I am by nature a very judgmental person. It is one of my least favorite parts of myself, but no matter what I do, it always seems to rear its ugly head eventually. While I am pretty good at changing my opinions with continued exposure and greater knowledge, it still really bothers me that I judge so much from the get-go. It comes from pride, obviously, but I've been analyzing why this is my tendency lately instead of just attacking myself for doing it like I normally do.
We talk a lot about not judging people at church--it's not our place or our job to play God, we don't know people's stories, we're all imperfect and all beggars, etc. These things are true and good, and most of us readily admit that they're also really hard to follow, but we try. The vast majority of people I've interacted with at church have exhibited profound mercy toward me and others, even at times that certainly surprised me. With that said, however, what I've been observing in myself is that following all that talk is a long list of ways that I should be judging people. Judging righteous judgment and all that, deciding whether actions are sinful or not in order to protect myself from evil and keep myself in good places with good influences. I believe these statements are made with excellent intentions. I also believe we do have a responsibility for judgment, but as I've been pondering the subject, I've had to conclude that I think I've been getting it wrong when it comes to the what I'm supposed to be judging.
I'm coming to the radical conclusion that I think when Jesus said we should judge no one, that is exactly what he meant. He added no qualifiers. We are never to judge anyone. Period.
But wait! What does that even mean?? For me, it means that the only judgment I should ever make concerning someone else's choice is whether or not that action would draw me closer to God. If it would, I should then do that thing. If it would instead pull me away, I should not do that thing. It's very simple, because with that decision made, I am done with my job. That means I don't go on to decide whether or not someone else's choice draws him or her closer to God, because I'm starting to learn that I actually can't know that. It's very difficult for me to wrap my brain around this concept, because I have been fairly certain for almost three decades that I know almost literally everything.
Here's a very embarrassing confession: yesterday, I happened upon the video of Miley Cyrus appearing topless on Jimmy Kimmel's show. My immediate reaction was, obvi, Miley Cyrus is such a gross attention-seeking monster (see? I wasn't joking). Because I've been doing mind work on judgment, however, I was able to stop myself and observe the thought. Why did I have that reaction? Despite the answer seeming uber obvious, I had the odd thought that I should watch the clip. This was strange for several reasons, not least among them being that I'm trying to basically delete the internet out of my life to a large extent because it makes me neglect motherhood aaaand that I couldn't really imagine a useful reason to watch a shirtless Miley, but the thought wouldn't go away. So I did.
My initial reactions were what I'd expected--eyerolls and judging and wondering why on earth I was watching this trash. You might be wondering the same thing. Something crazy happened a little bit into the video, though. My heart opened up, and I saw a human being who's doing her best to get through life--and that's all I saw. And I kid you not, I started bawling, because in that moment, I loved her so much. I saw how God saw her. I felt God's incredibly intense love for her.
I also saw Jimmy Kimmel's enormous discomfort and his inability to talk about anything other than her lack of apparel. And I realized that if Jesus had been conducting the interview (there's a thought), he wouldn't be uncomfortable. Maybe Miley would or wouldn't, but Jesus I am sure would not. I doubt he's ever uncomfortable, because he's Love, and there is no discomfort in pure love.
I used to think God was disappointed when we made bad choices, choices that turned our backs on divinity and light. I imagined a God who could disapprove. To claim that I know the mind of God would be more arrogance than I can muster right now, but I will submit that my experience with God has not proven that image to be the case. Even in my lowest lows and my most appalling choices, I have never felt the disapproval of my God, despite imagining at times that I did. I have received heavy chastisement and correction that doesn't shy away from the point, but never have I honestly felt that God would have me be ashamed. God's love has been a constant, no matter what I'm doing, even when I haven't been able to feel or know it. He is never disappointed in me. He knows I'm doing the best I know how, even when that includes me making choices I know go against the principles of happiness I've been taught. There are many levels of "knowing." I think we're held accountable for the level of knowing we've reached at the moment.
Yogi Bhajan taught that if you can't see God in all, you won't see God at all. That used to bug me, because I felt like seeing God in people who lived what I'd label sinful lives meant condoning behavior I know to be harmful. I was very wrong. God is Love, and God is in all of us. We are his children, and we carry his light inside us. We're here to learn how to grow that light inside ourselves and how to recognize and grow it in those around us. Judging people as good or bad, right or wrong, puts an automatic barrier between us and our ability to seek their light. We can only know our own experience, which means we honestly can't know what God is telling other people to do or not to do. We don't need to worry about it, either, because figuring out what he's telling us to do is a hard enough task.
One thing I know for sure, though, and that's that I can't go wrong by loving. Sometimes I love in a way that's not as helpful as another, but it's okay, because if I'm trying to love at all, God covers it. In fact, if I screw up and don't love, God still covers it. He's bigger than us and all our mistakes. All he asks is that we keep trying to grow closer to him so we can be more like him--happier, more peaceful, more loving. I'm trying, and I'm learning that, surprise, most people are. The more light I seek in others, the more I find. The more I look for God in all, the more I am surprised at all the times he's been there and I haven't seen him at all.
Look for God in everybody. Treat them like you'd treat God. So simple, so hard ; )
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.