Our culture has become obsessed with the idea that no one should say that any particular action that another person does is "wrong" or "bad." If anyone does point out that some one's behavior was in poor taste, or just plain wrong, they get the "don't judge me" response. For the most part, our culture has accepted the idea that no one can judge another person. In fact, it has become the highest form of social acceptance and the one unpardonable social sin of our postmodern era.
To be honest, I'm struggling with this. On the one hand, I grew up in a very judgmental religious environment in which we categorized every one's behavior and separated ourselves from everyone in our quest for purity. On the other hand, some behavior is just plain wrong and we do not have to be a religious fundamentalist to recognize it.
There is one school of thought that says that when a person does something wrong that we should all look the other way and not say anything because who are we to judge. There is another school of thought that says that if we do not care about our friends enough to point out behaviors that can destroy their lives, then what kind of friend are we. From a spiritual perspective, if we do not care enough about another person's soul to help them avoid the pain the wrong behavior brings into our lives, then our spirituality does not mean much. But most of us do not want to be the "behavior police" with some mandate to point out every behavior that anyone around us does as being right or wrong. Somewhere between the two extremes of never saying anything and always pointing out everything is the thin line that we should walk that shows care and concern without being overly judgmental.
I surely do not consider myself an expert in finding that thin line, but it is a constant goal in my life. One thing I have found that helps is to ask people questions about the things they feel judged about. By asking them questions, instead of just telling them what my position is, I hope to stir up their own thinking to judge themselves and see the need to change. For example, when a person tells me some story of what they did at a party, and then ends the story with something like, "It may not be right, but it was fun and no one has the right to judge me," I like to follow their story up with a simple question such as, "Who judged you and told you that it was not right?" Almost every time, that will cause them to pause. As they think about it, they will say, "no one yet, but I think someone might." So I then like to ask, "Why to do think someone may judge you?" To which they are left with the uncomfortable situation of either admitting the behavior was wrong, and therefore worthy of judgment, or trying to do mental gymnastics to prove that their wrong behavior was somehow right for them. You can watch their face as they try to justify it and see in their eyes that they do not even believe their own logic on the matter.
If they admit their behavior was wrong, then I can say, "It sounds like you have judged yourself, perhaps you should listen to your own judgment on the situation and alter your behavior." They cannot say that I judged them, because I did not. I merely pointed out that they judged themselves and they deemed the behavior was wrong on their own.
If they do mental gymnastics to try to prove some bad behavior was actually right, then I can say, "Wow, that is some interesting rationale for what you did, I wonder if most people would really see it that way." To which they normally respond, "I don't care what most people say." I can then follow up with the statement, "Apparently you do care what most people say because you are worried about them judging you." I can follow that up with a statement something like, "If you don't want to be judged, then maybe you should not do things that most people would consider worthy of judgment." Again, I do not have to be the judge in the situation, I can let what they have already agreed most people think about their behavior speak for itself. Despite how much we say that we do not care what others think, in reality, we all care very much, and that can be a powerful motivation for behavior modification.
As a Christian, I think God is the one who judges all of us and I think He is the one who gets to decide what is good or bad behavior. But most of my non-believing friends do not really care at this point what God thinks. So I have to help them get to that place. By asking questions that force them to admit their own position is wrong, then I can move on to a place where I can share what God says is the right way to act. It may take several conversations over a period of time to get there, but we will eventually get there, without me having to judge them a single time.
For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus.