Last week I wrote a post all about Mommy Judgment on the internet. It was pretty well received.
But, there was one intriguing comment, from someone who told me I really ought to clean my floors before snapping a picture. Apparently, if my floors aren’t clean, she can’t take me seriously. (I’d suggest to everyone that if you won’t follow a blogger who doesn’t have their life together and their home immaculate and who is perfect, that you really ought to just stop following bloggers altogether. They are just as real as you are. They do not have it all together. They do grab a camera and snap an adorable picture of their baby even with smudges from the toddler’s recent snack still on the floor.)
There was unbelievable irony in being judged on a post about not judging people, and my readers had plenty to say about it! I’m really not trying to call this person out (hence not using any names or quotes), I was just really struck by the situation. It also inspired me to write this post, which I’ve been thinking about for a long time. How to judge others. Yes, really.
We Can Judge Others?
I’ve had it happen on a couple separate occasions that I was judged by someone I knew in real life. It was done privately. It was done gently. As I said, I knew the person. But I still didn’t agree with either occasion. For one, the person and I didn’t have what you’d call a close relationship. For another, I didn’t think the circumstances warranted it. (If you’re curious, in one instance, I was asked not to breastfeed in front of men, even completely covered, for fear they might realize what I was doing and get ideas. Umm…they could do the exact same thing if I left the room with a crying baby, if they were using their imaginations alone.)
But, that’s not to say that judgment is completely bad.
If your friend was doing drugs, wouldn’t you think it was okay to judge her, say that doing drugs is bad, and try to get her some help? Or if your friend was suffering from postpartum depression…was a hoarder…was cheating on her husband?
I think we can agree that there is a time and a place for judgment!
The internet is not and will never be it. Judging casual acquaintances is still wrong. Judging different parenting choices is still wrong. We are not talking about that kind of judgment. But, sometimes there is something serious happening and yes, you need to judge, and you need to get involved.
I’m especially posting this because I think that some Christians take the judging a little too far. I’ve done it myself! But, it’s a criticism levied against us pretty regularly. Yes, it is Biblical to judge others. But it must be done very, very carefully.
How to Judge Others
This is the most important part. How to actually do it. If you do it wrong, it’s no better than the sanctimonious internet judging that goes on. If you must do it, please follow these careful steps.
Question the Relationship
The most important part: do you have a relationship with this person? How close are you? If the person you are judging is your mom, your sister, your best friend…it’s likely that you should be the one to get involved. If it’s your neighbor, that woman you talk to at your son’s karate class, or a friend you see at church every now and then, it’s probably not a good idea. You must have a close relationship with this person. You must have a foundation of love and care built so that when you approach the person, they see that love and care shining through your concern. This is an absolute must.
Question the Issue
Is this really something you have to bring up? Is it truly an issue of concern? If your friend is struggling with postpartum depression, there’s no question — she needs help and you need to bring it up. But if it’s a gray area, like what constitutes ‘oversharing’ on social media, maybe this isn’t something you really need to say. (In the ‘oversharing’ case, maybe you just lightly say “I really like to only post ____” and leave it at that.) If it’s a controversial issue, then you need to be really careful. Maybe you feel very passionately that children ought to be homeschooled, vaccinated, not circumcised, or whatever, but does she need to share your passion? These are not issues that you can bring up and tell her she is wrong. You can gently suggest “Have you considered…” but you cannot actually judge. So before you do, prayerfully consider if you really should.
Question the Timing
When you approach is critical too. Right after church or karate class when everyone’s rushing around isn’t good (not to mention it’s pretty public). At the very end of a playdate isn’t a good idea either. Or, even when she’s struggling through a stressful time in her life (unless that’s what you need to approach her about — a mom with PPD is going through a stressful time but that’s not a reason to wait to help her!) might not be so great. It’s important that you have plenty of time to talk, that everyone is calm and relaxed, and that you are in private. Judgment should never, ever be public. That’s not loving concern; that’s an attack. Choose a private location in which the person will feel comfortable and relaxed to talk.
Question the Approach
If it’s serious enough to say, it’s serious enough to approach gently. Don’t jump right in when you talk meet them. Ask how they are, talk about something neutral. Then, pause for a moment, and preface what you are about to say. “I need to talk to you about something serious. I hope you know I love you and I’m only coming to you with this because I’m concerned about you.” Then share your concerns gently, explain carefully. Do not judge the struggle or issue harshly (ironic since we’re “judging” right?). Use lots of ‘I’ statements if possible. “I’ve noticed you seem really unhappy lately, and you’ve seemed to be struggling since the birth of your child. I’m concerned you may be struggling with postpartum depression, and I’d like to get you some help.”
This is no time for shame. If, for example, your friend is cheating on her husband, you would not say “I know you’re cheating. That’s so horrible, how do you think he feels?” You might say, “Are you unhappy in your marriage? I’ve seen some signs that you may be seeing someone else, and I’m concerned that you might be struggling. Do you need someone to talk to? I’m happy to listen, or I can help you find a marriage counselor if you’re interested.” This is gentle help.
Is Judging Really Judging?
What I’m describing here sure doesn’t look like the “judgment” we are used to. We’re used to hearing that word and thinking something nasty, harsh, and critical. We aren’t used to judgment being gentle, loving, and out of genuine concern.
But, you know, that’s what judgment should be. Judging isn’t really judging as we know it.
The above tips are what my reader (that I mentioned at the beginning of the post) missed. She meant well. But we don’t have a relationship, she said it publicly, and it wasn’t an issue that really needed to be brought up (we all have different cleanliness ‘standards’ and that’s okay! Now, had my place been filled with piles of garbage in all directions, well…).
What we can take away from this is, if you know someone who is close to you is struggling in some way, it’s totally within your rights to approach that person and lovingly, carefully speak into their life and offer some help. It’s what we need to do sometimes, as brothers and sisters. You know — someone you love so much that you’re willing to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.
If you’re judging harshly, in anger, of someone you don’t know very well — don’t. It’s not your place.
Great post, Kate! Our pastor always says when you hold someone accountable, it shouldn’t be as if you’re shaking a finger in their face. It should be as if you’re coming alongside them with an arm around their shoulder. It can be so difficult to find that balance of speaking the truth in love. We tend to veer to one extreme or the other–either not confronting when it’s necessary out of fear of damaging the relationship or by doing it harshly and without grace. An excellent reminder of what Biblical accountability actually looks like.
Those who judge will be judged so in that case we better be using the standards of a Holy God to judge others. There is only one standard that is true and it sure is not mine! So rock on Kate, your life is between you and your maker. The Old testament is how to learn of His standards if anyone is interested. As in love your neighbor and be kind.
Nice tips. My house is far from immaculate; of course it doesn’t help that I’m in the midst of trying to purge things that I no longer need/use.
I’m really sorry that someone would zero in on your supposedly dirty floors, but I am so grateful that you address judgment in such a tactful and sound manner. Thank you for all of your posts that help to encourage mothers to work together toward healthy relationships- with their families and each other!
This is so good! “Speak the truth in love”. And if you can’t do it in love and gentleness, take those thoughts to God in prayer. And deal with your own attitude:) Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Great wisdom.
My floors are always dirty! I can mop it and in 10 minutes it’s toast! So sad that someone would get stuck on that. This reminds me of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:41). Poor Martha doesn’t know what she’s missing. I think “judging” is something that is important when it is a safety issue for the body or soul. But even then, it’s not really judging, it’s more of an expression of concern, at least for me.
I think what you’re talking about in the end is not “judging” but “speaking up about a problem you observe and trying to help the person do better.” The only judgment involved is discerning whether it is a problem or isn’t. And for that kind of judgment, I think it’s entirely possible that “different parenting choices” could be a problem. For example, you might observe that when your cousin’s toddler spills juice on the carpet, your cousin chooses to slap the child in the face, scream profanity at her, throw her into her room, lock the door, and keep her in there for two hours–that’s a parenting choice that I would judge inappropriate and harmful, so I would try to speak up gently, find out what’s going wrong for my cousin that leads her to react so strongly, find out about any influences that motivate her to parent this way (for example, a book that says you must be very harsh with children), and teach her some alternative approaches. I believe it would be wrong to look away and think I must not “judge” that behavior.
If your friend was doing drugs, wouldn’t you think it was okay to judge her, say that doing drugs is bad, and try to get her some help?
I do not think it is okay to “judge” her in the sense of thinking she is a bad person. People use drugs for many many reasons. Also, not all drugs are the same, so I’d never say, “doing drugs is bad.” Especially, I wouldn’t say it to the person who’s using the drugs; because she is my friend and I respect her, I know she must have a reason she got into this, so I want to hear how it started and how it’s working for her BEFORE judging how much and what kind of problem it is.
“How to judge others.”
close? perhaps. perhaps not. to clarify, how did Y’shua (very specifically) say to judge ?
(please do not trust your memory; read what is written in Scripture again (that Y’shua said about judging/appraising), or for the first time.)
points to remember:
Y’shua said very plainly who are unable to judge, and who is able to judge … (some translations say ‘appraise’), as well as how they judge.
.. the difference may be day and night. life and death.
Its hard to be judged by others when tragedy happens. They think that its something you have done to have something bad happen in your life… anyway ….I agree…. its hard to be judged, but its all up to us what we do with it….
This is perfect. Relationship is key. And YES help is key. Unless our “judgement” comes with a hefty serving of actual practical help we are judging.
Because that is actually what you are talking about: helping close friends. These aren’t judgments at all. They are help. Some people interpret “say the truth in love” as “judge in a loving tone of voice” when it really means: “when you completely love a person unequivocally where their good is as important to you as your own good, you may tell them what you perceive to be the truth”. And oh. How seldom is that the case!