Judge Not!

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This is a post I’ve been needing to write for quite a while.  I don’t know why it seems so hard to make a post now that I’m out of the ‘habit’ of a daily post.  Honestly…. I liked it better when I was disciplined to do it daily!

Because of several recent events that have happened, I’ve had a real awakening about judging people.  I’ve always thought I was a pretty open and accepting person, but I guess when you have some things slap you in the face, you become aware of just how judgmental you really are.

Last week we spent several days in Vegas.  Let me just preface this by saying I have never liked Vegas.  It’s not my kind of thing.  I don’t like the smoke, I’m not into gambling and I just don’t care for the all and all feeling of the atmosphere there.  With that said… we went to Vegas for my husband to play in a softball tournament.  At the time we booked the hotel we stayed in, we were not sure what softball diamonds they would be playing on so we got something sort of central to a couple of different softball parks.  Knowing what I know now, I would have booked a hotel very differently than I did.

The tournament ended up being in Henderson and I would have much preferred to stay there!  But alas…. we took the advice of the softball tournament people and stayed in one of the hotels they recommended.   Big mistake…. but it was very cheap.  Much cheaper than we could have got on our Choice Hotels card.  But then again….  we kind of got what we paid for.

Actually, the rooms themselves weren’t terrible.  The bed was too firm for me but that’s not that uncommon in a hotel room.  The rooms seems fairly clean, but we were suppose to be in non-smoking room and you could tell the room had had smokers in it.  So…. it wasn’t really the room itself that made me, shall we say….. nervous?  It was what I perceived to be going on around me in the hotel area.

When we first arrived at Arizona Charlies on Boulder Hwy…. we went to find a parking place without having to park in the parking garage for the Casino.  Since the hotel rooms are separate from the Casino, we drove around that end of the building and ended up in the back of the hotel room area.  Now, I realize…. I wasn’t in Utah anymore….. but before we got to the back of the building, we saw a few young ladies in the vicinity that I may have wrongly tagged as hookers….  but what we saw next made me feel very uneasy and think that perhaps my ‘tagging’ may not have been wrong.

As we approached the end of the driveway in the back of the hotel…. (which meant there was no other way out other than turning around and going back) ….  we passed a group of men…. (or should I say boys?)…. standing outside a hotel room area.  OK… here comes my third point of judging right off the bat….  I just kind of felt like they were there passing the ‘girls’ around…. if you know what I mean.  I haven’t got proof… nor did I want proof….. it’s just what I perceived.  Now a lot of that perception came from me judging what they were wearing and the color of their skin…. which is not fair….  but it’s just what it felt and I didn’t like the idea that that sort of thing may be going on in the hotel we were about to check into.   And…. of course…. when we check into the hotel, where does our room end up?  Yep…. pretty much about 2 doors down from where they were.  What are the chances of that, considering it was a fairly large hotel with lots of rooms?  No…. I was not a happy camper!  Luckily, they had all gone not too long after we had checked in.

Again…… I know I was passing undo judgment without knowing all the facts.  I guess I didn’t expect to see that kind of thing happening outside of the Las Vegas strip.  Probably a pretty naive assumption on my part……  I know that those things go on in Vegas all the time….. but I’ve never had to deal with it right under my nose before.

As we were coming back from finding the ballpark so we’d know where to go the next morning…. we were stopped at a light when a group of people crossed the street.  Again…. my judgement falls in!  Based on what they were wearing and how they carried themselves…. I was passing judgement on the kinds of life they lead.  One man in particular that was covered in tattoos and pushing a stroller made me concerned for the child in the stroller.  All I could think of is, “What kind of life is that child going to lead?”  Most of us are a product of our environment, and I became concerned about the environment that child was in.  Before you going bashing on me….. I realize that tattoos do not make a bad person!  Again….. it was just my first impression, which probably came because of a conversation I had had with my niece several days earlier.  She fears for her little grandson because of the environment he is being raised in.  I think that was fresh on my mind when I saw this man with the tattoos.

The next day, at the ballpark, as I was comparing stories with some of the wives of the ball players, I was told that one of them had gone to McDonald’s for breakfast that morning and were ‘hit up’ by beggars.  Hence, when we ended up at McDonald’s a day or so later because that was one of the few places I could get free wi-fi, I was very aware of what was going on around me.

The first thing I looked for when we walked in McDonalds was if anyone else was using their wii-fi.  One older man in the corner seemed to be very consumed with what ever he was doing on his computer and seemed oblivious to what was going on around him. However, another young man sitting a few tables away from him made me nervous.  If you’ve ever used wi-fi in public places like that, you know that you aren’t always protected from someone else stealing your information.  This young man, while using his computer, seemed to be scoping out the place and was using his cell phone a lot while on his computer.  I became a  little suspicious and therefore closed a few of my pages I had open before I connected to the wi-fi.  I felt he had his eye on me.  Again…. I was passing judgement, but I wanted to take precaution.  Then… as we were leaving McDonalds and had just gotten into our car, we were approached by a young girl trying to give us some story about how she was just trying to get her sisters some food and she only had $3 to her name.  Now…..she wasn’t dressed shabbily, which was my first suspicion…. but it was her poorly delivered ‘canned’ speech that made me pretty much know she was lying to us.  However, we gave her a couple of dollars anyway and then drove away.

So far, I’ve told you some examples of things I passed judgement on that probably many other people may have felt the same way about.  It doesn’t make it right….. but it’s a fact of what happened to me!  However…. because of those things I had mentioned…. I think I was allowing myself to be a little coldhearted about other real possibilities going on around me that deserved some understanding.  The second morning of the tournament, we decided to try and find some breakfast a little closer to the ballpark area.  Since the ballpark was in Henderson and the surrounding area seemed very nice and clean, we figured we wouldn’t see the beggars around that we were seeing down on Boulder Hwy.  We finally stopped at a Subway close to the park to have one of their breakfast sandwiches.  When we walked in the store, there was a very shabbily dressed man with a long beard, sitting in the corner with only a cup of water in his hand.  My first thought was…. “Oh, great!  Here we go again!”

I ordered my sandwich and then my husband went to order something different from me and the girl behind the counter said, “Are you sure?  It’s two for one on the sandwiches before 9am.”  So my husband decided to just order the same thing as I did.  Now….. if I had been on my toes and realized that the man sitting in the corner was not coming up to us an asking for anything…. he was just sitting there with some water and trying to keep warm (it’s a little brisk in the desert in the mornings…)  I would have totally changed my attitude and taken that ‘free’ sandwich we got, ordered my husband something else and given the man the other sandwich.  But no….. I was still in the mode of this man being a beggar and being tired of what I had been seeing.

I realized that morning that I’m not as Christ like as I hope to think I am.  I felt very guilty after we drove away.  We did get our order to go, so it’s not like we sat there and felt guilty eating in front to him….. but I sure felt guilty after we left and I realized that I could have taken the opportunity to feed someone in need.  I told my husband I don’t think I passed Christ’s test very well that morning.  “As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”  Matthew 25:40

I still feel guilty about that even now.  How could I give $2 to a girl that I was pretty sure was lying to me and yet ignore this man who was most likely legitimately in need?   It did help to bring an awareness to me about how judgmental I really had been during this trip.  It’s not something I’m very proud of.

I’m grateful for the awakening the trip to Vegas gave me., but I realized when I got home, that I wasn’t doing much better with the things around me here.  I’ve been very judgmental of the guy my daughter is dating.  They’ve been through some really rough times this last year or so and it hasn’t left me with a very good impression of him.  At least his record hasn’t been improving much and because of that….  I haven’t been his biggest fan.  Only because I’m worried about my daughters happiness.  I realized that I was passing undo judgement on him as well.  Everyone deserves a chance to improve their life and become a better person.  Don’t get me wrong…. he’s a good guy in a lot of ways…. he was just raised very differently than my daughter was and therefore his value system is very different.  It’s only what he knows.

This whole thing has made me very aware of the fact that I’m very guilty of passing judgement on many things and many people.  It’s something I’d like to not do any more.  I don’t think it will necessarily be an easy thing to do…. but at least by being aware that it’s something I need to improve on, I can hopefully catch myself doing it and make myself STOP!  In fact, it was re-listening to a talk given by Dieter F. Uchtdorf at LDS General Conference this last April Conference titled, “The Merciful Obtain Mercy” that actually brought me to tears and made me realize how bad I’d been.

In his talk he said:

“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?”

Wow….. pretty powerful words!  And they did humble me as I listened that second time.  In fact, how easy would it be to change out some of those words on the bumper sticker?  “Don’t judge me because I have tattoos”  or  “Don’t judge me because I appear to be poor”.  There are many things we could put in that phrase.

I know I have a long way to go, but I am so grateful for the experiences that I have had lately that have made me realize how much I need to work on this area of my life!  Don’t you find yourself judging someone for something as simple as they way their outfit looks…. or we may pass judgement on someone for their behavior.  Perhaps it’s not the way they always act…. but how are we to know that with one meeting?  I know I’ve behaved badly in a store before when I’ve been upset by something the clerk has or has not done…..  I’m sure when I walked away from that situation, the person I was dealing with thought, “What a witch!”  It’s not something that happens all the time, in fact, I think it’s been on rare occasions that I have allowed myself to ‘react’ that way to a situation in public.  And yet…. for people who don’t know me….. what do you expect them to think of me?  That is how we are with others…..

It’s not an easy thing to do….. not being judgmental…  but it’s something I do want to work on it.  After all….. isn’t that what we are really in this life for?  To learn to become more like Christ?  It’s a life long task….. but who better than to try and emulate our lives after?  No one that I can think of.

I am Grateful!  How are You?

Here is President Uchtdorf’s talk in full.

If you’d rather READ it…. click here.

 

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing one of my very favorite Primary (Children’s) songs, “I’m Trying To Be Like Jesus”.  What a beautiful message!

Here are the lyrics:

I’m trying to be like Jesus;
I’m following in his ways.
I’m trying to love as he did, in all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen as the still small voice whispers,

“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

I’m trying to love my neighbor;
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for the day of gladness when Jesus will come again.
I try to remember the lessons he taught.
Then the Holy Spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

“Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.”

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