Judging Not: Re-Defining a “Christian” Concept

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.

Having grown up Southern Baptist, I have plenty of guilt that creeps into my life without warning. Every now and then, I have to stop and re-examine some of the “Christian” concepts I grew up on, in light of my  Wiccan spirituality. The concepts have value, and maybe it’s just semantics, but the words them- selves have been tainted for me over the years and I  have to come up with new words in order to salvage the meaning.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

I’m not redefining the words—I’m renaming the concepts.

Today’s concept? Judgment.

I’m quite familiar with the scripture that says, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I think I was two years old when I first spouted that Bible verse in Sunday School. But I saw it only as an admonition for me to accept others I came to understand it fully for the first time a few years ago  when some people I greatly admired at work misjudged me and showed a mean side. It was ugly, and all I could do was sit silently and be bludgeoned and pretend I liked it.

They later  found  out  that  things  were  not  as  they seemed  and were friendly to me after that. They decided they were wrong and I was great and they wanted everything to be like it was before, and let’s  just pretend none of it ever happened.

For me, though, I had seen their narrow-mindedness and judged them right back and found my idols to have feet of clay. They were no longer my role models after that. Not only did they lose the high esteem I held them in, but I have never been inclined to go beyond my job description for them since, something that’s left them with a bit of a problem because of certain skills I have that are hard to find among my colleagues. Because of their judgment of me, they had been judged and found lacking.

Vicki and I have argued about this concept over the years. She’s an extremely wise woman  generous of character than I am. I hear all my guilt-ridden Christian upbringing in her tone whenever she turns the other cheek and says, “I shouldn’t judge.”

Sometimes, especially after I’ve been judged or if I don’t morally  agree with something, I have to say, “Why the hell not?!”

Again, it’s semantics, but if you don’t judge, you don’t discern,  and if you don’t discern, you can’t discriminate, can’t assess a value. You can’t determine the things that are bad for you and you end up being  mistreated. Maybe this is fall-out from my whole divorce and rebirth  scenario, but I happen to think it’s important to be able to judge a situation for myself as well as judging people’s motives to make sure I—and my children—am not thrust into a harmful state of affairs.

It’s a self-protection measure, I suppose.

Of course, that’s not exactly what Vicki’s talking about, but it’s the years of Baptist upbringing that lend to my own interpretation of  judgment as inclusive of discernment, assessment, and sound reasoning.  So I now have a better term for judging not.

Staying neutral.

Pam joked recently that they should call me “Switzerland” when I said I would try in the new year to “stay neutral.” I meant it, though.

If I think of not judging as staying neutral, I don’t have to take sides. I don’t have to make a decision on the rightness or wrongness of someone else’s choice. Which is very freeing!

My first application of this new terminology was in the wedding  I  conducted this week. I had been friends with the bride, the groom, and the bride’s very, very recently departed- but-not-dead-husband. Which  makes things awkward, doesn’t it? But by approaching it as not taking sides, as staying neutral and simply being there to perform a service and  not have to make any decisions for my own well-being or my family’s well- being, then it worked out remarkably well. No heavy emotions on my part. Their decision to divorce and re-marry had no direct impact on me or  on my security or on any anticipated course in my own life should I  ever marry again.

Does that  mean  I  can  always  stay  neutral?  No.  And sometimes I shouldn’t. For example, if a female friend acquired a new boyfriend who chain smokes, I could stay neutral. If she brought him unannounced to my home and he lit up in my non- allergenic house after being told not to, then their actions would have an impact on my asthma and that’s where Ms. Switzerland begins to look like a South Georgia militia.

Do I still judge? Yep. But it’s easier to put it in context and let go of when I think of it as staying neutral.