Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Personalties

Putting Out the Dirt: Consequences of a Judgmental Attitude

Opening day of Little League. It was a gorgeous, sunny Saturday...excited kids in uniforms of brilliant colors, the cleanest their outfits would be all year...little fellows proudly swaggering, certain that their teams would be the victors...each full of hope and confidence that he will be the hero that hits that grand slam that takes his team into the winner's circle.

The proud grandmother (that's me, "BeBe") of Joseph and Ethan, two of the top players (in my not-so-humble opinion), sat spellbound by the action on the field. Suddenly, something right in front of me attracted my attention. Three boys, age fourish, were playing in the dirt in front of where I sat in my folding chair. At first, they pushed trucks, tractors, and other makeshift toys through the loose, to-them-delightful brown soil. Then one got the idea to throw handfuls of the stuff through the wire and onto the field.

Problem was, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction. As they released each handful with glee, the breeze blew it back in the other direction--onto them and into the crowd of onlookers. They seemed oblivious to the dirt's travels, intent on scooping up their next handful.

I looked around to see if parents would make the necessary correction. No sign of moving parents. Their game continued, and the dirt continued to fly. After a couple of minutes, I eased over to the boys and said quietly, "Boys, I know you're having a good time with that dirt, but it's blowing back on people. Let's play with the dirt on the ground, OK?" They looked at me with faces that said, "Spoilsport!" But they dutifully stopped, for about five minutes anyway. The dirt was just too tempting. Little by little, the dirt game resumed.

Then there was that fateful moment for the little guy with the sun-bleached hair. He picked up a big handful of the loose dirt. I saw him look at it for a moment, pondering his next move. I saw him bring it right up to his face. And then...oh, no...he took a deep breath and blew it as hard as he could. He sputtered, wiping his eyes. Not the outcome he had anticipated or intended!

You Tend to Get Back What You Give Out

At that moment, I realized I had just witnessed a real-life demonstration of an important principle: What you put out there has a way of coming back to you...and sometimes hitting you right in the face!

As with any principle, its application can be positive or negative. For right now, let's zero in on one negative example; having a critical and judgmental attitude.

Are You Judgmental?

How do you react when you hear the gossip that someone is going through a problem?

  • Do you assume the worst about the person?
  • Do you smugly tell yourself that you would never do something like that?
  • Do you repeat the juicy news?
  • Do you label and stereotype a person based on one life event or a limited sample of his/her behavior?
  • Do you either stay away or take it on yourself to give him or her a sermon of correction or I-told-you-so?


  • Do you withhold judgment, knowing first that you may not have heard the truth?
  • Do you remind yourself that, even if it's true, you have no way of knowing all the circumstances; that you haven't walked in the person's moccasins?
  • Do you reach out to help, supporting the person even when you don't support the behavior?
  • Do you keep your mouth closed, choosing not to add to the person's pain by spreading rumors?
  • Do you remind yourself that you could be next...if not the same problem, another one?

Will You Ever Need Grace?

Unless you have the delusion that you will live this life perfectly, you will certainly pass through those times when you need others to be understanding, forgiving, and merciful. I do it often.

With that in mind, remind yourself of the principle we saw in the flying dirt: What you put out there has a way of coming back to you. Make a habit of judging and criticizing the faults of others, and when it's your turn, you'll be judged and criticized more harshly.

If you want others to give you grace, give grace out on a regular basis. We're blessed when we're merciful, because we'll get mercy back when we need it...and trust me, we will!

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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