“You’re rubber and I’m glue, anything I say bounces off you and sticks on me…”
Or something like that… Yeah, I know, I have the saying all backwards. But I think it’s more true this way.
Something I’ve been giving some thought to lately is judgments. Let’s face it, we all make them. And I’m not one to jump on the “judge not lest ye be judged” bandwagon, using the quote to say that we should always just turn a blind eye to everyone’s actions, and adopt a “do whatever makes you happy” attitude.
But I think there’s a big difference between using ‘judgment’ to make wise decisions, and sometimes help others see ways for them to make better choices…and using ‘judgment’ in the sense of passing a verdict or standing in the place of thinking we are better than someone else. And frankly, I think there are consequences to the second type of judgment. Consequences that show the absolute truth in Matthew 7:2 where it says…
“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…”
It’s amazing how I’ve seen the reality of this play over and over in my life. We aren’t just talking about some spiritual dynamic here, or some after-life judgment scenario, but a real, practical…and changeable…reality.
See, the problem with judgmentalism is that we set up a ‘standard’…a ‘measure’, if you will…of what we deem to be acceptable/good/perfect. And we hold others to it. We’ve all done it, in some form, to some degree. I used to be that oh-so-naive young mom, with one seemingly-naturally well behaved little daughter. I would witness disdainfully other frazzled moms in the mall or grocery store (the days of my infant daughter were pre-Target or any local Walmart)…”those” moms would have screaming children, throwing fits and looking all disheveled and snotty nosed, and I would think “ugh…they should really discipline their children better or stay home!”. I know…what a judgmental snot I was. I deemed the children ‘bratty’ and couldn’t wait to walk away and not have to ‘suffer’ these children’s bad behavior.
Enter 3 boys in my life, ages 0-4, in addition to my lovely, if not occasionally snooty little princess. Let’s just say things got ugly real quick.
And I was horrified…I had become one of “them”.
Here’s the problem…I had no grace for others, therefore, I could have no grace for myself. I was utterly ashamed to the point of meltdown if one of my children threw a fit in public, or were any less than ‘perfect’ in front of anyone at all. Why? Not because it was the end of the world, nor even because the people around us looked funny or said anything. I was eaten up by my OWN judgements.
The measure I had used on others, I had no choice but to apply to myself. And internally, I was tied in knots. I could allow myself no grace, because I had allowed others no grace.
I’ve caught myself in scenarios like this many times over in the course of my life. And it’s often so subtle (the example I gave seems like a more obvious one)…that I don’t even realize why I’m so torn up in side over something, but eventually it dawns on me. I’ve probably made some judgments somewhere.
I want my children to be respectful, loving, generous people. I want others to enjoy being around them. I want everyone to like them…and in turn, like me. But when it doesn’t happen, rather than think…”they are learning, I am learning, we are all ‘in process’”…I tend to freak.
Seeing one son blatantly tell someone, when asked for some of his sunflower seeds, (which were very few left) “No…I don’t have many, and I want them.” was embarrassing.
Hearing my son tell his baseball coach that he “hated” another kid on his team, mortifying.
Hearing reports from school of a detention for one child (over an extremely minor but repeated infraction); getting an email from another child’s teacher about ongoing ‘silliness’; witnessing another child’s natural shyness manifest as seeming rudeness are all things that have turned my insides into knots.
Shame rises up, telling me what an awful parent I must be. ‘Children should always be polite.’ ‘Children should always listen and obey the first time.’ ‘Children should always think of others first.’ Yeah, right, in a perfect world…called “Stepford”, maybe…which we are not.
I am not saying those aren’t worthy goals…indeed they are. But I need to remember that, in any given moment, other children I witness are being imperfect, just as my own children are imperfect. It doesn’t mean they are hooligans, and it doesn’t mean their parents are too permissive, lazy, or in any other way flawed. It means they…as I…are human. Those kids, my kids, those parents, and me…we are all in process, and probably each of us trying the best we know how.
There’s any number of examples of locking ourselves in by our judgments, and they’re certainly not limited to parenting. Why do I feel paranoid about shopping in sweats, a baggy T, and a messy mop of hair? Because at some point, I’ve judged someone’s appearance in that Target aisle.
Why am I worried about what others assume about me/my house/my vehicle/my appearance/my job/my family…? Because quite likely, I myself have made a joke, a snide comment, or a “well, I never!” exclamation of some sort about any one of those things as it pertains to someone else.
It’s not pretty, and I hate to admit these things. I’ve learned a lot, and I would say this is an area I’ve really tried to work on and improve over the past number of years. But old habits die hard, and I still regularly catch myself in a judgmental thought or attitude. Making snap judgments about others often seems second nature to us, and it’s usually in an effort (consciously or not) to make us feel better about ourselves. The sad reality is, while it may seemingly make us feel good in the moment, in the long-term, we are just locking ourselves in a prison of our own making.
A judgment jail.
Don’t go there…you won’t even get 3 square meals a day, and if you do, you’ll only complain about how you could have cooked something better… Just not worth it.
The good news is, repentance…turning around and changing our ways…is incredibly freeing. We find not only forgiveness from God, but we are allowed to release ourselves from impossible standards and self-judging.
Hey, I can even go to Walmart in my yoga pants and t-shirt now…and I just don’t care! So if ya see me there, my hair in some crazy knot and no makeup, just know…if I see YOU there on a bad day, I won’t judge.