Judging vs Assessing: What’s The Difference? Why Should We Care?

We’ve all heard from Scripture that it’s bad to judge. But what does this mean in real life? Life is full of dangers and amazing opportunities. It’s chocked full of deep and shallow relationships, people of different ages, different races and diverse backgrounds. Many times a week, we find ourselves in different spaces, with different paces, all with different surroundings and different behavioral norms.

Judging Is Unavoidable
Whether at work or play, we constantly make snap judgments. And not all of these judgments are bad. We consider who to talk to, what to say, how much time we spend, and who we let close to us. For the sake of our spouses and children, we discern when we should lock the doors, walk on the other side of the street, or even when to talk formally or informally.

And the judgments don’t stop there! At work, we’re expected to effectively communicate based on the person’s status, position, knowledge, strengths and weaknesses. We must judge whether it’s to be in an email or a group call, who’s on the call, the purpose of the call, etc.

In short, we’re always forced to make these instant decisions. We’re always drawing the lines. We’re always setting boundaries, and we’re always choosing when to listen, when to speak, who to talk to, what to say, and in what manner to say it. This is our objective reality. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with this.

So what does it mean not to judge?  And what’s the difference between negative judging and making an objective assessment?

Part of the problem is with the English language. The word “judge” can mean both to assess and to condemn. For example, there’s nothing wrong with judging whether or not it’s safe to cross a bridge or skate on thin ice. That’s just using your brain to make an objective assessment. We can also make objective assessments about people too. For example, “John is often late.” As every manager knows, there’s nothing wrong with assessing if a person is capable of doing the job assigned to them.

Judging People Is Different Than Judging Situations
However, there’s a danger in judging people. People have an inherent value. So we must walk a fine line between assessing a character flaw, versus condemning the person for having such. Therefore, we should watch out for “objective assessments” that contain an extra hidden, secret conclusion about the person’s worth. Just ask yourself, “Does my assessment have a bitter taint to it? Does it conjure up an image that carries a bad taste in addition to the facts I’m stating?”

Examples of Good and Bad Judging (Assessing vs Condemning with the latter in red)

  • John is often late. You may want to consider someone else to open the store in the morning.
  • John is a slacker…John doesn’t have his act together, John is lazy…
  • Graham doesn’t handle spreadsheets well.
  • Graham is incompetent at making spreadsheets.
  • Given that money disappears on Sam’s shift a lot, I think someone else should be the treasurer.
  • Given that SAM is a thief and lacks even basic integrity…
  • Graham needs to be more assertive when it comes to scheduling conference calls.
  • Graham is just so passive…
  • Sam has anger against anyone LGBTQ.
  • Sam is a homophobe.

Why This Matters?
Not everyone is safe to be around. Not everyone is honest or kind or dependable. But there’s a big difference between assessing this reality versus condemning the person’s worth. There’s a reason we’re told to be kind. There’s a reason we’re told to be slow to speak, quick to listen and slow to anger. And the reason is because when we don’t do these things, we’re more likely to wrongly condemn people. We’re more likely to belittle their value.

The fact is that we never have all the facts. So we are never in a good position to determine someone’s worth. This is not to say you should always keep your door unlocked, or be quick to put the thief in charge of the moneybag. But did you know this thief was honest until he got hooked on pain pills after a tragic car accident? Or that this thief was trying to buy medicine for his child who was dying of cancer? We may never know these things. This is why it’s never our place to condemn. God is the only one fit to judge. So let’s not be so quick to kick Him off the throne!

My Own Personal Bout with Assessing vs Condemning
Last week I was humbled. A rift had occurred with a friend who would never make plans until the last minute, and worse, she was quick to cancel at the last second. To top it off, she owed me a small amount of money but took several months to pay it back. We’ll call her Julia, but that’s not her real name.


  • Julia is quick to cancel so don’t set your heart on her showing up for events. Be ready to go without her.
  • Don’t be quick to lend Julia money unless you’re willing to wait a long time to get it back.


  • Julia is flaky and unreliable-she cancels all the time.
  • Julia must not care about me and has no integrity…otherwise she’d have paid me back much sooner.

The Reality

It turns out Julia was a single mom caring for a diabetic older brother. She was also driving her troubled son back and forth because he lost his driver’s license. In addition, she was supporting her elderly sisters who are trapped in a hostile South American dictatorship. This year alone, she spent $6K to send them things and try to help them get US visas. So there were reasons why she was always cancelling. There were reasons why she was short of money.

The reality was that Julia was handling lots of responsibility. She was very caring, very dedicated. And here I was, a guy with no kids and three houseplants, passing judgment on her for being irresponsible and uncaring! Boy was I wrong… Bad mistake! Case dismissed!

Other Blogs

Praising The Lord And Keeping It Real!
Tired of forcing yourself to have a praise life? Here’s how to spice things up a bit!

Blog Index: Christian-SOS

Keeping Your Small Groups Real: How To Foster Unity and Spiritual Intimacy

With minor changes, this email below is what I sent to the three pastors in my church. This church is growing in numbers and has a great zeal for the Lord. But they have a serious weak spot which the devil is sure to exploit. As the church grows they will need strong small groups.… Continue reading Keeping Your Small Groups Real: How To Foster Unity and Spiritual Intimacy

Are We Abusing God’s Grace?

Christians talk a lot about “grace.” We say, “Grace and peace be with you.” We extol God for His mercy and grace. We sing about His amazing grace. And when we endure severe trials and are asked how we ever did it, who hasn’t heard someone say… “It was only because of God’s grace!” So… Continue reading Are We Abusing God’s Grace?

Embracing the Personhood of God

Ever wonder why your faith never seems to grow? Or why in spite of your Bible studies, church attendance and church programs, your prayer life seems more like a trip to the DMV than to the playground? The fact is you’re not alone. Millions of Christians feel exactly the same way you do! Too often… Continue reading Embracing the Personhood of God

Growing Where You Are Planted

Scripture commands us to love God and love people. We are also called to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves received. This could mean talking to people about Jesus. Or it could mean paying for someone’s coffee or even their cancer treatment. But as a practical matter, how do we do these things? How… Continue reading Growing Where You Are Planted

What Is the Fear of the Lord? How Do We Know When We Have Too Little or Too Much?

As a young Christian in my twenties, I used to cringe whenever someone talked about the fear of the Lord. To me, any kind of fear was bad. And I couldn’t escape thinking of all the times I was afraid of my own dad. How The Fear of My Dad Wrongly Shaped My Fear of… Continue reading What Is the Fear of the Lord? How Do We Know When We Have Too Little or Too Much?

Why Can’t Christians Love God? What The Modern Church Isn’t Teaching Us

Our walk with Jesus starts small and then it matures. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. As the Apostle Paul writes, “when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”… Continue reading Why Can’t Christians Love God? What The Modern Church Isn’t Teaching Us

How God Uses Our Suffering

When I was a young man in my 20’s, I ranted and railed against God because in my view, any God who was all loving, all powerful and all knowing would never allow suffering. My unspoken belief (however naive), was that being carefree and without pain was always good. While being beset by anguish and… Continue reading How God Uses Our Suffering

What Is Faith? How Do We Leverage Our Faith?

As a young Christian I always struggled with what it means to have faith. The problem was that no one would define it for me. And equally bad, no one would give me practical applications of how to exercise this faith. I remember being told things like “you need to step out on faith” or… Continue reading What Is Faith? How Do We Leverage Our Faith?

Are You Too Holy To Desire God’s Promises in the Here and Now? What’s the Difference between Being Selfish vs Acting in Your Own Self Interest?

Have you ever wondered if it’s selfish to ask God for things while you’re alive and can still enjoy them? Or what about being eager to follow God’s commands because deep down, you want an earthly reward? Is this OK or is this somehow unspiritual? As a young Christian with six figures in debt, no… Continue reading Are You Too Holy To Desire God’s Promises in the Here and Now? What’s the Difference between Being Selfish vs Acting in Your Own Self Interest?