Did you see Lady Gaga’s performance of “Til It Happens to You” at the Oscars? Wow, what a powerful song. Written for a documentary film called The Hunting Ground which highlights the issue of campus rape, this song speaks volumes to the hearts of survivors. The message of not understanding what someone is going through until it happens to you certainly touches those impacted by sexual assault, as well as anyone who has felt judged instead of loved. And, haven’t we all been there?
The judgements coming at us on a daily basis are made by people who have not walked our journey or worn our shoes. It’s impossible – because we are all unique. Each individual has their own experiences, fears, and expectations which contribute to how they process others. For example, a co-worker may negatively judge your decision to make a career change on the basis of their own unfulfilled dreams. A friend may criticize your appearance because of their own fears regarding acceptance. Yes, we have all felt the heavy weight a package of judgement delivers. I venture to guess we’ve also all felt the guilt that comes after we deliver such a package to someone else.
On a trip to Disney World last Christmas, our family enjoyed a night time fireworks show. Cinderella’s Castle was illuminated in alternating colors, the spectacular display in the sky danced to music, and the mood was Disney magic. Perfection in my eyes…except for a little boy, in a stroller, gazing intently at his Gameboy device instead of the wondrous sky. His father nudged him from time to time, encouraging him to look up and take in the sights, but the little guy remained unmoved by the experience. This bothered me. I was annoyed that the father did not get his son to watch, what is to some, a once in a lifetime Disney fireworks display. I mentioned this to my daughter on our way back to the hotel, and she stopped my judgement in its ugly tracks by saying, “But, you don’t know their story.”
She is wise, this kid, sometimes much to my chagrin. I had no right to judge that father’s situation. I did not spend the day in his shoes, and I have no idea what challenges his life includes. My annoyance and judgement was based purely on my own experiences, fears, and expectations. I was not able to go to Disney World as a child. I try too hard to be a perfect parent. I want my children to treasure everything I think should be a precious memory. Fact is, my judgement of this father was really all about me.
“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” – Wayne Dyer
Trying not to judge others is a war against our own human nature. We seek to raise our sense of self-esteem by fixating on finding faults in others. Yet, following this path of judging others leaves us feeling unsettled and just plain awful, doesn’t it? Deep down, we sense there is a way to feel better about ourselves without negating others.
“Our perceptions of other people often become a battleground between the ego’s desire to judge and the Holy Spirit’s desire to accept people as they are.” -Marianne Williamson
The Holy Spirit watches as we hustle about, flinging judgements here and there. He waits hopefully for the realization of what we are doing to strike us. There is a way to feel better about ourselves without negating others; we know it, but we can’t put our finger on it. The Holy Spirit can name it for us – it’s called love.
The Holy Spirit helps us stop judgement in its tracks by teaching us to respond with love. While the thoughts are still forming in our heads and the words in our mouths, we can change direction by involving our hearts.
- We can remind ourselves, “But, you don’t know their story.”
- We can encourage instead of discourage.
- We can pray for them to find direction instead of assuming we know what’s best.
- We can walk beside someone instead of running ahead.
In doing these things, we love instead of judge. We involve God in our story and in theirs, which I’ve never known to be a bad thing.
Elaine Weinstein, the wife of recently killed American hostage Warren Weinstein, made countless difficult decisions in private negotiations for her husband’s release, over the course of his four plus years in captivity. In an interview with CBS news, she talks about feeling like she held her husband’s life in her hands, and how people, friends, and family were always weighing in on her decisions. They would ask her, “Well, why didn’t you do this? And why didn’t you do that?”
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12 New International Version (NIV)
One certainly cannot imagine what Elaine Weinstein’s situation would feel like. I pray that God placed someone in her path to encourage her and hold her hand as she made those agonizing decisions. I pray that there was someone there to help her feel loved instead of judged.
Prayer for this Week:
Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide me in my relationships with others. Whatever comes my way this week, help me handle it with your grace. When I feel judged, help me remember that every person has their own hurts and hang-ups. When I feel tempted to judge others, show me instead how to offer a response of love. You are the only one who knows someone’s story. Lead me to learn from my experiences, fears, and expectations so I recognize why I think the way I do. Open my eyes to the judgements around me every day, and make me a servant of your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Watch Lady Gaga’s incredible performance at the Oscars right here
Watch CBS 60 Minutes’ interview with Elaine Weinstein right here