Scratched wooden plank of house facade.

The 6th and final saboteur of well-being and healthy relationships are judgmentalism and hypocrisy. They’re the unavoidable result of embracing the culprits in steps 1-5. I may sound like a broken record, but sequence is the first key to success. Jesus doesn’t want us to fail. He wants us to win, so he laid it out in optimal order in his Sermon on the Mount.

If you wonder why people can be judgmental or difficult, it’s because they’re still full of willful anger and contempt, obsession over others, swearing or proving, score-keeping, or outer appearance.  Accordingly, people can’t not be judgmental or difficult!

If you don’t want to be this way yourself, you don’t start by trying to fix neighbors. You fix yourself. But you can’t start here; you start further back with the stuff that forms a judgmental, hypocritical spirit.

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 there’s 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.” (Mat. 7:1-5)

Double-Crosser

A fine line separates judgmentalism and discernment. To distinguish differences is discernment—a good thing. To judge only by outer appearance is to pass judgment—not good. When you add the element of contempt, it’s double disaster.

For example, when my mechanic says that my Mustang’s fuel pump is going bad, he doesn’t condemn me as a terrible car owner. His motive isn’t to rake me over the coals, but to get maximum performance out of my car. He simply tells me what’s wrong and lets me decide if I want to make repairs. That’s discernment and good judgment.

Pride is a double-crosser because it masquerades as rightness. It’s no sin to make observations and distinctions or to form opinions. The sin is when you’re already filled with ill will and the need to prove your rightness. Because it affects how you express those opinions, you’ll come off as judgmental whether you intend to or not; and you’ll get an earful of the same right back. Because life works like a mirror, “Judge not, or you too will be judged” is another heads-up from the Master of all things wise.

When we analyze people and relationships without the will to do harm, but to nurture self- and neighbor love, that’s good judgment. It doesn’t deny wrong, but neither does it spout off. Good judgment is okay with not always having to prove a point. This is the secret behind “speaking the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15)

Double Trouble

Hypocrite (original Greek) literally means “stage actor.” No, Jesus isn’t bashing people who work on stage or in public venues. He’s talking about egotism. Hypocrisy is to act or put on a façade . To say one thing but do another. To claim to possess virtues one doesn’t actually possess.

Let’s say you’ve wronged someone, asked forgiveness, and it’s been granted. But because of score-keeping, it’s likely that you both feel you now owe something to the forgiver. If that person is angry or hateful toward someone else, it’s common for him to push you to battle whoever he’s at war with.

“Out of respect” for someone who has a grudge against another, many people treat others as enemies when they personally don’t have anything against them. They’re blackmailed with, “If you really care about me, you’ll make my enemies yours.” It’s rooted in indebtedness—owing, paying, and collecting. But to hold things over on people isn’t a virtue.

If your forgiver refuses to let go of other grudges, that’s one example of hypocrisy. When you cooperate with it, you let someone else’s No be your No, plus you end up a hypocrite yourself. You’ve received forgiveness, but if you then hold something against someone else, what does that say about your inner condition?

You have enough of your own enemies and rivals to deal with. Your goal is a clean spirit, peace of mind, and optimal well-being for yourself, and, to the extent it’s up to you, for neighbors. You don’t need to add someone else’s bitterness and enemies to your list. You’re trying to reduce enemies, not gain more.

The Smartest Life Coach

I can vouch that hypocrisy is sneaky even when you’re watching for it. It’s the plank in our eye that blinds us. First, get the plank out of the self, then you can see to help your brother. Sequence matters! It takes a while to get it out, but it takes even longer when there’s anger or pain and all you really want to do is beat your brother with your plank! I know; I’m a recovering plank-aholic.

To love self is vital; but self-love that can’t (or won’t) extend to others implodes into indulged pride rather than blessed well-being. It’ll sabotage you every time. The 6 culprits in this series comprise the sin nature. “Gouging” them out one by one is how we gain control and sin less and less. With the help of the Holy Spirit, putting Jesus’ Sermon into practice is what the Bible means by “abiding” in the Lord, putting off the old man and putting on the new, and similar phrases.

Those who say you’ll always be a no-good sinner have misunderstood or not taken transformation seriously. While we can’t rush or force neighbor love, we can easily cultivate it if we follow Jesus’ plan. It’s why Scripture is so full of language about victory and overcoming.

What are your thoughts? Did you know there was an actual strategy to Jesus’ Sermon?

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