Monday, June 27, 2011

To Judge and Be Judged

I recently had an experience that made me reevaluate my feelings on what it means to judge and be judged. I was never particularly cool or particularly freaky in school and always managed to stay mostly below the bully radar… and also not to catch the eye of any of the popular kids looking for new recruits. Desiring only a few close friends who actually “got” me, that was a relief on both counts. My family is squarely in the middle class, or perhaps upper middle class range (dunno or care exactly for sure), and I consider myself reasonably un-grotesque to look at. So while I have never been the social butterfly and have experienced bullying at times for my slightly unusual tastes in clothing, or exclusion for being the “baby” of the group, I’ve never truly known what it might feel like to be a social pariah. Until recently. It was a little thing, barely worth mentioning, and the details are unimportant, but I did manage to get a little taste of how it felt to be excluded for something embarrassing and hurtful in my past, something deemed a part of me, never to be wiped out or forgotten. The kind of thing that can make you feel “tainted”— that can follow you like a dark, mocking specter. Or, more precisely, this thing was in mine and my husband’s past, because everything he experiences affects me and vice versa, and neither of us will ever leave the other behind.

We can’t do anything to change the past, and wouldn’t choose to if we could because of all the learning and good things that have come out of our struggles, but that doesn’t mean we don’t remember and feel the pain all over again at times. And at times we find ourselves in the position of trusting, praying, asking that others will not judge or label us for what we now cannot change, and sometimes we find with a sinking feeling that that is just not always going to happen. I’ve even been wondering lately if it’s wrong to ask people not to judge us for what we went through. Maybe they should have the right. After all, my husband did make a hurtful mistake that, though not directly intended to hurt anyone and (I believe) very misunderstood, still did affect other people. But aren’t we all responsible for our response when another person screws up? I’m not saying it is easy. Good ‘ol Gandhi said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." It’s not easy for me and it’s not easy for anyone else. But still, aren’t we called to do what Christ did for us? As Christians, isn’t that at the heart of everything? As C.S. Lewis said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you."

So to forgive, thank God, does not mean to excuse. What does it mean, then? To forgive, to cease judgment, doesn’t mean that we automatically trust the person who hurt us… but doesn’t it mean at least giving them a chance to earn that trust again? To see a person repent doesn’t necessarily mean that we are certain they’ve changed, or even that we should be certain right away, but doesn’t our faith in God require that we can at least believe it’s possible? I’ve come to the conclusion that we are all entangled in our sin, that we are all tainted. Only, some sins are simply more embarrassing than others. Some people are simply more outwardly functional, or dysfunctional. It’s a noble and beautiful thing to love and fight for the innocent, the victims, and that is something we should never give up. But I thank God that he didn’t die for the innocent. He died for me and the people who hurt me, the people who judge me.

I’m thankful for these experiences of hurt and exclusion now because, ever since, I’ve found it easier to smile at that group of teenage boys wandering around our neighborhood who are maybe just “looking for trouble,” or the pinch-lipped, expensively dressed lady in church who seems to be disdaining everything from the music to the message. And the surprise in the faces of those usually deemed unworthy of compassion or acceptance, who are not even expecting it, has brought me to my knees with remorse. Jesus came to be mocked and rejected and suffer pain that he didn’t deserve so that he could feel what we feel, what we deserve. Now I, in my entirely broken way, can have my tiny share in the sufferings of the only One who didn’t deserve it.

Thanks for reading. Much love.