First impressions get me into trouble. Does that happen to you?
When I meet someone for the first time, I often make some snap decision regarding them based on their handshake, body size, facial expression, and or taste in fashion. It sometimes feels like I am giving an instant “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” judgment before any word is spoken. Such snap decision can then color how my conversation goes with the person and what I think of them.
And a big part of my problem with this is that I don’t even realize that I am doing it!
Jesus’ words, “do not judge, lest you be judged” (Matthew 7:1) are a clear warning for me to examine my judgmental character. And his story about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector highlights how as a religious person I can easily judge others.
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'” Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 18:10-14, The Message)
My first step in becoming less judgmental is first to recognize that I am doing it all the time. I judge in the morning whether I like or dislike the weather outside my window. I judge whether my breakfast is tasty, my coffee is too cold, or my attitude is too cranky. Mindfulness meditation has helped me to see that these judging thoughts are simply that: thoughts or feelings that are not always reality.
Now when I recognize a judging thought, I simply observe it and note its existence. I may investigate to see what its history and/or cause may be. Then I can decide whether I want to hold on to it or let it go (in a sort of non-judgmental way).
For example: I met up with some of my buddies for a bike ride and a new person is there whom I have not met. I might scan their bike and see how new and/or what make it is as a way to size up what kind of cyclist they may be. I look at what clothes they wear and how fit they appear. These first impressions all take but a few seconds, but they can easily color my opinion of the new person.
If I were to stop and investigate these impressions, I would remember how I felt when I had an old Schwinn ten speed bike and rag-tag cycling gear. Also I would remember cycling with people who did not look fit yet could easily outride me. I recognize these “judgments,” and their accompanying feelings, then set them aside as I introduce myself to the new rider. Who knows, they may become a new friend.
Here is a link to a video that describes non-judging from a mindfulness training perspective.
How do you live out Jesus’ words, “judge not”?
Lord Jesus, grant me grace to see each person, each moment, as a gift from you.