A friend recently told me that an otherwise sweet and gentle person apologized for having been gossiping about her, and then took advantage of the difficult and fragile moment to find fault with her in a deeply hurtful manner. In fact, faultfinding seemed to have been her intent all along. My friend asked, “How can this be? What should I do?”
Here is my response: That’s a great question. You have met someone who fancies herself to be accurate in her shallow judgments of others, and who then gathers a twisted courage to wrongly point out and heal wounds falsely. But you can survive the evil of judgmentalness.
People will come to you in personal judgmentalness dressed up as caring concern, and offer you an olive branch that you will discover is actually a knife. Out of your presence, they have already been cutting on you, and they’re about to continue in your presence. They might say something like, “I have noticed how immature you are (or some such thing), and I’m sorry that I let it affect our relationship for so long without saying anything to you. I apologize. But don’t you think you should be concerned about this immaturity? I mean, I sure know of some ways that you could be better . . .” They are suddenly the doctor, you are the patient. However, they care less about who you actually are than about what bothers them. They have gone blind and want to share their blindness with you.
Look away. They cannot truly help you.
Here’s what I’ve done when a member of The Judgment Doctors (TJD hereafter) has approached me, suggesting healing but offering harm:
1) I listen to TJD while thinking toward the Spirit. I think something like, “Well, Holy Spirit/Jesus/Lord, I’m glad you’re with me to keep me to the truth. You know me, so what do you think?” While I listen to TJD, I’m listening beyond, I’m listening through. I do not want to submit my identity and focus to anyone who cannot see me as Jesus does, but I do want to listen. This keeps me both present and aware of God, who made me His son and who holds me securely in Christ. This also allows Jesus in me to take the accusations, cuts and otherwise wounds from TJD. He’s very good at that.
2) I take what I can from TJD. Whenever someone approaches me with criticism and they do not know me personally or (and especially) do not know me as I truly am, in Christ, they might still have something to say from which I can learn or go forward better than before. That’s valuable. They have a surface view of me, but perhaps there is a way I come across to them that I can easily correct without believing that I have to change who I already am. God doesn’t want me to actually change, since He already made all of the change necessary. And since I am His workmanship, what chance do I have at improving upon His work anyway? I want to grow up in who I am, not alter who I am. I’ve learned a few things from TJD over the years; very few were valuable, but some helped me to consider how I might be better understood or interpreted at the surface.
3) I offer myself to God for a Spirit-led response to TJD. Most often that has meant that I thanked them for their input: I might say, “I know this could not have been easy for you, so I appreciate your effort to help me. I’ll take what you’ve said and consider it with Jesus. I know you’d want me to do that.” Other times this has meant something more direct and less gracious. I might say, “I think you see poorly and it bothers you, of course, and you’ve stumbled into this moment as a way to get relief. If you knew me, if you knew the real me, the new creation that God has made, then that would have your focus, you would see truly, and both of us would be better for it. Instead, you are shallow and trapped in blind judgmentalness, from which God will certainly want to free you.” Since God knows the person talking with me, I listen for what He’d like them to hear from me: something kind (maybe they’re only dabbling in judgmentalness, and He is about to do something with them to save them and to prevent them from becoming a full-fledged member of TJD), or something more like a harpoon—right to it. He knows what’s needed, and I offer myself to Him for that.
4) I don’t quickly run away from TJD. But I do consider it a viable option! If TJD are going to be helped, then the opportunity might be when they show up to be judgmental about you. Twisted in their thinking, they believe they’re being spiritual in coming to you, but they’re in danger of navigating perhaps all of their days in the blindness of judgmentalness. That’s not going to go well! That’s going to hurt—themselves and others. TJD are often pretty friendless because no one wants their “help” anymore—it’s too painful and ineffective, because it’s focused upon the flesh. It’s from their flesh directed at your flesh, and that’s not going to benefit anyone. Maybe they can be helped by someone who cares about them . . . but maybe not. Sometimes you’ve gotta get away from them, simply put.
5) I can be re-afflicted by the verbal assaults of TJD days later, so I reflect upon the truth and ask the Spirit what He thinks of me. This is important! If we’re going to remain open around people, and not barricade our hearts and proceed to navigate relationships by template or method but by the Spirit, then we will want to involve Him in the messy aftermath of a bout with TJD.
The Spirit often sounds a lot like Colossians 2 and 3, where Paul strongly advised the perfect sons and daughters of God to remember to “live your lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him,” to let no one take them captive by suggesting a “false person,” a “lesser person” than who they had become in Christ, since they had already been made perfectly complete and full in Him. The Spirit reminds me that not only have all of my sins already been forgiven, but that the Law that proved my violations with evidence in support has been cancelled, having been nailed to the cross. I am free of it, and so are you. He tells me that I must let no one give me my personal identity based upon what earthly things they see me do or by what quirks they might see in my behavior.
People who are falsely humble and who offer themselves as spiritual specialists will come after me and they will come after you, but we must not buy into their delusion. You and I have died to the shallow estimations and pretended religionists of this world, and we are in Christ—perfect, righteous, holy and secure. There is a lot that sets us up to need Him in our days, and I have found some of the best of life in Christ through ugly moments with TJD. You can, too.
All of us have fleshly quirks and odd behavioral characteristics about ourselves; we don’t cover them over or pretend they do not exist. No one who ignores reality will escape paying the cost of it. And that’s my point: the reality of who I am and who you are in Christ is transcendently important. It’s crucial. We live truly and only when we live from there, quirks and odd characteristics notwithstanding. Don’t let anyone focus you where God is not focused. There is no life there, only confusion, and maybe years and years of it lost in lesser identities. You and I live around people who cannot see us and who do not actually make the attempt to trust that Jesus made us new creation sons and daughters. While they have little to offer the real you, listen to them but live in Christ.
I hope this helps you in your relationships and in how God offers “wellness,” rest and freedom to people through you. He thinks that He has made them well off with Himself and with others, and it’s our “work” to help them enjoy that. Keep your heart and eyes open, my friend. He fills them both.