Why Being Judgmental Is Part of Our Nature

imagesI was listening to a sermon not long ago in which the pastor extolled the virtue of not being “judgmental.” As Christians, he urged, we must be understanding and compassionate and forgiving. And since we can never know just what motivates people to act, or to refrain from acting, in any particular situation, our judgments are not always accurate.

In this current climate of “political correctness,” we find the “virtue” of being non-judgmental everywhere, even coming from the pulpit.  Committed Christians who should know better nonetheless seem ready to accept the saying “judge no lest ye be just” as the prime directive, believing somehow that Christian compassion requires us to be more understanding and more accepting of bad behavior. They re-write the Bible to make this the “greatest commandment,” instead of staying true to the commandments God actually provided.

In taking Jesus’ admonition out of context, they get wrong not just want the Bible actually teaches on the subject; they also get wrong what people really mean when they give voice to these words.  At face value, the saying seems vaguely comforting. Wouldn’t it be great to just be what I was “meant to be?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be embraced and loved without limitation, without condition? Isn’t this what we are all longing for?

Not really. People realize intuitively that judging is something we always do: we judge ourselves, our environment, our situations and interactions… and we judge others. It’s not being “judged” that we mind; in fact, we want to be judged – we want to be found worthy and praised, and rewarded.  What people are really saying is that they do not want to be condemned.  They don’t want to be judged and found wanting.  We see this from the earliest days of a child shortly after they learn to speak.  Praise them and they smile, admonish them and they cry.  They don’t need to be taught how to react; they simply know how. And when they learn to express themselves, one of the first things they will intuitively grasp is that there is this thing called “fairness” by which all behavior is judged. They will make use of this early and often, as they condemn behavior that does not meet their expectations. And when accused of being unfair, they will not respond by saying that it’s okay to be unfair; instead, they will insist they are in the right and that the other is wrong.  It’s only as they get older that they will learn the clever, but incoherent, parry that is so popular today of claiming that judging itself is wrong: clever, because it prevents criticism of the behavior, no matter how destructive it might be; incoherent, because the claim is itself a judgment and therefore guilty of the very thing it condemns.

What explanation does atheism have for this obvious human condition? Since the vast majority of people seem inclined to want to shake off judgment and be free to do what they wish, wouldn’t natural selection have eliminated this condition long ago? What evolutionary benefit would derive from feeling guilty about not acting as we should? What sense does “should” make in a universe in which we are simply an accident of evolution? With survival of the fittest as the rule, behaviors that limit our choices and prevent us from putting ourselves first – prevent us from achieving dominance over others – make us weaker, not stronger.

The Christain worldview, by contrast, can and does make sense of it. We intuitively know that there is a right and wrong, that there is good and evil and fairness and unfairness, because the absolute standard for goodness made us in His image. He left within us – written upon our heart as it were – intuitive access to this standard and a desire – a need – to conform to it. Our fallen nature prevents us from ever fully achieving this, but the knowledge of it, and of our need to yield to it, is part of the very fabric of our minds.

God left within us the desire to find our way back to Him, and an innate fear of condemnation. Though we may not realize it, we long to hear Him welcome us home with words of praise. What we seem to have forgotten is that we cannot find our way there without Him.

Posted by Al Serrato


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