Your friend didn’t answer your text about next weekend’s plans. I mean, REALLY, how hard would it be to just text back?
However, when you drop the ball on a text, well, that’s different. You meant to, but . . .
If you read something online and the author didn’t cover every point that you would have said, they must be uninformed, stupid, not love God with the same depth of faith you do, hate a specific group, be insensitive to others.
But when you write something, you assume people will realize you can’t be expected to cover every single point every single time.
If your coworker misses an important deadline, he must be lazy, unable to keep a commitment, and have poor time management skills.
However, (hypothetically, of course) when you consistently turn a blog post in late but have been thinking about it since Thursday, well that’s not so bad.
Writer Stephen M. R. Covey summed up this phenomenon with one sentence: “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
We easily come up with a list of reasons why our actions are justified. But when somebody else doesn’t follow through, we get resentful. Martin Luther (a church reformer who lived five hundred years ago) suggested we give people the same slack we give ourselves: “We should fear and love God that we . . . take [our neighbor’s] words and actions in the kindest possible way.”
What if, instead of judging others and assuming the worst, we took their words and actions in the kindest possible way and assumed the best?
One way I do that is to play the “I’d be okay with that if . . .” game. If I’m stuck in traffic and someone drives along the shoulder, I really want to scream at them. Instead of letting my blood boil, I say, “I’d be okay with that if . . .” Then fill in the blank. Maybe the woman is in labor and needs to get to the hospital. Or it’s an off-duty first responder who heard about the accident up ahead and is going to help. Maybe it’s the president of the United States and he needs to get to a meeting. (When you’re stuck in traffic for a long time, you start to come up with some crazy ideas!)
You know what, though? It’s not easy to play this game when the stakes are higher, when it comes to our family and friends. These are the people whom God has placed in our lives to love, protect, and to bless with grace—and more grace. Instead, we judge their actions, take everything personally, and let resentment and defensiveness build.
That can stop today. If you’ve been judging actions lately, this a good reminder that “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
For more discussions on judging, watch Pastor Jared’s Your Time of Grace video series.
P.S. I am talking here about day-to-day common struggles. If you are in a more serious situation, please know that showing love to others does not mean you should be a literal or proverbial punching bag. Please seek out wise Christian friends, counselors, or pastors.
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who came up with the “I’d be okay with that if” game when she actually was stuck in traffic and someone actually did go flying by on the shoulder.