Compassion is essential to making righteous judgments and maintaining respect in relationships.
Many people interpret the Savior’s counsel “judge not” (Matthew 7:1) to be absolute and final. However, it is difficult to be truly nonjudgmental in our day-to-day lives. There are many situations in which we must make distinctions—or judgments—between options in a decision. In fact, in some scriptures we are even instructed to judge (Alma 41:14; John 7:24). While we can’t avoid making some judgments, we should try to make them in the right way—with compassion.
In an article entitled “Judgment Days: Taking Responsibility or Taking Offense,” Terrance D. Olson explains that there are essentially two kinds of judgments that we can make: condemnatory or compassionate.
When we are offended by something other people do, Olsen argues that our offense reflects more about our attitude toward the people than toward the action we claim offended us. As Olson says, “Perhaps most of the time we take offense, we are actually condemning others rather than seeing them compassionately.” In these cases, we forget that other people have feelings and opinions to which they are equally entitled as we are to our own, and we justify our feelings by shifting guilt to them.
In contrast, when we judge with compassion, Olsen argues that we remember the worth of other people and continue to consider their well-being. We maintain hope for a successful relationship with those whose beliefs or behavior is disagreeable to us. “When we make compassionate judgments, the people engaged in destructive attitudes or behavior still matter to us—are still real to us—and we do not make them into despicable, irredeemable cardboard characters.”
We can evaluate the quality of our judgments by reflecting on what is in our hearts and examining how we view others and ourselves. When we choose to respond with compassion, we will be better able to maintain civility and respect in our relationships.
Source: The Wheatley Institution
—Melissa Gee, Mormon Insights, Contributor
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For more insights:
Explore the Gospel Topics page about judging others.