The topic of judging others has been a source of confusion for many years and is one that often leads to an interesting discussion. On one hand we should be forgiving, loving, and non-judgmental toward others. But on the other hand, we must be careful to evaluate and judge situations properly in order to draw wise conclusions. Perhaps this illustration will help you understand what I mean.
Suppose I am driving down the road and someone who is going ninety miles an hour passes me and everyone else, while swerving all over the highway. It would be very easy to say, “That person is going too fast and is driving recklessly. He is going to endanger his own life as well as the lives of other people!” That would be a fair evaluation or judgment to make based on my observations. However, if I understood his daughter was in the back seat and was choking to death on a marble she had just swallowed, and he was rushing her to the hospital, my judgment of the situation would be different. You see, while it might be fair to judge the outward appearance of what was taking place, it would be unfair and unreasonable to judge the motive of the driver.
We are all prone to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. When we judge others, we tend to look at their outward behavior and make a quick decision based on our assumption of what is taking place. At times that is fair. After all, if something walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck and acts like a duck…I tend to think it is a duck!
However, when we do judge ourselves, we tend to “cut ourselves some slack.” We may say something like, “Well, my intentions were good even though my behavior may have been somewhat lacking.” And therein lies the problem. People cannot see intensions. We tend to judge others by their behavior, but we judge ourselves by our intentions.
It is impossible to see intentions and motives. We can only see outward appearances. There is a big difference between outward behavior and actions, and inward intentions and motives. Most of us have been in a situation where we said to someone, “Well, what I meant to do was…” That is our way of telling them that they misjudged our outward actions because they could not see our inner motives. The truth of the matter is no one can read the motives and intents of our heart. No one can read our mind.
We must ask ourselves how our actions or words will be perceived by other people. It may be true that we have pure motives and a good heart, but if our outward actions or words demonstrate otherwise, then we cause people to be confused, upset, or hurt. Others hear what we say but they see what we do. If those two aspects of life do not match, then other people will misjudge our actions every time!
If you are tempted to make a judgment this week based on someone else’s actions, let this Tip serve as a reminder that outward actions and inward motives are two very different things. A person should not be judged by outward actions alone. Using the illustration above, the same police officer who pulls over the speeding driver who is driving in a reckless manner, will also speed to the hospital in order to save the child’s life once the situation or motive is understood.
Behaviors and motives will always be different, and we would all be wiser to seek to understand both before making our final evaluation or judgment in the situations we face in life on a daily basis. This can be hard, but no one ever said life is always easy!
Tip: Remember to separate judging actions from judging motives!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm