With quarantine and other restrictions that have been implemented because of COVID-19, social media has become an even more common way for people to connect with the outside world.
People who never once imagined recording a video of themselves have started sharing updates about what is happening in their lives or new things that they have learned that they want to share with others. It has become the means for people to satisfy their need for human or social connection.
Because of this shift, it has become very easy to see the highlights of people’s lives via even short 15 or 30-second videos. As a result, it’s become easier to unjustly judge others’ actions in passing without really knowing what’s happening behind the screen.
What harm can it do? After all, we mostly keep the judgments to ourselves. It’s not hurting anyone so it’s all good, right?
Yes, it’s not hurting others, but when we do this, we’re hurting ourselves.
We fail to see the good in others and feed our pride. The formation of thought patterns is very similar to the formation of physical patterns. Exercising in the morning, cleaning the dishes right after eating, sleeping on the same side of the bed, and other actions done repeatedly over time become a habit or pattern. The same process happens when we start thinking a certain way, in this case—judging others unjustly.
Sometimes we may think that our negative thoughts are only temporary, but they can reach full swing quickly if we don’t get a grip on our thoughts. Our thinking patterns are also harder to break. Unlike physical patterns which can be broken by not doing the actions permanently, our thinking pattern, once deeply ingrained in our minds, can sneak into our thoughts unconsciously.
How is this harmful?
If we keep having similar streams of negative thoughts and don’t do anything to stop them, we will fail to see the good in others and the need to fellowship them. We might also withhold our service or substance thinking that they deserve what’s happening to them.
All these feelings can make us prideful, thinking that we are better or more righteous than others, which in turn can make us forget that we all walk this life and follow the teachings of the Savior differently.
Some of us follow the Savior with unwavering faith and solid commitment. Others stagger unsteadily all the while holding steadfastly to the truth that they know—that Jesus is the Christ. Some are doing their best to break old habits and lifestyles to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. In short, almost everybody is trying to live the best they can, with all of the challenges, strengths, and weaknesses that are a part of life.
As we try to become better disciples of Jesus Christ, we must learn how to be kind, considerate, and merciful to one another. If we find this hard, we can ask ourselves the same question President Dieter F. Uchtdorf asked in one of his talks, he said, “Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves?”
When we judge others harshly, we lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. One of the greatest gifts given to us as members of the Lord’s Church is the companionship of the Holy Ghost. How fortunate we are to have the ministering influence of one of the members of the Godhead that we ‘may know the truth of all things”. (Moroni 10:5) When we have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we are influenced to do good, see the good in people, serve others, and extend grace and mercy to those who are struggling to follow the Savior Jesus Christ.
But when we let pride and negativity overcome our thoughts, we lose the companionship of the Holy Ghost. In the Book of Genesis, we learn that the “[Lord’s] spirit shall not always strive with man.” We offend the spirit when we think ill of others, judge unjustly, feel envious of others’ fortune, or withhold our service and substance from those in need of help.
To keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we can apply Apostle Paul’s counsel in one of his epistles to the Philippians. He said, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”.
Lastly, whenever we justify our unjust judgment as appropriate, may we remember that unless we can look into another’s heart, judging others unjustly cannot ever be justified.
It may be hard to break the habit of judging others. But when we seek the Lord’s help with changing our thought patterns, we will be guided to opportunities and experiences that will help us have a mighty change of heart.
We can find peace and joy as we try to show the same love, mercy, and compassion that the Savior did when a woman accused of adultery was brought to Him for judgment. In all our dealings, may we be reminded to let those without sin be the first to judge unjustly, criticize, or find fault in others.