One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Justified. It's great for so many reasons, one of them being the relationship between Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. One of my favorite lines from Raylan is this:
"If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole."
So many times when we judge other people it has more to do with us than it has to do with them. It's often not because of their actual offense but because of something going on inside of us that they trigger.
Sometimes we judge other people according to our own strengths. If you want to see what someone thinks they are good at, look at how they judge other people. It's common to see an overweight pastor harp on the dangers of alcohol while conveniently ignoring the trappings of gluttony. To make it personal to me, I'll often preach on the value of humility but ignore the need for boldness. Genuine humility and compassionate boldness are both beautiful things, but because I struggle with boldness I'll judge those that are bold as being cocky. I'll take their positive as a negative when really it's all about me. (which of course destroys any pretense of humility if I'm being honest.)
Sometimes we judge other people because they have the same weakness as we do. In that instance, what we are actually doing is projecting our shame onto them. Once again, that's not really a judgment on them but ourselves. This makes Jesus' words all the more powerful:
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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 the plank is 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."
This past weekend I learned a ton from the author and leader Dan Tocchini. One thing he said was, "The speck in someone else's eye might just be a reflection of the log in your own." Ouch!
Whenever you find yourself triggered by someone else's personality, words, or actions, it's helpful to slow things down and get curious. Why am I upset? How am I experiencing this person? Do they remind me of someone else that has caused me pain? Do they remind me of something in myself that's painful? Is there something going on in their life right now or from their past that might impact how they behave? (I've found the more of someone's story you know, the less judgment and the more compassion you have.)
Notice that Jesus doesn't say that we aren't to help other people or give them constructive feedback or speak truth into their life. What he says is stop judging people so harshly. He doesn't say what you judge people for is going to hurt you, he says how you judge them. Once you do the work in your own life to notice the planks in your eyes, you're moved to a place of humility, patience, and compassion, and then you have clarity on how to help others find the same type of health. Stop the assholery. Get curious.