I caught myself doing it again today. I was driving my kids to school this morning and passed two people bundled up and walking along the road. They were walking on the road instead of the sidewalk, because the sidewalks are completely covered in snow, but I was annoyed that I had to slow down to go around them because there was a car in the lane next to me. I wondered why they were even walking on the street when it’s so cold out.
Or I was at the grocery store picking up a few things for dinner this week, and I looked at the person’s cart in front of me that was filled with all kinds of food-thats-not-really-food. And I thought how bad it is for them to be buying and eating those foods and feeding it to their little kids who were sitting in the cart.
I’m not proud of these thoughts in my head, and I usually keep them to myself and don’t share them with other people around me. But still, there they are in all of their ugliness. And that’s why I need to confess this to you today.
You see, I can be a judgmental person.
I make snap judgements about people that I come into contact with in the course of my day-to-day life and activities. I make assumptions about them, thinking I know what kind of person they are, or what’s going on with them. When the reality couldn’t be further from truth – I have no idea who they are, what they’re about, what’s going on in their lives.
This is not how it’s supposed to be!
But the reason I’m sharing this and talking with you about it today, is because God is slowly changing me, renewing me, giving me a new mind and a new heart in this area of my life. He’s pulling back the scales from my eyes, and showing me the foolishness of my ways and the dangers of these types of thoughts.
And I believe I’m not alone in this. That I’m not the only one with quick thoughts in my head when seeing other people around me in this world. Do you find yourself doing this too sometimes?
Here’s a test. Check yourself the next time you’re running errands at the store, or driving down the street and you pass people. Do you notice them? What do you think about them? What are the first thoughts that jump into your head? The split second judgments made automatically based on lingering glance.
Sometimes the judgments are positive and we see someone who seems to be successful by worldly standards, someone who “has it all together”, and we think about how great their life must be. Maybe we even envy them.
Then there are the judgments that are nothing but negative and hurtful. The looking down on another person. They’re a bad person, or in a bad situation, or making bad choices with their life.
We create a story or a stereotype for what a person is like, what kind of person they are, what they’re doing (or not doing) with their life, or what they should be doing with their life – because obviously we’ve got life all figured out and know what is best for every other person we encounter in this world without knowing a single thing about them. Ahem.
I mean, in some ways, this is human nature. It’s the way that we sort and understand our world and the people around us.
But even though it might be an innate part of who we are and what we do, I know this to be true: This is NOT the way God intended it to be. And this is NOT the way that He calls us to see His precious children He has placed in this world alongside us.
So, I am putting up a fight against this judgmental nature in my mind and heart. I am pushing back against my natural tendency, my innate drive to draw conclusions and assume I know about a person without first getting to know a person.
What’s Their Story?
I want to follow the example of Jesus, who didn’t stereotype people he came into contact with during his ministry. He didn’t conform to the cultural norms of rejecting the sick, the unclean, the shameful, the unloveable, the unseen, the sinners – the people just like me and you. He saw them for who they were – children of the King and image-bearers of God Himself – and he loved them right where they were, in the middle of their story.
I’ll be the first to admit that this is not easy. Because these thoughts jump into my mind almost before I realize they are there. But as soon as I become aware of them, I push them back with the help of the Spirit and replace them with a new thought, a new understanding about the person who is crossing my path.
And instead of judgmental, assuming thoughts, I first tell myself this: Jesus loves that person and He died for them – just like He did for me. And He calls me to love them as myself.
Then, after I’ve taken on this posture of Love, I ask myself this question: What’s their story?
I ask myself, “I wonder what he or she is doing? Where are they going? And why? What’s going on in their life right now? Are they happy, sad, hurt, joyful, frustrated, excited or none of the above? What’s their family like? WHO is this person?
And it completely changes my attitude and thoughts about them. It breaks down the walls that I’ve built in my mind and my life in regards to the way that I feel about other people.
Because no one knows the total picture of another’s life and circumstances with just one glance, one view into a minute of their life.
We need to truly see the people around us. The way we would want to be seen by others.
That our story is so much more then the screaming toddler refusing to cooperate at the grocery store, more than the cutting words exchanged between a husband and wife across the restaurant table, more then the only quiet moment you’ve had all week sitting alone at a coffee shop, more than that one moment in time when we come into contact with people around us.
Our lives are so much more than what others around us can see. Isn’t this so true for each of us? All of our lives are a story. So why would we reduce someone else’s life to our quick and ignorant assumptions about them when their life is also so much more than we can see or understand with a passing glance.
Don’t we all want to be seen for who we are? And not just seen, but known? And not just known, but loved? Isn’t that what we’re all searching for in our relationships?
Put on Love
But we are seen. And we are known. Truly, deeply, and intimately by our Heavenly Father. And WE ARE LOVED.
Yes, God sees us right where we are, and He knows our story, everything that is going on in our lives. And He LOVES us, in the middle of our messiness and brokenness He mets us and loves us. He doesn’t glance at us in judgment the way we so easily do with others.
So this is how I, how we, can move away from the judgmental attitude in our hearts.
To accept the love of God in our own lives so much that it overflows into love for others around us. That we will not glance in judgment, but that through love we will really see them right where they are.
And while we obviously can’t know everyone in the world we can strive to get to know a group of people around us. Maybe people we’ve never met and are quite different from us. Or maybe people that we’ve known for years, but haven’t really known deeply and intimately. And then we can meet them, in the middle of their story, in the middle of their messiness and brokenness and show them that they are loved.
Not only by us, but by a God who sees them and knows them and loves them who is simply using us to show His love to others.
Because God see us and knows us and loves us, and He wants us to do the same for one another.
Do you struggle with an attitude of judgment? How can you use people’s stories to help you put on an attitude of love toward them?
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