Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Elder Dallin H. Oaks on learning to judge righteously

Elder Dallin H. Oaks (b. August 12, 1932) served as president of BYU from 1971-1980.  He was then appointed as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court, and resigned when he was called to the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in 1984.
"We should, if possible, refrain from judging until we have adequate knowledge of the facts. In an essay titled 'Sitting in the Seat of Judgment,' the great essayist William George Jordan reminded us that character cannot be judged as dress goods—by viewing a sample yard to represent a whole bolt of cloth (see The Crown of Individuality [1909], 101-5).
"In another essay he wrote: 'There is but one quality necessary for the perfect understanding of character, one quality that, if man have it, he may dare to judge—that is, omniscience. Most people study character as a proofreader pores over a great poem: his ears are dulled to the majesty and music of the lines, his eyes are darkened to the magic imagination of the genius of the author; that proofreader is busy watching for an inverted comma, a misspacing, or a wrong font letter. He has an eye trained for the imperfections, the weaknesses....
"'We do not need to judge nearly so much as we think we do. This is the age of snap judgments.... [We need] the courage to say, "I don't know. I am waiting further evidence. I must hear both sides of the question." It is this suspended judgment that is the supreme form of charity' ("The Supreme Charity of the World," The Kingship of Self-Control [n.d.], 27-30; emphasis in original).
"Someone has said that you cannot slice cheese so fine that it doesn't have two sides....
"May God bless us that we may have that love and that we may show it in refraining from making final judgments of our fellowman. In those intermediate judgments we are responsible to make, may we judge righteously and with love. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of love. Our Master whom we seek to serve is, as the scriptures say, a 'God of love' (2 Cor. 13:11). May we be examples of His love and His gospel."
- Dallin H. Oaks, "'Judge Not' and Judging," talk at BYU on March 1, 1998; see Ensign, August 1999, pp. 6-13
Click here to read or listen to the full article

I was fascinated by the excerpts Elder Oaks shares. It's one thing to judge a bolt of cloth by the exposed pattern we can see; but that is because we assume the rest of the bolt reflects the same pattern, and so we are seeing an exact representation of the entire product at a glance. But that does not work for our interactions with one another. With people and situations, we can't possibly grasp the intricacies of a personality or of complex motivations based on superficial assumptions.

A second danger is to assume we can understand the character of another based on a proofreader-like examination for flaws. We miss the "majesty and music" in others when all we do is notice their mistakes or shortcomings.

Finally, we are cautioned to reserve judgment while we await "further evidence" and a more complete picture of the facts of a situation. Very wise counsel for any who have been victims of the consequences of hasty judgement.

This entire talk by Elder Oaks is very thought-provoking and contains wonderful counsel.

A few years ago I wrote an essay on a similar topic, based on some of my personal experiences, titled "Judge Righteous Judgment."

1 comment:

  1. I am living in my gold age and now I am learning how important is not to judge others.


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