Saturday, June 30, 2012

Don't Judge Me!

While it's incredibly late (early?) and I should be sleeping, I just came across and commented on a quote on Facebook, and decided to make it a blog post. I think it's very important and relevant to us, especially those of us who are Christians, today.

So. What was this quote? Here it is, in response to the statement, "Don't judge me!": First, let's get something straight...whatever opinion I may have about the morality of any action you do or thought you have is more or less irrelevant until I've earned the right for you to care. So stop telling me not to judge you, because what it tells me is that you have already judged yourself, didn't like what you found, and are now wanting everyone else to join you in your game of denial and rationalization. If you want to play games like that, fine, but don't demand I join you.

I looked at that, and had an immediate and very strong reaction. The first sentence, while I don't agree with it (well, in theory, it's great, but in practice, not so much), it wasn't so bad. It was that second part I reacted to so strongly. I don't know who wrote this, but I have to wonder if: A. the creator grew up in a bubble in which they were never unjustly judged for something that was either genuinely the right decision, or not at all their fault; or, B. I've lived in some unusual dystopia in which I and those I know have been repeatedly judged unfairly.

"So, Kathleen, what's your response?" Oh, I'm so glad you asked!

As human beings, we're hard-wired to care what other people think, whether for the better, or for the worse. There are many things people choose to do which they KNOW are right, but for which they are harshly judged anyway. Some examples with which I am familiar:
1.A young couple gives up a very financially rewarding career to scrimp by in a very UNfinancially rewarding life in ministry, and people keep telling them they're foolish and will regret it.
2.Another couple chooses not to abort a child they know will be born with spina bifida or Down Syndrome, and people tell them they're being cruel.
3.A man is the only person in his group of male co-workers who doesn't have lunch every Wednesday at the local strip club, and people keep telling him he needs to stop being afraid of his wife.
4.A couple takes their kids out of the public school system to homeschool their kids, even though they can't begin to afford it, because they're convinced it's what is best for THEIR kids, and people tell them they're being unwise and putting their children's financial security in jeopardy.
5.A 16 year old girl is raped, through no fault of her own, and becomes pregnant, yet refuses to abort the baby, and people condemn her for being a teen mother, or even for not aborting a child of rape.
6.And one very familiar to me, a teenager or young adult, looking to be the absolute picture of health, but in reality is very often in severe pain, always exhausted and feeling very sick, is judged for going home yet again with another unexplained headache, stomach upset, or backache, or has to take the elevator up a single flight of stairs because her knees can't handle steps, or yet again shows up with a splint on her wrist because somehow, while she was sleeping, she managed to sprain her wrist. Again. And people very harshly tell her she's a hyperchondriac, or has Munchausen's, or is just a wimp, or attention-seeker, or she should just "power through the pain."

All of these things are either the right thing to do, or unfortunate and unavoidable, and yet things for which people are judged very harshly, by many people whom they may or may not know. The first few times, it is often easy to dismiss, or even be amused, when some stranger judges harshly for something that is either clearly right to the person doing it, or unavoidable (such as health). At some point, whether or not they know the people doing the judging, it simply gets too much to deal with, and it's all a person can do to not scream, "DON'T JUDGE ME!" when something happens.

Some people would argue that you earned the right to care about something- and to express that "care"- the moment you became human. As human beings, whether for the better or for the worse, the vast majority of us, as I said earlier, are hard-wired to care what their fellow humans think, whether they know each other or not. It's part of being human. To expect someone to be able to simply switch that off is to expect them to be able to easily disconnect that part of their humanity.

I know that this quote is aimed towards those who say not to judge certain behaviors the Bible clearly condemns as being wrong. However, the argument is deeply flawed. It only works if it applies across the board. As I have experienced and witnessed, it does not. I could give a dozen other examples of times when people are clearly not in the wrong, but often very harshly judged by strangers. Somewhere around the 15th time (at least, it seemed like it) I was harshly reprimanded for taking the last seat while waiting for a table at a restaurant, and letting my 71 year old father stand for 20+ minutes, I just decided it would be easier to wait in the car. Because whether I know the person or not, yes, it is hard to deal with the ugliness that comes from other people's meddlesome judgment. Even though *I* know the truth, that's somehow not helpful when being assaulted in the same way over and over.

All that to say, sin or not, the person screaming "don't judge" may be (rightly or not, it really doesn't matter for this argument) convinced that what they are doing is not wrong, and is merely being a normal, emotionally healthy human being who is reacting to constant judgment. And most importantly- The Bible tells us not to judge. By saying what the above quote says, we are violating that very command by judging the other person's reaction to the prevalent judgment of others. When someone says "don't judge," we as Christians should set ourselves apart from others by smiling and saying, "I don't judge you. I am here to bring grace, truth, and love, with no judgment." If more of us did that, maybe more people would be receptive to what we have to say. We are to speak the truth in LOVE, and bring GRACE along with truth. Otherwise, the truth gets lost and does absolutely no good.

I daresay most- if not all- of us have been judged for something over which we had no control, or we absolutely knew to be right. Except for those few people who are gifted to genuinely not care what other people think, it never feels good to be judged. No one ever knows the whole story, and never will everyone agree that what we are doing is right, or what we are suffering is real. Maybe we know what we're doing is wrong, and are working to overcome it. Maybe we know our behavior is destructive, but has been brought on by deep wounding that we don't know how to deal with. Maybe we know that doesn't make it right. But one person's sin or poor decision does not give any of us the right to judge.

"But Kathleen, the quote wasn't about ME judging THEM, it was about THEM not WANTING me to judge them, and what it says about them and their obviously guilty consciences!" Oh, I beg to differ. Again, that quote is inherently judgmental. It makes a judgment about the conclusions of the person demanding not to be judged. There's really no way to get around that.

So why am I posting this at 5:30 in the morning? Well, we had a bad storm, and our power was out, so I went to sleep in the basement, because it was so freaking hot in my room. When the power came back on, so did the lights, and the printers (which made a horrid sound while rebooting), which then woke me up. I went upstairs to my bed, but it was too hot to sleep, so I checked Facebook while waiting for my window AC unit to cool off my room. That's when I came across this quote. I thought it was important to address, and knew if I put it off till a reasonable hour, it'd never get done. But why am I explaining this all to you? After all, you're not going to judge me, right? ;-)