Don’t judge someone by their worst moment or their worst trait

Look again at the picture at the top of this post. What do you see?

Most of us see a black dot. We overlook the white space and focus on the one, small dot.

Now think of the entire picture as representing a person’s life—it symbolizes the essence and totality of who a person is and what he has done—and the black dot denotes his worst moment or worst trait. Just as our eyes are drawn to the black dot, we often tend to focus on the “black dot” in people’s lives, discounting all their positive attributes. We often judge others based on a single issue.

But we shouldn’t form our opinion of someone based on their worst moment (she had an affair; he got fired from a job; he blew up during a staff meeting.) or their worst trait (he’s always tardy; she’s financially imprudent; she’s vain about her clothes.) While our observations may be accurate, it’s unfair to focus exclusively on them and emphasize them.    

There are two main reasons why we shouldn’t judge others.

1. It’s difficult to truly understand why people act the way they do. 

Henry David Thoreau asked, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” It’s that difficult. Every person has a story; there’s a reason behind who they are and what they’ve done, but we’re usually not privy to that information. 

Imagine walking through the woods and you see a dog. It looks cute and friendly so you approach the dog to pet it. Suddenly it snarls and tries to bite you. The dog no longer seems very cute and now you’re both afraid and angry. Then, the wind blows away the leaves on the ground and you see that the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, you feel compassion for the dog. You realize it became aggressive because of its pain and suffering.

We’ve heard the adage, “Never judge another person until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” It’s good advice—try to see life from another person’s perspective—and it essentially eliminates judging others because it’s impossible to truly experience someone else’s life. You can’t “walk in someone’s shoes” for a few feet much less a mile. The moral is: Don’t judge.

2. All of us need grace.

Someone has suggested: Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.

In Matthew 7, Jesus says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Then he tells an anecdote to explain why: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The key word in the story is hypocrite. 

Jesus is exposing a blind, ignorant, hypocritical, self-righteous judging that overlooks one’s own faults and focuses on the sins of others. His anecdote is intentionally extreme and a bit humorous: There are two dudes working in a woodshop. One guy looks at the other guy and says with a mixture of disdain and contempt, and with a smirk, “You nincompoop, you’ve got some sawdust in your eye. Come here and I’ll help you with that problem.” All the while he’s got a two-by-four sticking out of his own eye.

I think it’s part of the dark side of our human nature: It’s easy for us to see other people’s faults but we’re blinded to our own. 

Of course, there’s a need for balance relative to recognizing and responding to right and wrong. In society and in our personal relationships, we need reasonable and fair laws, expectations, and boundaries, and sensible responses to violators. I’m not going to address that important topic here because it may distract from my main point. 

Referring back to the picture at the top of this post, instead of obsessing on the black dot (people’s foibles), let’s train ourselves to do the opposite—focus on people’s best moments and their best attributes. And hopefully they will extend to us the same grace. 

8 Replies to “Don’t judge someone by their worst moment or their worst trait”

  1. Bravo Don and very well said. I have recently been made aware of how we rate sins on some kind of scale….. this sin is worse than that sin . Everyone has a dot.

  2. There was a woman whose stepson’s family was in transition and had come to live with her for a time. She was troubled over differences in standards such as whose turn is it to cook and what obligations each member of the stepson’s family has to the host family, etc., They couldn’t seem to get on the same wave length. The woman had about reached the end of the rope and was near “losing” it, a confrontation that would have been difficult to walk back and one that had the potential to do permanent damage. That morning she read a passage from her pastor that went “Perhaps today is the day you can show someone grace instead of judgement. Perhaps today is the day you can show patience in the face of frustration. Perhaps today the love of Christ can be extended even with the hurt and heartbreak of the world around you…I pray that you will respond to the (Holy) Spirit’s call.”
    In time they worked it out and had a great relationship for the remainder of time they lived together.

    1. David, thanks for sharing that touching and informative anecdote. Grace, patience, love…we need more of. Take care. Don

  3. I think your theme and conclusion is good advice: We all need grace. My comment is driven by your quoting of Jesus’ famous words “Judge not…”. I say “famous” because many non-Christians quote these words to support their relativistic ‘Don’t judge me’ attitude. Most miss the point that we are not to judge until we apply the same judgement to ourselves – take the log out of your eye, and THEN you can see clearly to remove the splinter from an other’s eye. Jesus goes on to tell us to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing; you shall know them by their fruits. He tells us to judge them by their actions; He tells us to be fruit inspectors. The central theme of 1st Corinthians is Paul’s judgement against the “woke” church, and his call for their corporate judgement on the proud, sinning, individual. Grace abounds for the repentant one in 2nd Corinthians. True followers of Christ need to counter this “everything’s okay” culture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *