I knew a woman who strongly believed that everyone was judging her, being purposefully unkind to her, and hated her. She lived day in and day out angry at all of her co-workers, wishing hardships on them, because they obviously disliked her and were harboring negativity towards her. Her anger increased by the day and with it her paranoia wrecked havoc on her life. By the time a year went by, she could no longer handle her job responsibilities because of her panic attacks over her perceptions of others feelings and she ended up having an emotional breakdown at her place of employment. She was picking fights with everyone in the office. At the end of the day, she ended up losing her job and all because of her anger and paranoia. Many of the people who were being “mean” had no idea anything was going on except that she was a very combative woman to work with.
In life, our anger and our judgments of one another can lead to overreactions that spiral out of control and can ultimately create conflict and destroy our lives. Sometimes we read into the actions and attitudes of others feelings that are not there and we in turn start judging them by those misguided thoughts. As Jonah, our anger, resentment, and judgments cause us more pain than anything else. Often, our anger and impressions of how others treat us are frankly wrong and can be easily cleared up by talking the individuals. Christ doesn’t want us to be wasting our emotional and spiritual energies on those things that do not build us up, on things that destroy and perpetuate hateful actions from one generation to another. We need to stop acting out of anger and to stop those thoughts and judgments that invite conflict into our lives and in our world.
Jonah felt more anger and resentment over the loss of a stupid shrub than he did over the potential lose of thousands of lives. Jonah’s view of the Assyrians was tainted by the harsh realities of the destruction that came from that empire. He did not see them for what they were on an individual level. He made a judgment against an entire people based on the actions of their government in the past. But these people turned out to be a penitential people. They were children, wives, grandparents, and fathers. Many of them were also good God fearing individuals. They intended no harm to Jonah or Jonah’s people yet he decided that they did and wished devastating destruction upon them. He hated them so vehemently that he tried to force God’s hand upon them. He never took the time to get to know them and to meditate upon what their actions of repentance said about them.
Jesus takes God’s lesson to Jonah and expands upon it for his people and for us. Before we judge others and enter into a time of conflict with them, before we pit ourselves at odds with another person, we need to stop and take a good long look at ourselves. Are we blameless? If we are judging others then the answer to that is no. Have we perfected our own selves so that we can start pointing out the faults in others? If we are experiencing hate or feelings of superiority then the answer to that question is also no.
Let us seek to work on our own faith, our own interactions with others, and let us work to see the best in the people and world around us instead of drawing conclusions about others that lead to violence and undeserved hardship. Frederick W. Faber, a 19th century theologian and hymn writer, once observed “The habit of judging is so nearly incurable, and its cure is such an almost interminable process, that we must concentrate ourselves for a long while on keeping it in check. We must grow to something higher, and something truer, than a quickness in detecting evil”. Judgment and the act of condemning others around us go hand in hand and lead directly to actions that eventually lead whole societies and groups of people into conflict leading to feelings of betrayal, lose of trust, and strong negative emotions that get passed on to other people, emotions that promise to destroy our lives along with everyone else’s.
Being judgmental is the struggle of all of humanity. We all battle with this demon in our lives sometimes successfully and other times in vain. Christ wants us to stop wasting our time with being judgmental. Even Christ refused to be judgmental of the people around him. He refused to condemn even the Pharisees who perpetuated his death. He saw them for what they were blinded to the realities of God around them. We are to focus on bringing ourselves into a right relationship with God and to do so is to bring ourselves into a right relationship with others.
We do so by not assuming, by asking questions, and taking an interest in the real lives of the people we are so quick to judge. We are called to approach life knowing that we each have our vices, our faults, our moments of weakness, and as such we each are in need of forgiveness from God, one another, and ourselves. If we are all flawed then we all need to afford each other patience, kindness, and new beginnings knowing that this is what is continuously being offered to us in Christ. And perhaps, by casting aside the energy suck of hate and judgment, we can find a renewed passion for humanity, kindness, and the peace we are all called to live. Remember the teachings of Jesus in your daily prayers, “And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.” Let us focus on building our faiths on stronger foundations by seeking to love instead of drawing conclusions. We are called to replace our very human instinct of reading into people actions with words of kindness, moments of forgiveness, and a trust in God. Let us stop seeking retribution; let us put an end to all consuming hate and let us welcome a new life based in the teachings of Jesus. Let us spend our days focused of Christ’s call to love and care for one another. For these will build us up in confidence, in faith, and in satisfaction in this life.
 Frederick W. Faber, 19th century.
 Matthew 7: 26-27, RSV.
(Based on Jonah 4: 1-11 and Matthew 7: 1-5, 7-12, 24-28)