Well, this is one of those posts that I don’t want to write because it (more than usual) exposes all my flaws and issues and doesn’t make me feel good. But one of the things I’ve learned over these past 10 years in counseling is that raw vulnerability in my own problems is often a way to pulling down walls in others. When we look around, we think that everyone has it all together and we are the only ones who are flying by the seat of our pants. Something about saying, “Yeah, me too” allows people to relax and quit trying to project the image they think we want to see.
And here’s the thing. We just can’t stop beating each other up, whether it be out loud in our outside voice or inside in the hidden parts of our mind. Wait, let’s get more personal—I can’t stop beating others up. I hate it. I want to promote people and love people and have them draw near to Jesus. And yet, I continue to sink back into that negative mess of judging actions, deciding motivations for actions and falling flat on my face with the good intentions I had for the whole thing.
I have analyzed why I do it (I mean, come on, you think I don’t analyze myself?!) and have obsessed on not doing it. I have realized through my self-analysis that it’s usually because I want to feel better about myself. I want to judge someone that does something differently than me because then I can either say that I’m not that bad or I’m actually doing pretty good. Neither is helpful. I stand on the back of someone to feel less insecure instead of reaching out my hand to them as they sit stuck where they are.
I know people do dumb things—believe me, I see it constantly. But I have realized that people rarely change because they are criticized or judged into change. Real, lasting change more often happens when they are loved and encouraged into it. When someone comes along and really sees them, that makes such a difference. It does for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes in my line of work, I have to confront people about things and I never enjoy it. But it is usually after a long period of building a relationship founded on compassion, love and an attempt at understanding.
We set up a standard with which we will judge the offending party, whether it be a parent who parents differently, a co-worker who works differently or a family member who does life very differently. And sometimes, whatever they are doing isn’t great! I’m not saying we need to believe everyone is doing a great job at whatever they are trying to do. But I am saying that I don’t think people are very often encouraged to do something different by us hanging back and judging them quietly within ourselves or out loud to others who agree with our perspective.
Just last week my husband called me out for doing this again. You guys, it sucks to realize you’ve chosen to be there again. I hate it in myself. I have set up a standard higher than God’s and then brought everyone to the table to weigh punishment on them. Gross! You see, I know the standard is higher than God’s because God’s standard is in John 5—apart from me you can do NOTHING. That’s a standard we nail every time.
So, this isn’t a post to talk about how you need to try harder to fix the judging in yourself because I just don’t think that works. Instead, you come back to Jesus and keep your focus right. You don’t need to look at all the people around you who aren’t getting it quite right and beat up on them so you feel better about yourself. You are loved and accepted and treasured as you are without any of the proofs you want to bring to God on why you should be ok with Him. That is not why He loves you. The only way you are going to be able to walk away from judging and really love those around you is through the power of God living within you.
When you are looking at Jesus, filled with His love and asking Him to be all that you need for daily life, you realize you aren’t superior in any way to any person. You see your need, and you see the One who meets that need in you. You can then reach out to those who aren’t doing things the same way you do and meet them where they are, whether or not you agree with them. Again, I’m not saying that they are right and that you are approving what they are doing. Maybe they are pretty terrible at whatever it is, but you are not going to help them do any different if you just judge them and move on.
Here’s the Bible’s word on it (and I love the Message Bible’s version so I used it):
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. Matthew 7:1-5
I need that embroidered on a pillow, stamped across my forehead and written in the sky. Because I forget A LOT. But forgetfulness doesn’t make the truth less true. And when I screw up again, I come back to the One who loves me with my scars, flaws, ugliness and all. He doesn’t hold me up and see how I fail and want—He loves me and provides the strength I need to do something different. You see, I have a choice now. I can choose to follow along and continue in the way my usual pattern desires, or I can choose the Life within me which allows me to go beyond my natural and my usual.
The true miracles in the Christian life are, to me, loving your enemy (which sometimes is your spouse), doing good to those who hate you, humbling yourself in the face of someone who is treating you badly. These things are impossible without the power of God. They are fully possible with His Life, but you have to choose it.
You are not alone in this battle against judging. I am so glad we don’t walk this path alone, and there is a power within us in the Life of Christ that can conquer even our judgiest days. Yes, I just made up that word. And we can come alongside and remind each other that even in our struggles, we are moving. We are not stagnant and stuck in this. I am thankful for those who will gently remind me of this and encourage me along the way. And I am really thankful for Jesus not sitting in judgment of me at a distance, but instead entering my mess and bringing Life with Him.