I was slammed with people’s opinions this week. I encountered hints of prejudice based on ethnicity; I was corrected about many things and left wondering why many people find it so easy to correct me instead of others; and then I was hard on myself by saying, “If you could have said or done that better, why didn’t you? What a wasted opportunity.” The capstone to my week arrived in a bizarre fashion.
I was at our busy intersection when the sound of screeching tires grabbed my attention. I saw a lady who had nearly run a red light. She caught herself in time and was reversing back into her lane. The driver to my right was shaking his head and I could almost hear him saying, “Crazy woman driver!” My initial reaction was to think, “How could she do something that stupid?” but then I stopped myself and pondered why everyone is so free with their opinions. We only judge because at that moment we’re not doing the same thing as the one receiving our judgement. “But for the grace of God am I.” Less than 3 minutes later I almost ran a red light myself, though certainly not on purpose, and I knew exactly what it felt like to be in her shoes.
I believe we only judge to make ourselves feel better. I am hard on myself when I don’t succeed in perfection and thus my reflex is to find imperfections in others to prove that I must be doing something right since I’m not making their mistakes. However, the satisfaction in that is only temporary. Not long ago I was making a deposit at the bank and there was an elderly homeless man sitting on the curb. He would stop the occasional passerby and ask them for money, but he never asked me for anything. In my car I had a gigantic Swiss chocolate bar and I gave it to him. He said, “Food, Sistah! Mahalo!” and he reached out to grip my hand. In that moment I knew I was standing in the footprints of Jesus and there is nothing more fulfilling than that.
The next time you make a move to correct or condemn someone, in your heart or with your mouth, stop and consider what life is like in their shoes at that moment. Will your judgement be uplifting and help them to move ahead or will it only serve to weigh them down further? We all repeatedly make mistakes and for many of them we have no excuse, other than that we’re human. Yet in the moments when we’re thinking clearly, let’s choose to do the right thing.