Being Judgmental Doesn’t Have to Take So Long

It was October 1995. I had been in Bethesda, Maryland, at a seminar for almost a week. Finally, it was time to go home. Late that afternoon, I flew out of Baltimore and changed planes in Chicago.

After landing in Chicago, I boarded a connecting flight to Austin. As I sat in my seat waiting for the departure, person after person passed by, apparently planning to sit in the back. Numerous people walked by and I began to wonder if maybe I would actually fly out of Chicago with no one in the middle seat.

Then I saw him.


He wore a business suit, stylishly long hair, and a dark tan. I saw him coming and decided that he was probably full of himself. No doubt he was the kind of guy who would be judgmental of everyone else who didn’t make as much money or wasn’t dressed as nicely. (How is that for being judgmental?) Sure enough, he stopped at my row and asked if he could have the middle seat. I moved so he could sit down.

I didn’t tell him I had already decided that I didn’t like him.

We soon began talking. He appeared to be very affluent, urbane, and articulate. At one point he asked me what I did for a living. He seemed genuinely intrigued that I was a minister. He said he liked the worship service at his church. The service was very succinct and tight. He said he always learned something and always got something out of it. He went on to say that he especially liked his Sunday school. The adult classes were primarily led by four of their ministers. These were very good classes and they dealt with topics like how God works in one’s life or how a Christian should handle his/her money. Recently, two ministers had a class on Christian themes in recent movies.

He said, “I enjoy going to these classes. On Sunday morning I usually go to two classes. You can go to a class with 100 people and keep going back and meeting various people. It is relevant and I come away having learned something.” He went on to say that it was very different from the kind of Bible class where you open your Bible and read verse by verse.

On Wednesday nights the people who regularly attend the church are sort of expected to be there. Usually there will be some kind of message by their pastor. Several comments will be made about the church and there will be a meal at a nominal price.

He then went on to tell me that someone led a very interesting class on the 12 steps. He said his church takes the approach that people out there are battered and bruised in some way. One does not have to be poor or from the other side of the tracks to have experienced this.

He looked me in the eye and said, “All of us have experienced being bruised or battered in some way.”

I should not have put him in a category before even meeting him. Because I had “sized him up” early, my attitude toward him and my view of him were seriously slanted. The man I assumed to be arrogant was more humble than me. In fact, his humility exposed my own arrogance and judgmental spirit.

That evening, while traveling from Chicago to Austin, I learned something about humility (or perhaps my lack of it) from a man who appeared to have it all together but whose life displayed far more of a transparent, humble spirit than my own. It doesn’t take very long to be judgmental. Hopefully, I will remember that snap judgments may cause me to miss someone whose life is being transformed by God.


Do you recall a time when you thought you had figured out someone, only to later realize that you had misjudged that person?