Judging. We've all done it, whether we mean to or not. Let's just be honest -- we don't appreciate it when people do it to us, so why do we do it to others? It seems to affect all areas of our lives, but since I've become a parent, I feel it more acutely (or maybe I just notice it more now).
Case in point - I saw a mother in Target, recently, who was walking with her kids in the store (the kids were both around toddler age), and the mom was in a hurry, while trying to corral her kids. One kid was dragging behind and stopped in the middle of the aisle and screamed for the candy that her mom didn't want to buy her. Her other child, a little boy, was trying to explain to her the plot of his favorite TV show and despite her best efforts, she could only respond with an "uh-huh, ok, ok." Her phone rang, she dropped it, and her kids proceeded to continue shouting and speaking, and the tense situation only escalated as they took turns getting louder. This went on for quite some time.
While witnessing this, I noticed an older woman who just stared and scowled, as if the world was inconveniencing her because this stressed mother was having a hard time with her kids. She then passed me and told me what a "good baby" I had (which he has his tough moments too!), but Joel just happened to be content at the time. I said, "Thank you." What I really wanted to say, but couldn't think of at the time, would have been something like, "Kids are kids. They're all going to act badly sometimes - and they don't care where or when."
Maybe that mother had a hard day. Perhaps she found out some terrible news - that her father was just sent to the hospital or perhaps this is the millionth tantrum her kid has thrown lately, and she's tired and on the verge of tears. Maybe one of her kids has a disability or is autistic and that it's sometimes harder for them to follow directions. Or, maybe she's a single mother trying to clip coupons, provide for her family, and love her kids as best as she can. Or still, maybe she's just a mother of two toddlers. Get the picture? Isn't that reason enough to cut her some slack? My heart goes out to her.
No, my child hasn't yet thrown a public temper-tantrum (my turn will come!). But I have had a few harsh looks sent my way from the unsympathetic people out there, when my child was crying in public. Do you really think that I want my son to cry? It's hard for me to not get angry at these people. I feel for you if you've ever had someone judge you unfairly. It happens, whether we realize it or not. Sometimes, I feel like there's an invisible badge that parents wear as soon as they pop out a baby that states, "Unsolicited advice and criticism welcome."
I have no idea what that mother's story is and what was going on in her life that day. I don't know, but I also have a feeling that the woman who scowled at her didn't either. Why, then, do we so quickly assume things about other people? Why do we think and that they are "bad" parents, as if we're somehow better? Do you have perfect kids? If so, please write a book and share your wisdom with the rest of us. I'm sure that your way worked so well for your kids and you can't understand why someone decides to do something a different way. You weren't and still aren't perfect. We all haven't really a clue about how to do this whole parent thing. Trial and error, experimentation, flexibility, whatever you want to call it, are what most of us parents live by. And grace. A lot of grace and forgiveness - both of ourselves as parents and of our children. What worked for your children may not work for another person's children. The way you disciplined may not be exactly the way someone else chooses to discipline their kids. So what? We're all learning. Some of us just haven't arrived at the solutions yet. Kids aren't perfect....and parents aren't either.
Of course, I haven't even scratched the surface of judgement. The example I described is comparatively a minor example of one person judging another; there are certainly more serious and even violent situations where people judge others, and it causes them to act out. People are critical of others' lifestyle choices, religion, race, economic status, as we all know.
Before you assume something about someone, think twice. You really have no idea what's going on in their life. So, why don't we all just each other a break, or better yet, show kindness or even love to one another. Don't judge the tired, irritable parent with five children, or the same sex couple walking the street. They have a story all their own, and so do you.
"...Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." John 13:34
Notice that the verse doesn't say - judge, marginalize, criticize, and be intolerant of others. I know that there are many Christians out there that are just fine and who show genuine kindness and good will towards all groups of people. Keep it up. As for those who don't fall into that category, remember that you cannot love God and hate another person (paraphrased from 1 John 4:20). Think twice before you judge, please.