The Judge in All of Us

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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?

 

Observations about the Duggars, Judgment, and Human Nature

WhenAWomanCoverFew people have received more media coverage in the past weeks than Josh Duggar and the Duggar family.

The family became well-known for their television show (Fill in Ascending Large Numbers here) Kids and Counting. Josh is the oldest of the Duggar children and in recent years has become an outspoken political voice among conservatives. (Paint target on his back here from both political liberals and Christians whose feathers are ruffled by girls in dresses and home schooling, among other Duggerish practices.)

I’ve watched the show on and off, which I find preferable to reality choices such as Honey Boo-Boo, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of Places I’m Glad I Don’t Live. I can say that I don’t agree with everything the Duggars are purported to believe about childrearing and theology, but I do find them charming and loveable in many ways.

Josh Duggar was barely 14 when he engaged in irresponsible sexual behavior.

The same age as four people who engaged in similar sexual activities with people in my family. Other children responsible for the same kinds of actions were a few years younger or older than Josh. No one in my family chose to stone these kids, throw them in jail, or demand adult legal action.

I find several things interest about the public’s response to Josh Duggar and his family.

1. We judge those we dislike or don’t agree with more quickly than those we love or see as like ourselves.

Take a real look at your self-talk. Be honest. Many Christians who see themselves as “liberal” are simply “reverse Pharisees,” judging those more conservative in their choices in negatve ways. We see ourselves as liberated and above them, often speaking and acting condescendingly toward Christian brothers and sisters. We judge more harshly. I know few people who would want their fifteen year old child treated as Josh Duggar has been treated.

Who of us has actually has heard the facts firsthand, unfiltered by the media? How would you like your story told by someone who didn’t know you and whose job–at least in some news outlets–was to slant the facts and tell the story in the most sensational way possible in order to engage their readership? Someone who already has drawn a conclusion about your lifestyle and values?

Who of us has or is willing to apply the same standards of judgment to their loved ones and require the same kind of treatment many are demanding of Josh?

 

2. A “killer” lurks inside all our hearts.

The truth of the matter is that we ENJOY seeing the demise of those we dislike or disagree with. Competitive sports and politics are evidence. And if that’s not enough, think back on junior high and high school.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you’re an adult you’ve risen above the killer motives that lurks inside all of us that likes to watch the downfall of those we hate. The creators of reality television understand this principle better than most Christians do. My heart…and yours, is deceitful and desperately wicked…so wicked, in fact, that we don’t even recognize it most of the time. (Jeremiah 17:9)

 

3. As long as Satan can keep our panties in a knot about someone else, we take our eyes off our messed-up selves.

You see, Josh sinned because he’s a sinner, and I’m pretty sure he knows it because he’s admitted it. The people who are busy throwing stones at him are probably not taking the time to see how much they’re like Josh and every other sinner on earth. I, for one, and so messed up that Jesus had to die for me. The good news is that He’s changing me. But we can only be changed when we take the time to focus on our self-talk and movtives as we interact with others in this world.

I’m reminded that Jesus was a friend of sinners. If we’re to be like Him, what should our response be in balancing accountability and love from those who act irresponsibly and hurtfully?

4. We should place focus on the long-term wellbeing of abuse survivors.

Josh’s parents did the responsible thing. His actions were reported to authorities. Law enforcement investigated. The Duggars were public in their dealings. Josh went for counseling. Reports indicate that the Duggar family has been open and forthcoming.

However, survivors of these types of events internalize their experiences differently.

Forgiveness does not replace needed trauma therapy. If the sexual experience took place in an environment of intimidation, fear, threat, etc., the survivors may need ongoing therapy. Other women may need less professional care dealing with the violation that occurred.

But according to Nancy Arnow of Safe Horizon, a New York-based victim services agency, the children who were the objects of Josh’s actions do not match the definition of sexual molestation.

“We have to distinguish between sexualized behavior that might be pretty normal — experimenting, touching each other — versus molesting, subjecting another child to harm.”

Jessa and Jill Duggar have made it clear in media interviews that this incident was forgiven and in their past. If the media and pulic truly cared about so-called “victims,” they should respect their wishes and focus, instead, on the egregious violation of the law in leaking Josh’s juvenile records and publicizing details. 

According to Dawn Scott Jones, award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused, it’s important for true abuse survivors to do a thorough and honest inventory of the losses they sustained because of their experience before trying to move on.

In the media frenzy to destroy Josh Duggar, little has been said about the needed focus on the long-term wellbeing of the survivors.

The media and the public has missed the point. Their goal has been to crucify Josh and his family. No one would want their child’s DHS records unsealed, their past made public, and exploratory behavior common to fourteen year-old boys applied to their family and friends.

And NO, it doesn’t matter if Josh Duggar is a public figure. We all deserve the right to make mistakes as kids and move on. This is what juvenile court is supposed to help accomplish. And this is the core of Christian community. (I can dream, can’t I?).

Let’s at least pretend to be consistent. And let’s pretend to be consistent.

Abuse is not over when it’s over. Forgiveness, while an important step, is just ONE step toward healing. Don’t drag out a child’s past and ask for adult judgment. The true injustice is the victimization of the children and the entire family by the individual that released Josh’s records, the media that published it, and Christians who love to sling mud instead of focusing on their own dirty hands.

 

Your thoughts?

 

Self-Deception and Ripping Off Our Brothers

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Ever get one of those flashes of insight that shows the mucky thoughts you’d rather not let other people see?

I don’t like to admit it, but I this happens to me pretty often. I’m cruising through my day thinking what I’d like to believe are “good Christian thoughts,” when suddenly a subtext of vanity and pride bubbles to the surface.

Judgment.

Condemnation.

Anger.

I seem to discover those thoughts pretty often when I’m in crowds and I slip into an internal slime pit of judgment and condemnation. At a recent conference, I was surrounded by other Christians–people with whom I share a sisterhood and brotherhood at the deepest level: our shared faith in Jesus. Yet I found myself passing judgment every so often based on pure externals.

It was pretty darned ugly. And if we’re honest, we’d have to admit that we’re all familiar with that slime pit.

We all indulge in ageism, sexism, denominationalism, racism, and other forms of judgment and condemnation. We say we believe in loving our neighbor as ourselves, then hurl obscenities on the freeway or scream insults at the ref at the game. We claim we’re committed to showing God’s love to everyone, then insult a telemarketer before we hang up in their ear.

And we can walk around a Christian conference and be more concerned about what people are wearing or whether or not they’re raising their hands than the bond we share in Jesus.

Our self-talk is often a silent seduction. But it is also a valuable tool that reveals our heart and opens the opportunity to spiritual insight, repentance, and a renewed relationship with others through the power of the Holy Spirit.

–Shelly Beach
Author of The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk (Moody Publishers)