My thoughts (John Seksay):
If it’s morning, I find it best to refrain from weighing in on other’s opinions before I’ve had my coffee. That’s a pretty accurate measure of my objectivity. If you want an answer that isn’t abrupt or dismissive, wait until I have had my coffee.
Also, don’t bring anything serious up while I’m driving. All those other idiots on the road require my full attention and I don’t need another distraction.
If I’m napping, wait for me to wake up on my own; if you wake me up, I may not even remember the conversation. I’m serious. When I was in college, a friend of mine stopped by the dorm to let me know I had gotten the part-time position working in the library. He woke me up, we supposedly had a nice conversation lasting several minutes on that and other topics, and I apparently went back to sleep and didn’t have any memory of it at all! If the librarian hadn’t done a follow-up call when I didn’t show, I would have been out of luck.
“Partiality in judging is not good.” This is the lead passage to today’s reading, a small section of Proverbs noted as being further sayings of the wise.
My earliest sense of impartiality came out of the TV show “Dragnet”, where solemn-faced police detectives were always saying, “We just want the facts, nothing but the facts,” when their interviewee started spouting their opinions about what occurred and why they believe it happened. The focus was on identifying what was actually seen, heard, or otherwise noted without any embellishment.
This seems a simple assignment because I believe myself to be very impartial. We have a lot of phrases related to it: even-handed, level-headed, and so on. Since I don’t work as a circuit judge, how important could this be to little old me? I don’t preside over a court where the great criminals of our age must be brought to justice. I’m just another average person trying to muddle through life. How important is this for the little stuff in life?
I don’t think I qualify to carry the Dragnet badge. I am not always alert, focused, and centered. The first and foremost fact is this: I need to take some time and conscious effort to set aside my own perspectives and prejudices before making any serious decisions. I am naturally biased and can be habitually judgmental.
The good news: I’m not the only person like that, so I don’t stand out so much. The bad news: we’re all pretty much like that, so it’s really easy for misunderstanding and disagreement to spring up over the smallest of concerns. Without some conscious effort at being less partial to our own rose-colored glasses, small coals can quickly spring into large fires.
I guess this is why these verses made it into the Bible. They are not as much about how to judge as the need to refrain from judgment before you’ve taken time to get your head right and see as many sides of a situation as you can. Objectivity allows more fairness into our views that we would normally entertain. It’s closely related to the principle of sowing and reaping; if we jump the gun on planting and reaping, or don’t tend our fields well, we will get very spotty yields and a disappointing harvest. It’s about being less self-centered in the negative sense of the term by becoming more God-centered before setting off down the road. So I will strive to start my day with Be Still and Know — along with that first cup of coffee!
Thought for the day: Am I setting off down today’s road with the cart in front of the horse? Have I allowed myself time to find that place of peace where good judgment can be exercised? Am I ready to restrain myself from snap judgments?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.