Let’s face it. It’s reallllyyyyy hard to stop judging people sometimes. Whether it’s a boss that just gets under our skin, or someone who doesn’t seem ‘right’ in our eyes, we’re all prone to having opinions of people that… aren’t always nice. However, in this post, I’ll share 3 tips on how to not judge others, based on what the Bible tells us. Over time, I hope these will help all Christians – myself included – move closer to God’s desire for our heart conditions.
I’ll try to keep things real and to-the-point. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: To be extra clear, this article refers only to our instances of judgment that emerge from self-righteousness – that is, a person’s judgments that stem from respecting Man’s own standards / opinions over God’s. This is not the same as making a righteous judgment that is in right standing with God. In short, the post is focused on helping all of us try to move away from our negative habits of self-righteous judgment (what ‘I’ think is right) towards making choices by God’s righteous judgment (seeking Him first for what He thinks is right in any situation). For more details on the doctrinal differences between righteous and self-righteous judgment, check out this article or this one!
How to Not Judge Others (3 Tips to Stop Being Judgmental)
1. First, let’s never forget: we’re no better than the people we judge.
In all honesty, we often self-righteously judge others to varying degrees. Our judgments can be big or small, publicly expressed or hidden in our hearts.
For example, you may secretly think a relative has ‘major issues’, or you might be joining in on the office gossip about how ‘strange’ your colleague is. Perhaps you’ve judged a person based on your quick first impression of how he / she looks, talks, acts, etc. – before even getting to know him / her properly.
In short, we tend to self-righteously judge people more often than we’d care to admit.
In light of this, ‘how to not judge others’ seems like a really tough goal to achieve…
But let’s try looking at things from a more Biblical view.
First of all, the Bible is very clear in telling us to stop self-righteously judging other people:
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”Romans 2:1
But what does this mean on a deeper spiritual level?
For starters, as humans, we are all sinners, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8).
Moreover, it is only by God’s grace alone that believers of Christ are cleansed of sin and saved – not from any of our own egotistical self-righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:15-18; Romans 6:23; 1 John 1:7).
In other words, we are – by our own human ‘merit’ – really no different than the next person. None of us are in any position to self-righteously judge others in relation to God’s holy and righteous standards.
Furthermore, when we habitually chose to judge others, we ourselves are actually sinning, too.
This is because, by being self-righteously judgmental, we go against God’s desire for us to stop being so (Matthew 7:2; James 4:11-12; Ephesians 4:29). We are also not respecting His ultimate role as the one and only truly righteous Judge of everything.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?James 4:12
So how can we try our best to live out a Biblical view to not judge others?
First off, let us be thankful for God’s sufficient grace, knowing that He is already aware of our struggles to hold back our self-righteous judgments.
Nonetheless, I think that, as Christians, we should all make a sincere, conscious, and active effort to become less judgmental over time. Doing this is a big step in God’s right direction. Yes, we’ll stumble along the way. But I think setting the habitual intention to keep trying is a great way to walk life by His will, not ours.
Here are a few tips to help you keep a Biblical view to stop being judgmental:
- Stay humble and accept that, on our own, absolutely none of us are perfect when it comes to God’s holy standards. This will help us resist ‘casting the first stone’ by judging someone with hypocritical double-standards (John 8:7).
- Be vigilant to remind yourself that it is not our role to act like a self-righteous judge of someone else. We should not ‘play God’ by holding people up to our own imperfect standards. Instead, in humble obedience, we must surrender our hearts to seeking God’s righteous response to each person for all situations. He is the perfect Judge, not us.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Read our answer here!
2. Love others over self-righteously judging them.
Sometimes, when we self-righteously judge others, we can really hurt people in the process. Especially with our words and actions.
For example, imagine you said something not-so-nice about someone, either online or offline – for whatever reason.
Subsequently, this person may come to hear about what you said… but only after the gossip has spread through many others.
How’d you feel if you were in his / her shoes? If you were on the receiving end of such a judgment? Probably not great!
Sure, there may be times where we (pridefully) see our own judgments of others as ‘totally justified’. This is particularly so when it comes to people we may not like.
However, at the same time, us being self-righteously judgmental can, more often than not, cause the receiver to feel hurt, angry, anxious, embarrassed, and other negative emotions.
Moreover, he / she may start to develop an equally harsh judgmental attitude in return – of others (“How dare she say that about me!”) or maybe even himself / herself (“Maybe he’s right. I am stupid…”).
In short, when we choose to self-righteously judge people, we create or add to a never-ending cycle of potential toxicity. In effect, we become less kind in our hearts, minds, and treatment of others.
Sure, hurting people might not always be our original intention… but it is certainly the most common long-term result of being judgmental.
Thus, the big question to ask ourselves here is: as believers of Christ, can we do better than this? How can we do our parts to reduce or break this toxic chain reaction?
The answer lies in listening to God’s way!
“Love your neighbor” isn’t just a nice Bible quote – it’s a daily decision.
When asked what God’s greatest commandment is, Jesus said two things: first, to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37-38), and:
… the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’Matthew 22:39
And elsewhere in the Bible:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”John 15:12
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”1 Peter 4:8
In our present context, it is clear that – rather than self-righteously judging others and potentially causing hurt – we should instead seek to love people more, according to God’s will.
Of course, admittedly, showing love can be a real struggle at times, especially when dealing with people who may easily trigger us.
However, making a habitual, active effort to love others helps us cultivate more compassionate hearts that, over time, also inspire us to stop being judgmental.
Here’s how we can give God’s way our very best shot!
How do you stop being judgmental? Keep repeating these mental exercises!
- If you feel yourself starting to self-righteously judge someone, quickly take a mental step back from your immediate situation. Take a breather and resist your initial knee-jerk reaction. As you do this, seek to empathize with the person. Aim to find common ground (e.g. “We all have struggles in life.”) and consciously relate to him / her. This won’t always be easy – but trying matters!
- Remind yourself of God’s desire for us to love others. Keep your heart heavenward! Know also that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but hard words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Thus, be a child of God that gives positive words, thoughts, and actions to others as you lift their spirits – not hurt them (Ephesians 4:29).
- To be clear, loving others does not mean always having to hide your honest opinions or blindly agreeing with everyone (Proverbs 27:5). Indeed, there may be moments where, for example, you wish to express a different view to someone. If so, you can share your honest thoughts with him / her in private – but do so gently with a loving heart. Have the intention to help, not insult. Moreover, be sure to sincerely listen to his / her responses while also humbly confessing to anything you may have initially misjudged him / her on. Of course, not everyone will respond well to this approach. However, on your part, keep seeking to show love as you cut back on making hasty judgments about people.
In short, as we practice the above steps daily, choosing to love others over self-righteously judging them will start to become easier, more habitual. There’ll surely be bad days where we’re just not in the mood to try. However, making the regular decision to keep loving is key to our lifelong walk with God.
Loving others also means forgiveness.
Just as He forgave us, God reminds us that learning to forgive others is a huge part of showing love (Colossians 3:13; Mark 11:25; Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).
Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.Proverbs 17:9
In contrast to being judgmental, forgiveness brings joy and hope. It frees people from the pain of regret. Openly forgiving someone also breaks the cycle of toxicity, giving others a second-chance to learn, improve, and bring out the best versions of who they can be.
In other words, just as we hope for people to forgive us when we inevitably make mistakes, so too should we aim to forgive and love others – instead of holding onto our ill-hearted judgments, secretly or otherwise.
Feeling anxious? Read our devotional on letting go of fear.
3. Not self-righteously judging others affirms our own identities in God.
Constantly judging people not only hurts them; it also hurts ourselves.
In this respect, you’ll notice that, in most cases, the more and longer we self-righteously judge others, the unhappier or less satisfied with our own lives we tend to get.
This is because being judgmental is often a byproduct of trying to hide our own insecurities or supposed ‘flaws’, either from others or ourselves.
What causes a person to be judgmental?
Therapists have discovered that our habits of judging people are usually secretly rooted in one or more of the following insecurities:
- A desire for more attention;
- Wanting to feel more accepted by others;
- Trying to be more in control of one’s life via controlling others;
- A fear of developing closer relationships;
- Self-projections (e.g. the things we privately worry to be true about ourselves are pushed onto others as criticism).
These deep seated (and often subconscious) reasons for becoming self-righteously judgmental usually lead to personal unhappiness, dissatisfaction in one’s identity, and other negative thoughts.
But God wants to remind us of our true identity!
As said above, we tend to start judging others due to our own insecurities and self-perceived lack.
However, as believers, God constantly reminds us in the Bible of who we truly are in Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 5:1
These and many other verses teach us one important thing.
As we meditate on God’s Word to us, our hearts will hopefully be led to a few key conclusions, namely:
- We are God’s children, whose identities are made whole through our faith in Jesus;
- Because we are made whole, there is actually no real need for us to compare ourselves with others based on worldly values (e.g. “I’m not smart / popular / attractive / talented / etc. enough.”)…
- … and since who we are is fully secure in Christ, there is thus also no reason for us to self-righteously judge others due to our own insecurities.
- Instead, we can focus on doing good works in the name of Jesus, such as choosing to love others, rather than judge or condemn them.
In other words, we don’t have to be judgmental towards others when we learn to fully embrace God’s sovereign decision to adopt us into His family. As His kids, we lack nothing (Ephesians 1:5), and are “worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7) in His eyes.
I know feeling secure in who we are is initially hard to accept. After all, we live in a broken world that constantly bombards us to think otherwise – to believe we’re never good enough. The struggle seems so real sometimes.
However, as believers, we can all ultimately trust that God offers each of us the opportunity to walk in true freedom with Christ.
And, in so doing, we have the choice to turn away from our negative habits of judging others as we seek instead to love others in His name. By loving people, we allow God’s light to shine before others, giving glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
May He bless and guide you in your own journey to let go of being self-righteously judgmental! Amen.