We've all felt judged. And we all have judged. I'm not talking about cultural or racial judgment or stereotypes, for the most part. I'm talking about personal judgment; anything from which church we are a part of, to our parenting choices, how we spend our days, what we're reading... down to fashion choices, or even how we choose to creatively express ourselves.
Maybe I'm just an overly-sensitive person these days, but I think since we moved here to Vienna I've felt very much like I'm being judged most of the time. By friends, by family, by a lot of people here and by some people in the States; it's just this feeling of being under a microscope. There was a time when I didn't care what anyone thought, but now I do, more often than not. I try to not care, but sometimes can't help it.
We were warned too, before we moved here, that being judged -- or that feeling of being under a microscope -- was especially normal for missionaries, so I knew it was coming. I guess I just expected myself to be able to handle it in more of a carefree way.
Sometimes I think actually having to deal with real judgment helps me to grow out of being overly-sensitive, though. Maybe. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? Hmm. But maybe instead of that, dealing with real judgment causes me to be bitter for a short time until God slaps me in the face with little reminders, and then comes the personal growth.
Recently I heard from a trusted source about something that had been said about me. My first reaction was bitterness. Annoyance, pride, and self-righteous anger followed suit. It was all within a second or two, and it was all internal. I was almost furious. Then it all crumbled one or two seconds later, and all that I felt was hurt. That someone would feel 1) it's okay to openly judge someone's means of self-expression and 2) it's okay to do so in front of other people ("behind someone's back"), was really painful.
When I got home, the pride and anger returned, and they mixed with the hurt, and I started feeling resentful and vengeful. As if I could now judge my offender or say something snarky and passive-aggressive in response, and I'd be totally justified. This internal battle went on for awhile, until just before I was about to post my smarty-pants commentary online. The feelings and reactions I was experiencing were subconscious. I didn't realize what was going on in my mind and heart until it was almost too late.
Suddenly though, through some art on my wrist, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this:
Matthew 5 NASB
5. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
13-16. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
22. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Ouch. I need to work harder to live up to this standard of peace-making. I need to work on letting things go, on not being so quick to anger, and I need to work even on my self-confidence. I need to be bold in my faith. I need to be bold in my life because of my faith. I need to be saltier, and to shine brighter.
Judging is like breathing to some people. And I am not claiming to be innocent. Sometimes it's just an unfortunate, natural human reaction to something different than the norm. Some people control their judgment much better than others. Maybe similar to how some people do breathing exercises, there are some, and I hope to soon be one, who have learned to control their reactions and emotions much better than others, and who therefore are much slower to judge.
It's (obviously) unhealthy to judge. Not only spiritually. It's also damaging to our self-worth. When we're judging, we're comparing, and when we constantly compare ourselves to others, at the root of that we can find insecurity. By judging others, we're essentially putting ourselves down at the same time we're putting other people down.
If you're thinking or talking about someone, what are you saying? Are your words negative? Are you implying something negative? Watch yourself, and correct yourself. If you have an accountability partner, or when you're with someone you trust, lovingly correct them, also.
Judging is not something that we're going to be able to just snap our fingers and fix. We need to make an effort, and be more aware of the differences between healthy and unhealthy thoughts and conversations. Let's try harder together. And of course, let's pray together. For patience -- with ourselves and others; for wisdom -- to be slow to anger and quick to forgive; and for peace in our hearts.