I can be judgmental. I judge people for choices they make without seeing the reasons behind the decision. I judge people for how they parent their child in Walmart when I didn’t see their day leading up to that single moment in the store aisle. I judge people for how messy their yard looks without understanding the backseat a nice-looking lawn takes to the hardships going on in their day to day lives. I judge without knowing their story.
I can be judgmental in my life, but I think I’m gaining new perspective because of the experiences I’ve had in my past. Maybe people wondered why I ran so doggone much and pushed a triple stroller with the fourth baby on my back in a carrier. Maybe people got annoyed with me for turning down invitations to lunch. Maybe I yelled at one of my own children in Walmart when my brain was focused on the fact that I had binged at supper and so felt worthless and defeated.
I had a back story no one understood. My actions were dictated often by the eating disorder that consumed my thoughts and emotions every part of every single day. I made questionable choices that could have caused judgment from outside eyes. But those outside eyes couldn’t see into my head and into my heart; they couldn’t see the why behind what I did. Did I deserve their judgment? I sure don’t think so. ED was a powerful opponent. But yes, because of him, I made bad choices. Yes, I was stupid. Yes, I wish I could take it back. Without understanding the ugliness of an eating disorder, I can understand why it would have been easy to pass judgment on my actions.
Now, my experiences lead me to look at others differently. I need to stop and consider: What is going on in the lives of those I see walking around me everyday?
I cannot judge what I don’t see. I now find myself reminding my boys of this often. I want them to see people with non-judgmental eyes. I don’t want them to say mean things about the boy in their class who can’t dribble a basketball. My boys may see the skill of dribbling as essential to a happy life, but I remind them – maybe that boy enjoys playing his instrument more than dribbling a basketball. There’s nothing wrong with that. I remind my boys – he’s different from you. He’s not strange, not wrong, just different. He has his own story.
We all have our own story.
The student in my class who blows off her homework and spaces off in class just broke up with her boyfriend last night.
The waitress who messes up our order and spills water on the table had a fight with her parents before coming to work.
The driver who cuts me off and almost causes an accident just found out his wife has cancer.
The friend who doesn’t answer my important text and won’t answer her phone is home all day with a sick child.
The worker at the post office who snaps at me and comes off as rude got no sleep last night sitting up in the hospital with her dying mother.
My son’s classmate who bullies him struggles with dyslexia and learning disabilities that make him feel stupid all. day. long.
What would our world look like if we wore our stories taped to our back, stamped on our forehead, on a sign around our neck? The sign that reads “broken-hearted”, “lonely”, “scared”, “depressed”, “angry”, “unloved”. So many stories walking past us everyday, and we will rarely know any of them. But we will pass judgment because that person doesn’t fit in, looks like they haven’t showered in days, wears a stony expression on their face. We call them crabby, mean, rude, lazy, hopeless. Because it’s easier to pass judgment than it is to find out their story.
I judge without knowing someone’s story.
Relationships can get messy. We might have to sideline our own plans in order to be the person another needs today. If we ask the right questions, smile with kindness in the face of their anger, allow the space needed for that person to open the floodgate of their heart, then we’ve taken one step closer to community. Getting to know someone’s story opens our own heart to their pain, but in sharing their story, we share our strength, hope, and love with them.
We share Joy Today.
God doesn’t cross our paths on accident. He gives us hundreds of interactions each day, hundreds of chances to intersect our stories with another. It’s that split second between contact and judgment in which we can crawl into their story and be their difference. God doesn’t do that on accident. God does that because he is the Author of every detail ever written.
Today, let’s live aware of the lives around us. Instead of making a quick judgment, let’s smile. Breathe. Sincerely ask, how are you? And wait for the real answer to surface. Find out the story behind the outward appearance.
I no longer want to shamefully say: I judge without knowing someone’s story.
If my sister, my friends, my husband, hadn’t called me on my outward actions, I would still be deep in the isolation and depravity of my eating disorder. If they hadn’t dug under my outward nonchalance and evasion, I would never have found freedom. God used them to love me past judgment into recovery. I can never say thank you enough. Their willingness to get messy and uncover my story allowed my story to change. I handed the pen back to God and asked him to write a new chapter and begin to craft a new ending. That’s a powerful testimony to what love can do. Love saved my life.
Love wrote my story. Love without judgment leaves the unfolding story up to God.
Find someone’s story today.