingham dress and homespun suit, then exclaimed, “A building! Do you have any earthly idea how much a building costs? We have over seven and a half million dollars in the physical plant at Harvard.”
For a moment the lady was silent.
The president was pleased. He could get rid of them now. And the lady turned to her husband and said quietly, “Is that all it costs to start a university? Why don’t we just start our own?”
Her husband nodded.
The president’s face wilted in confusion and bewilderment.
And Mr. and Mrs. Leland Stanford walked away, traveling to Palo Alto, California, where they established the university that bears their name, a memorial to a son that Harvard no longer cared about.
You can easily judge the character of others by how they treat those who can do nothing for them or to them. (—Malcolm Forbes)
MORE THOUGHTS ON JUDGMENT
• “Judge a tree from its fruit; not from the leaves.” —Euripides • “To give a clear reason for one’s judgment is universally recognized as a mark of rare genius.” —William James • “Our duty is to believe that for which we have sufficient evidence, and to suspend our judgment when we have not.” —John Lubbeck • “Of all the causes which conspire to blind Man’s erring judgement, and misguide the mind, What the weak head with strongest bias rules, Is pride, the never-failing vice of fools” —Alexander Pope
As we come to realize the critical nature of judging, we will understand the care we owe to this important aspect of our lives. Caution and care should be our watchwords. We are prone to judge by appearances, or according to our own experience and biases. We know not what people are thinking, what their past experience has been, the status of their physical and mental health, their relationships with their family and friends; what injuries they may have suffered in the past; nor do we have any inkling of their real intent, or of their future goals; nor of their status before the Lord. People can make mistakes. They can make bad judgments that result in misbehavior or trying situations. Remember, though, that people can change—and the ultimate judge is God. Let us always keep in our hearts the divine dictum: “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (Doctrine and Covenants 64:10).