“That which often seems to us to be ingratitude, may be merely our own ignorance of the subtle phases of human nature. Sometimes a man’s heart is so full of thankfulness that he cannot speak, and in the very intensity of his appreciation, mere words seem to him paltry, petty, and inadequate, and the depth of the eloquence of his silence is misunderstood. Sometimes the consciousness of his inability to repay, develops a strange pride—genuine gratitude it may be, though unwise in its lack of expression—a determination to say nothing, until the opportunity for which he is waiting to enable him to make his gratitude an actuality. There are countless instances in which true gratitude has all the semblance of the basest ingratitude, as certain harmless plants are made by Nature to resemble poison-ivy.” ~ William George Jordan
If there is one lesson I’ve learned over the years it is this: appearances can be deceiving. This is, among other factors, one of the reasons why it is imprudent to impose rash and harsh judgments on the world around you. Your mind is a powerful tool. Used rightly, it is a tool of rational thinking that can help you navigate the smoke and mirrors of the world; used incorrectly it is a mechanism of rationalization that can confuse you and give a false impression of the world around you.
I remember the first time I heard the injunction: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” A teenager at the time, the concept intrigued me as the capacity for and the exercise of judgment seemed to be what we, as human beings, were wired for. Everything around me gave evidence of the importance and the necessity of judgment.
A few chapters later – in the book and in life – I came across the corollary to the above-mentioned concept which clarified my confusion about the first injunction. Perhaps you’ve seen it too: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”
What is righteous judgment?
Righteous judgment is the ability to see a situation as it is, to see straight to the heart of the matter without prejudice or misconception. Righteous judgment is unhurried and unclouded judgment. In a word, righteous judgment is the ability to discern clearly, without the interference of a troubled heart or the machinations of a mind short-circuited by rationalization.
Discernment is an important quality of effective living, and the difference between judgment and discernment is largely a matter of timing and emotional content. Those who judge tend to jump to conclusions. They react to their initial impressions after squaring them to their prejudices, rather than letting the matter reveal itself for what it truly is. They trust their “gut feelings” more than their minds and hearts and they are willing to win some and lose some on that basis.
Those who learn to discern, however, remember that their gut is for digestion, rather than thinking. They have learned from previous experiences that jumping to concussions, as a friend of mine likes to say, is never better than taking the time to analyze carefully. They also know that you are not likely to see clearly if your heart is troubled. Far too many important life decisions are made through the lens of a troubled heart and we have the world that we have because of that flawed approach to living.
Whether you are religiously inclined or not, these principles can serve you well if you learn to apply them in your living.