Sunday, June 27, 2010

Judge Not...

One of the cardinal rules of joyful living is that judging others takes a great deal of energy, and, without exception, pulls you away from where you want to be. ~Richard Carlson

Today I’m going to write about judging others. Over the years, several people in my life have remarked on my ability to be so understanding and accepting of others—at least when The Alien isn’t around, which, thankfully, is most of the time :). But the real me is usually pretty open, easygoing, and tolerant, inclined to give everyone and anyone the benefit of the doubt. That often ends up with me being taken advantage of in one way or another, but I’ve decided I’d rather go through life trusting people than not. When they fall down on the job, or fail to come through for me, that’s on them, not me for trusting them to do what they said they were going to do.

Doesn’t make my life any easier when something falls through and I have to scramble to compensate, but at least I know it’s not because I didn’t withhold my trust or support.

But I digress. Like I said, I wanted to write about judging others. I used to judge people all the time. Made me feel superior to them in some way, I guess. I don’t remember now, because now I make a conscious effort not to judge. Why is this? I didn’t have a lightning bolt of awareness strike me one day and do a total turn around in thinking, that’s for sure. My level of tolerance and understanding came slowly. It came as I got older, and it came over time. Eventually, I noticed it came every time I judged someone. Maybe not right away, but eventually, it came.

Funny how that worked. I’d look at someone and think, why on earth would they (do or say whatever it was they were doing and saying) and pass judgment…Good Lord, I’d never do (or say) that…and then, eventually, unfailingly, in God’s own time, I would find myself in that very same situation.

And I would understand. And I would remember passing judgment. And I would feel badly about it.

Fortunately I don’t usually speak my judgments aloud, so I had nobody to apologize to but thin air, but still…

They haunt me. I remember. And I have learned from them.

For instance, I was at a writer’s retreat one weekend, and a group of us were sitting in a room talking about writing, and a woman spoke up and said something to the effect of, “I haven’t written a word since I started having children.” Me, being childless at the time, thought, “Well that’s no excuse. You just tell the kids you’re busy and you write.”

Then I had my own son, who never took naps, and was always so sunny and inquisitive—I used to wish he would be bad so I could put him down for a forced nap and get some writing done—but it never happened. He was awake, lively, endlessly curious, and a joy to be with. Not tired at all. Until the end of the day, and by then I was exhausted, so no writing got done. For years.

Finally, I understood. And when I see that woman’s name on her books now…I remember, and wince a little inside. Because now I know what she meant, and how she felt, and how honest and brave it was of her to speak the truth to that room full of writers.

Another thing I never understood was why women didn’t color their roots a whole lot sooner. I’d see an inch of gray peeking out, and wonder, why even bother coloring if you’re going to run around looking like that?

Then I started coloring. And then I learned. Finally I gave up, and went gray. And for at least six months, while I let the color grow out, I was one of those women I used to judge. And I was aware of it every single day.

Those are only two of thousands of examples I have learned from over the years. Now, because of God’s uncanny ability to show me why people do the things they do when I, in my imagined superiority, thought they should be doing something differently…I’ve learned not to judge people. Any time I find myself slipping back into old thought patterns and starting to judge someone, I’ll catch myself and change direction. Try to find a way to understand their seemingly inexplicable behavior. Not because I’ve developed this wonderful altruistic streak—but because I don’t want to know the answer—at least not from the inside out. If it’s a friend and he or she wants to share with me, I’m all ears.

But I don’t want to have that experience. I don’t want to find myself in their shoes. I don’t want to find myself having to make those same choices. I’d rather stick to my own problems and my own choices.

So I don’t judge people any more. Instead, I trust that they are doing the best that they can with what they have or know or believe at the time, and know that they are struggling right along with the rest of us.

Everyone I know is struggling with something in one way or another. Everyone. With jobs, or lack of jobs, relationships, or lack of relationships, health issues, family issues, financial issues, addictions, choices and decisions to be made….you name it. Financially, spiritually, mentally, physically—people are hurting all around me.

So now, instead of passing judgment, I offer compassion instead. And prayers. Lots of prayers.

Is there someone you can pray for today?

We know nothing of the trials, sorrows and temptations of those around us, of pillows wet with sobs, of the life-tragedy that may be hidden behind a smile, of the secret cares, struggles, and worries that shorten life and leave their mark in hair prematurely whitened, and a character changed and almost recreated in a few days. Let us not dare to add to the burden of another the pain of our judgment. ~ William George Jordan ~


Maggie Toussaint said...

Compassion is a much nicer salve than judgment. I try not to pass judgment either because every time I do I end up eating my words. I'm not as close-mouthed as you are though; I usually have to end up apologizing to all of creation.

Diane Craver said...

Excellent post as usual, Liana. People judge me all the time because we were blessed with two daughters with Down syndrome. I had two individuals tell me that they would commit suicide if they had my life. Wow - are they missing the total picture - I can't imagine not having Sara and Amanda. What might seem like the greatest tragedy became our richest joy. Hidden treasures are the best - you have to look deeper sometimes. It's not easy but so is anything worthwhile, ever easy?

Sorry I'm rambling - glad you shared what you've learned.

Moon_Pie said...

wow, you are such a good caring person! I wish I was as understanding as you!

Debby said...

I love what you say. It reminds of that saying about walking a mile in another's shoes. Compassion is the way to go Thanks
debby236 at att dot net

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Liana,
That was an amazing blog, and so true.

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

I remember those lines from my Sunday School teaching days many years ago, but they are as true now as they ever were.



Jason and Emily said...

As a pastor's kid, I grew up with first-hand experiences in seeing the best and worst in people. It's amazing how awful Christians can be to each other...and yet how awesome we can be when we let God work. I struggle with judging others until I realize "we're all sheep," clueless unless we're listening to our Shepherd's voice. And I remember how much dumb stuff I do on a regular basis. And like you said, Linda, I try to keep in mind that I have no idea what someone else is dealing with at that moment that would make them say/do/think what they are.

I would love to be entered in a drawing to win one of your books. Compassion and forgiveness are both topics I love to see woven in a narrative. hendrickson_emily (at) hotmail (dot) com


Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

so much wisdom in this. I clicked in because of the title striking home because of an incident that happened to me last week that bothered me. I won't go into details, but this person started her sentence with, I'm not judgmental. HA! Just as I expected from those words, she proceeded to not only judge but condemn. The lesson she needs to learn in life, just as you did, that judging other does not make you superior in anyone's perception than your own. great blog.

Maeve said...

Well said indeed. Everyone has their own reality and to each person, that reality is what they're trying to survive as best they can. Thank you for reminding us all of that fact, Liana.

Leigh D'Ansey said...

Hi Liana. One of the good things about ageing is that life has a tendency to smooth down the sharp edges. Thanks for your lovely message of understanding.

Mona Risk said...

thank you, Liana. You always inspire good feelings. I wish I read this post last when... Anyway. You are right being upset can drain one's energy.