An Error in Judgment

An Error in Judgment

I had it all planned out.  The appraiser was to be at this particular apartment unit at a certain time on a certain day.  That apartment’s maintenance technician was aware, and he would be there to meet the appraiser and carry out the plan.  As far as I knew, everything was happening as scheduled.  The phone rang and I soon found out otherwise.  The technician had been waiting all day, but the other party never arrived.  I quickly became irritated.  This was unacceptable!  Why set up an appointment time if you are not going to adhere to it!  I let my opinion be made known to the maintenance tech and apologized that he was made to waste his time waiting on someone that did not show up.  His response was totally different than mine.  He said something to the effect of, “Well, maybe he had something come up….a heart attack, or stroke, or some other emergency.  You never know.”  You see, this maintenance tech knew from his own personal episode of having a medical emergency that things happen that we may be unaware of.

I suffer from “Fundamental Attribution Error”, and some of you reading this do, too.

There have been studies done that were directed at identifying many of the biases that we have that affect how we view ourselves and others. One of these is known as “Fundamental Attribution Error”. It’s a view in which we judge others on their character, but ourselves on the situation. For instance, if I do not sleep well, and this lack of sleep caused me to be slow the following day, I would know why I was slow. I might even give myself a break by saying, “Oh well, I didn’t sleep well last night, it makes sense for me to be a little slow today”. However, when I witness someone else moving slowly, with this bias I would judge them much more harshly, not taking into account that there might be a good reason for that person’s lethargy.

It is good for us to be willing to consider unknown circumstances that affect others.

Just like it is important not to be too hard on ourselves, while still taking personal responsibility for things in our lives that we need to, it is also important to offer this grace to others. We may have no idea what is causing another person to be on edge, spaced out, or snippy, but we may very well be falsely judging them when we label them as incompetent, procrastinators, stupid, lazy, or jerks. In many cases, only God knows why they are behaving the way they do.

We will wind up hating everyone, or loving others well, depending on which path we take.

There are two paths in front of us when we encounter someone who is behaving in a way that does not sit well with us. We can assume they have no reason or excuse for their actions, and offer them no grace whatsoever. On this path, we wind up judging them based solely on what we can see and hear while ignoring our own issues that cause us to behave badly at times. The other choice is to look at them knowing that there is a whole life of circumstances that we simply do not know or begin to understand, and be willing to offer them the same grace that we need ourselves when we are going through a hard time and maybe even taking it out on the wrong people around us. The first path has us put blinders on, falsely believing that we have it together better than the person in front of us. It leads to a life of being disgusted with people by an ever-increasing number as we find more and more people to put on our “naughty list”. The second path leads to a life of enjoying others despite their imperfections. Sure, we will need boundaries with many people we encounter, once we know more about them. However, that path ultimately allows us to build healthy relationships rather than destroy them before they have a chance to start.

Healthy relationships offer healing for ourselves and others as we learn how to share love and grace with each other.

God freely offers grace to us and loves to see us share it with each another. Without grace, we are lost in sin and circumstances, as well as all the negative effects that comes with both. Grace offers a chance to see what is causing our issues. It offers a safe place to work through those issues. It offers friendships that sustain us through really hard times. It gives us what we need when we need it. Grace doesn’t ask us to be perfect or to strive hard to earn our way out of our pits (even if we dug them ourselves). Grace offers us a hand, puts an arm around us, squeezes us tight, and says, “I love you no matter what. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here. I’m not going to leave you in this mess. We will get through this.”

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)


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