What would you think if I told you that my sink was full of dirty dishes and that my kids were still in their pajamas at noon? What would you think if I told you that most of my decorations were still adorning the house weeks after the holiday? And what would you think if I told you that instead of taking care of these things, I was going to spend my afternoon writing because it is something I love to do.
I would not usually tell you these things because I live in fear of being judged. But in the past few weeks I have had some experiences that have made me think more deeply about the connection between my fear of being judged and the way I see the world.
The first experience happened when I made tacos for dinner. I thought I had taco shells in my pantry, but it turned out I was wrong. So I took a quick trip to the grocery store (as if there is such a thing…). As I hurried through the parking lot, I saw a guy who is the friend of a friend. He was putting groceries in the back of an SUV and was not facing me. But to be friendly, I addressed him by name and said hello. He looked startled, but returned my greeting.
At the store I purchased two packages of taco shells and was outside in no time. And strangely, this guy was ouside the store and it seemed as though he were waiting for me. We made eye contact and he said in an awkward explanatory tone, “I was just helping that lady put her groceries in her car. She had lots of groceries … and kids … and so I was helping her.” I cheerfully replied, “That was really nice of you!” And then he turned and abruptly walked away.
I thought quite a bit about this awkward exchange. Why was he so intent on telling me what he had been doing? It didn’t seem that he wanted accolades for his service. Rather, it seemed that he wanted to clear himself of wrongdoing. It was just strange.
After ruminating on the matter, I asked my husband what he thought. He immediately understood that this man was concerned because he had been seen in public with a woman other than his wife. Of course, I didn’t notice this and would have thought nothing of it because there are a number of explanations for such a thing. But he must have been worried that I would question his integrity. So worried, in fact, that he wanted to set the record straight. I considered that his fear of my judgment might be a reflection of the way he would view such a situation.
Several days later, I had another such experience. I went to lunch with a dear friend who was visiting from out of town. During our conversation, she mentioned that she had been unable to participate in social situations for months because she feared that others would judge her for gaining weight. I expressed confusion, because this friend is beautiful and fun and enthusiastic and I would never even notice her weight. But she remained unconvinced. Later, during our lunch, a very heavy man walked by and my friend turned to me and said, “That poor man.” I quickly understood that her fear of being judged for her weight arose from the way she saw those who were overweight.
These two stories illustrate what I have been learning about judgment. Each of us sees the world in a different way. We have different likes and dislikes, experiences and talents. And yet, because we can only truly know our own thought patterns, our subconscious mind absolutely expects others to think like we do. So, if we have a tendency to judge others unkindly, we will expect that they do the same to us. And the opposite is also true … if we have developed the discipline to “judge not” we will not be tuned in to the judgment of others.
It puts a whole new spin on the commandment:
Judge not that ye be not judged.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged;
and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again.
I had always thought that this scripture referred to ultimate judgment by the Lord and it does. But another layer of meaning is that as we refrain from judgment here and now, we free ourselves from the agony of feeling judged.
Our fears of being judged are more a reflection of the way we see the world than of the way others see us. When we think the best of others, we can expect and believe and hope that others will also think the best of us. And whether they do or not is not the point because the hurt that comes from judgment is self-inflicted.
So if you are judging me for squandering my time in wasteful pursuits, it doesn’t matter to me. It is my job to change the way I see the world in order to feel safe from judgment. And anyhow, I am going to get my kids dressed and do those dishes right now!