Then there was judgment. Judgment grew to be a giant, ever-present, elephant in the room. Judgment commenced on day three of little one's life. Someone suggested my baby was cold. No, not suggest, it carried more of the flavour and tone of criticism. I promptly showed how my little person was in fact sweating, which I assumed was usually a sign of hotness. The person scolded "young mum's think they know everything these days."
Yep, it's a judging world
A few weeks ago there was a public debate with the impetus being Liana Webster breastfeeding her 11 month year old in a public swimming pool, without hiding her child under a blanket. Television presenter David Kochie threw a spanner in the works as he asserted she should have found a better place.
I followed the debate in printed media with wonder. There was anger. Letters to the editors labeled Liana, and ladies like her, as 'Centrelink women', 'bogans', even 'fat, ugly women'; all because these ladies didn't breastfeed like others wanted. Ouch!
Thankfully, people didn't attack others like bulldogs in some type of dog fight. The majority of people are civilized while expressing their opinion. They just thought the ladies should be discreet. I disagree with David Kochie. But I don't think as a human race we'll ever be able to curtail judgment. To some extent judging others is a human thing.
To be afraid or not to be afraid?
I don't think I'm afraid of judgment anymore. I simply can't please everyone. In fact, judging others' choices can lead to self-realization. I define my own beliefs by judging others. It's only when I judge others' choices I realize my own beliefs, and affirm what I believe is truth and fallacy. I develop self-awareness. For example, when I judge people that don't immunize their children as seriously ill-informed it is then that I realize I highly value science and scientific research.
Jesus said not to judge. So after determining differences I have with others I try to be understanding, show kindness and not to make myself feel superior. It's hard though (for some reason I like feeling superior!). There are times when I have judged harshly only to be humbled a short time later. Like the smoking lady, who was 8 months pregnant when I discovered that her severe learning problems mean she has an inability to comprehend risk. Or that person I knew that I judged as extremely negative, only to learn she suffered a death in the family recently.
I am on a journey of developing more compassion. Part of this is trying to be aware that people's certain actions that I don't agree with may be the result of their life's situation.
I'm not naive enough to think no-one gets hurts when there's judgment. Often people do. Even if we try so hard not to be mean. The family that doesn't immunize their children will inevitably be hurt when I refuse to give them a hold of my newborn baby and generally avoid them like the plague.
Hurt feelings are sad. However, I don't really lose sleep over those hurt feelings. It's just a consequence of life. It is the difference between living according to what I believe and how others live their lives. There's little I can do. I'd more likely just encourage someone to develop thick skin. It's probably why most people make friends which are similar to themselves. Some people get offended very easily, others don't. And it probably depends on the time of life or day they're in.
Christianity and Judgment
But I think it is a problem worthy of losing sleep over when people lose faith because of judgments. It happens a lot. I presume it's a different issue for two main reasons; Christianity has become so much about telling people how to live their lives. Therefore people get judged a lot. They get hurt a lot. But it's also because Christianity should not be a religion about telling people how to live their lives. They shouldn't be judged. They shouldn't get hurt.
You can't be a moral relativist and a Christian. It actually doesn't work. Embedded in Christian doctrine is the existence of truth, right and wrong. So the Bible does tell people how to live their lives. We shouldn't have 5 wives or 5 husbands, and we certainly shouldn't be murderers - or even daydream of murdering our enemies. We shouldn't fear. We should pray. We should seek God with all our heart. Indeed, there is a long list of do's and don'ts. This message of right and wrong has its place.
But the problem is it often injures people. As a young child I was hurt by what I call the 'gospel of judgment'. I would hear the gospel at school. But the way I internalized it was that I had to be perfect. I always felt anxious. I was unhappy. I remember sitting on the toilet as a kid asking God to come into my life - at least 50 odd times. I thought I wasn't good enough. So I become a Christian again, and again, and again.
It was unfortunate I felt so much judgment growing up. To be honest it wasn't until I was a third year Bible College student that I realised the problem of the brand of Christianity I was involved with growing up. The rules were spoken about loudly. Grace was whispered about. And being slightly hard of hearing - I'd never heard the whisper.
Christianity should not be a religion primarily about telling people how to live their lives. It really, really isn't. It's about grace. It's about people like Mary Magdalene that Luke talks about. She was in a terrible predicament. She was hopeless. No-one could help her, not even herself. But Jesus came and saved her. The Bible records her awesome transformation; despair to peace.
Surely Jesus would be more welcoming to the struggling person with barefoot children who manages to turn up halfway through the church service than those who have slid into condemning those who turn up late because of their view that 'one must turn up to church on time in honour and respect of God.'
I think it's grace that renders Christian judgment as a dangerous activity. Judgment from a Christian perspective is unnecessary and usually disastrous.
Danielle and Daniel Stott are Bible College graduates who live on the Gold Coast. Daniel is training to be a teacher and Danielle is caring for their toddler daughter and one on the way.
Danielle and Daniel's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/d-and-d-stott.html