“Who made YOU judge and jury?” I can picture the whole finger-pointed-at-chest scenario. Ever heard that one? Ever used it? Yeah, me too.
It’s weird, really. I recently had a rash of friend requests on Facebook from people I knew 15+ years ago, people who at one time were a very integral part of my life. I felt like I was having a reunion with my past! Along the way I moved, changed (a LOT), and became someone I didn’t think ‘they’ would approve of. I assumed that if I let these people into my world again they would judge me, my circumstances and how I live my life today. What I’d done was exactly that…judged THEM. Not cool.
“Judge” is a sensitive word to me these days, but I stopped short today when I realized I had done it again – judged someone as they had judged me. In short, a judge is one who decides a matter; to form an opinion, usually critical; to pass judgement, to sentence. I thought I was good at putting myself in the other person’s shoes to gain understanding of why they do the things they do. I am often told I’m one of the most friendly, non-judgemental people around. Really?
I know what it feels like to be sentenced – to a perception or to a misconception – and it doesn’t feel wonderful. I’ve been told, “What do you have that I could possibly want?” This was in reference to my beliefs and values. I was shocked and crushed because it came from someone I was close to, or so I thought. It took some doing but I figured out it was their experience or opinion and that it didn’t mean I was worthless. Why on earth would I let others’ words impose on me like that?
The ‘hobos’ on the street as my kids call them…boom…instant thoughts run through your brain, right? I think about this often because I know someone who at one point lived in their car for 2 months – gainfully employed but unable to ‘make it’ on the income earned. I’ve listened to countless conversations about never giving them a dime because they’ve made their choices, or they’ll just spend it on cigarettes or booze or other unnecessary items, yada yada blah blah blah. Our assessments, pre-conceived ideas, and yes – judgements – cause us to assume the worst, and in turn make ourselves out to be ‘better than’. I think if we actually stopped and took time to listen to their stories, we’d find out that there’s a lot more to it than the cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.
Remember Ted Williams from a few months ago – the radio guy with the Golden Voice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cl_fMxQCTw)? He was judged as a homeless man and then again when he couldn’t handle his thrust into instant fame. The guy can’t win for trying.
Then this week, I was in a court room listening to a woman request guardianship for a 14 year old girl whose mom had abandoned her, and whose dad told her to ‘screw off, I don’t want anything to do with you’. From an observer’s point of view, there were all kinds of assessments one could make about that girl, her parents, and the woman who was pleading the case to the judge. She was just a friend, not a relative, but wanted to do what was right for the girl – provide a home, love and care that the young girl would not have received otherwise. Who knows, without this unconditional acceptance and life changing decision, she may have ended up on the street just like Ted Williams. I was almost overwhelmed with emotion at the judge’s compassion. He not only awarded permanent guardianship to the lady, but he addressed the girl as well. Yes, he told her she was lucky to have someone looking out for her like that, but what he said next is what got to me. He asked her to look him in the eyes and then told her how valuable she was, how much she meant to the family that just took guardianship of her, but also how important and valuable she was to him and to our community. He asked her what she wanted to be. She didn’t know, but he told her he believed in her and knew she could achieve whatever she wanted to. Now that my friends, is the right kind of judgement!
I don’t know, I think what I’m getting at is to be kind regardless. You don’t know what the other person is going through and they may need a smile instead of a tongue lashing or scowl….or our easily offered judgements. ‘Nuff said.
Oh – and by the way – the reunion with my past? Nothing but kind words, encouragement and, “Shandra. My wonderful long lost friend!!!!!”
Food for Thought
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Mark Twain quotes make me smile.