A university department of Atmospheric Science for several years employed me as a student to program computers for climate analysis. Dr. Kung presented to me an old computer program to adapt to a new kind of analysis. I noticed that the old program set the value of the gravitational constant g as 9.8 m/s². My physics textbook gave g as 9.80665. After checking other sources, I changed g to the physics book value that had more digits of precision.
My program crunched data overnight and produced dozens of pages of numbers and pretty contour plots. Dr. Kung smiled at the results. Then he frowned. He flipped back and forth through the pages, murmuring, “This is not what I expected.”
A week later he summoned me to his office. “Where did this ‘g’ come from?” he demanded. I explained.
He sighed. “Gregory, these measurements come from a mile above the earth’s surface. Up there the earth’s gravity is a little bit weaker than it is down here.” Then he rubbed it in: “By turning up gravity, you have sucked all the clouds out of the sky!”
OK. Have I established that I am sometimes wrong about verifiable facts of physics? That granted, is it surprising that I misjudge more complex phenomena, like people? Moreover, few situations require judgments. So, as I previously explained, I resolved to avoid judging people until required.
Then I found in myself two more forms of premature judgment.
First, I unnecessarily judge myself. Of course, self-understanding is highly desirable. Not for radishes or gravel, but for humans, a complete lack of self-examination leads to disaster. But does continual self-examination really help? Many of my self-evaluations have been way off. Even if my evaluations were correct for some other place and time, they often are wrong for the here and now! I have mammoth biases about myself. The smart thing to do is defer self-judgment. Somebody concurs:
“I do not care if I am judged by you or by any human court.
I do not even judge myself. I know of no wrong I have done,
but this does not make me right before the Lord.
The Lord is the One who judges me.
So do not judge before the right time; wait until the Lord comes.”
Yet another form of premature judgment is judging God. How do I judge God? I necessarily misunderstand God in many ways. Judging God usually takes this form: I decide that I deserve better than what I have.
One step that helps me is to consider an alternate perspective.
For example, people ask: Why is there suffering?
If this is an academic question, not from someone who in pain, then there exists a counter-question:
Why is there pleasure? Why should we deserve times of happiness, beauty, contentment, or anything pleasant?
Put that way, I realized I was beating on God from a mighty small frame of reference. I'm not the first.
Then the Lord answered Job from the storm. He said:
"Who is this that makes my purpose unclear
by saying things that are not true?
Be strong like a man!
I will ask you questions,
and you must answer me.
Where were you when I made the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off how big it should be? Surely you know!
Who stretched a ruler across it?
What were the earth's foundations set on,
or who put its cornerstone in place
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted with joy?"
Have I made mistaken evaluations of the physical world? Check. Have I made mistaken judgments of other people, of myself, and of God? Check, check, check, to the 9.8th power.
A fruitful strategy to lose a bad habit is to displace it with a good habit. The scriptures urge, “let him who stole, steal no more, but rather let him give”. Here's how I somewhat displaced the bad habit of premature judgment.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.