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The word “judgment” rarely conjures up good feelings. We’ve all been in situations where we felt unfairly judged; likewise, we’ve all made false judgments of others. Romans 14 is packed with wisdom on this subject, and Paul gives practical, concrete examples for how to become less judgmental.

While Paul opens Romans 14 with a seemingly generic overview of situations faced in the early church, I can’t help but recognize that each example represents real people. The person in verse two who only eats vegetables – I wonder what his story is? Did his dad tell him they couldn’t ensure that meat was kosher, so it was better to abstain

What was his relationship with his dad like? Did he feel disconnected and long for something deeper? Did he believe that if he abstained from eating meat, his dad would be pleased with him?

Now obviously this isn’t in the text – I’m creating a character by imagining what he might have been like – but my point is this: Behind every decision, response, and action, there is a person with a story. 

Why Stories Matter

The last two years have been full of division and conflict in our nation. It’s easy to look at people on the “other side” with contempt and a “how could you think/do/say that?” mentality.

But as someone who works at Grace’s Counseling Center, I sit with people in their stories a lot. You know what I’ve learned through my time there? It is so much harder to judge someone when you know their story. I am always amazed at people’s resilience to the trauma they have endured and the goodness of God woven throughout devastating situations. While the Bible is clear about the importance of making wise decisions, I have found it so healing to press into the unwise decisions, leaving behind condemnation and replacing it with genuine curiosity and comfort.

So how do we become less judgemental in our lives and relationships? It starts with acknowledging that WE have a story that influences our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. The critic that judges others is most hateful toward themselves. I cannot show others compassion and grace if I’m constantly berating myself and the decisions I have made. But when I am able to press into my own story – especially the parts I am ashamed of – and put those decisions into context, I can see a bigger picture. 

The Power of Curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can bring life to the rest of us. Curiosity helps us to understand the “why” behind the decision, and the “why” behind sinful decisions is always linked to an element of brokenness. When we can unearth the “why,” we’re empowered to view ourselves with the same grace and love that God has shown us, and that overflows into our ability to love others well.

So when I meet someone whose life looks different from mine, both by circumstance and by choice, I get the opportunity to be curious. I wonder what led them to make that decision? I wonder if they feel supported or alone? I wonder what they are afraid of? I wonder what life was like for them as a kid?

The best way to find answers to these questions is to do life with people. Engage with them and listen to their stories. Ask questions, offer validation and comfort, and pray for the Lord to give you His heart for others, so that you can see them the way He does – with grace and compassion.

Grace Counseling is a ministry of Grace Church. Click here to learn more about Grace Orlando or join Grace Online every Sunday on YouTube.

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