Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?”
They were using this question as a trap in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one sir,” she replied. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
This story from the Bible, written in John 8:3-11, is often used by preachers to teach people that all people in this world have committed sin. But it also tells us about the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees to be judgmental.
The Oxford Dictionary defines judgmental as “of or concerning the use of judgement.” A person doing so has or displays an overly critical point of view.
“It is human nature to judge others to some extent, yet even if we’re not overly sensitive, it’s upsetting when others are overly critical of us,” wrote Bonnie Marcus, an American executive coach, author, and keynote speaker. “It’s hurtful and we feel the sting in life. It never seems constructive.”
An article in Psychology Today describes what it means to be judgmental: “Someone is being judgmental when their judgments are power-driven, unempathetic, based on their own idiosyncratic values or tastes, overly based on other people’s character, and are closed, shallow, and pessimistic, and ultimately have the consequence of making the other person feel problematically diminished.”
Why do people become judgmental? One reason is that they are too lazy to figure out things and analyze events better. As Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung puts it, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”
So parents, if you want your children not to be judgmental towards others, be sure to teach them how to think. “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think,” American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead points out.
It is easier to judge a person than to know the person’s real worth. But it’s a different story if people will judge you. How true were the words of Violet Lillydale: “Why judge someone? What gives you the right? We are all humans and we all have stories. Don’t be critical on people. For how would you like it if they said that about you?”
An unknown author has the same view. “A person doesn’t ever truly know another person,” he said. “They have a whole life, years and years of memories and experiences. You cannot ever know what they have felt in situations, what has happened to them, what made them who they are. So, you cannot judge a person ever, not unless you somehow manage to learn their whole life.”
Now, if ever you’re judgmental, you better watch out. It might backfire on you. I was reminded of the story of South African leader Nelson Mandela when he was still studying law at the university. There was this white professor named Peters who disliked him intensely. I am not sure if the story is true or fiction, but the lesson it teaches us is real.
One day, Prof. Peters was having lunch in the dining room when Mandela came along with his trays and sat next to the professor. “Mr. Mandela, you do not understand, a pig and a bird do not sit together to eat,” the professor said.
Mandela looked at him like a parent who would look like a rude child. “Do not worry professor. I’ll fly away,” he said calmly, went and sat at another table.
Prof. Peters, reddened with rage, decided to take revenge. So, the next day in class, he posed the following question: “Mr. Mandela, if you were walking down the street and found a package, and within it was a bag of wisdom and another bag with money, which one would you take ?”
Without hesitation, Mandela stood up and responded, “The one with the money, of course.”
Prof. Peters, smiling sarcastically, said, “I, in your place, would have taken the wisdom.”
Mandela shrugged and responded, “Each one takes what he doesn’t have.”
Prof. Peters, by this time, was about to throw a fit, seething with fury. So great was his anger that he wrote on Nelson Mandela’s exam sheet the word “Idiot” and gave it to the future struggle icon.
Mandela took the exam sheet and sat down at his desk, trying very hard to remain calm while he contemplated his next move. A few minutes later, Mandela got up, walked up to the professor, and told him in a dignified polite tone, “Mr. Peters, you signed your name on the sheet, but you forgot to give me my grade.”
Mandela became president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. In 1993, he and Frederik Willem de Klerk were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.” His life story has been made into several movies, including 2013’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
John Manning, author of The Disciplined Leader: Keeping the Focus on What Really Matters, has this timely advice: “Go a little easy on the people around you. Try to reel in judging thoughts. Think before you speak.”