I made my way through the crowd milling in the church foyer toward my good friend. She saw me coming and waved me to her side Tall and sleek in a camel blazer and brown slacks, she looked as stunning as ever.
I heaved an inward sigh.
I’d called and left messages. Texted. Offered to bring soup, but no response.
But I understood. Cancer explains so many things, including being too sick to pick up the phone.
We chatted briefly about her illness and mine. Our conversation drifted to the indignities and realities of sickness.
Not being able to go to the bathroom. Not being to stop going to the bathroom.
Nausea. Headaches. Chronic pain.
Fatigue so deep you cry at the thought of putting on your pajamas.
Brain fog so intense you’re not sure you can find your bedroom.
We were laughing as we made our way toward the auditorium–two sisters who understood one another’s private worlds.
She stopped briefly and looked into my eyes. “I have to apologize to you, Shelly. I had no idea what you were going through a few years back when we were working together. I judged you when you were in pain and needed a break, and I let you know it. I was filled with pride toward people who were suffering. I didn’t have a clue what it felt like to be ill all the time. Please forgive me.”
Of course I forgave her. I’d forgiven her long ago. And I never, ever, ever wanted her to suffer with cancer, something I’d always feared for her because of her family history. I’d trusted her heart and understood that she’d been acting out of ignorance of what she didn’t understand and judged anyway–just like we all do. That didn’t mean I hadn’t been hurt and felt judged.
We all judge people and circumstances we don’t understand or can’t relate to.
People who disagree with us or dislike us, people who are different from us, people whose values we dislike, people we don’t understand.
Take for instance, the guy standing on the corner in the snow asking for money. I tell myself he’s a scammer. I’m doing him and society a favor by not handing him a few bucks or a warm fast-food hamburger. Judgment without knowledge.*
Or what about my brother or sister in Christ who worships differently than I do? Or holds a different view of drinking or vacationing or educating their children or fill-in-the-blank? What scripts do I write that demean their value as children of God?
One of the greatest gifts of my life is my deep friendship with a dear woman of God who is unlike me in more ways than I can count. Our backgrounds are as contrasting as black and white. We are not the same race. She is a hippie pretending to be an adult. She has taught me to see people who are different from me through new eyes and with fresh compassion. She has given me the desire to ask, “What brought you here?” “What pain do you carry?” “What things have made your heart cry out for God?”
But rather than express curiosity and seek commonality, we typically gravitate toward pride and judgment.
If we listen to our self-talk, we’ll find we judge others 24/7.
Our kids, our spouses.
Neighbors, friends, co-workers.
Relatives and their relatives, neighbors, and friends. But he antidote for negative self-talk and judgment of others is actually quite simple. We’re to love others as we would want to be loved.
Our church family.
Politicians. Politicians. Politicians.
The answer for our judgmental hearts is as easy and as difficult as loving others as we want to be loved.
In other words, treating others as we would want to be treated.
If we were homeless and standing on a cold street corner.
If we had cancer, a mental illness, chronic illness or needed a second chance.
If we were considered an enemy or an adversary.
With humility, grace, and dignity.
Like Jesus, with freedom in forgiveness and lavish love.
Evaluate your self-talk. Are you loving others as you would want to be loved?