Finding Freedom from Judgment
A Christian pastor announced he had decided to stop worrying about what others thought of him. He needed freedom from judgment. He chose to be honest with himself and say,
“If people are judging me, they’re probably right. In fact, I am worse than they think I am.”
Recently, a friend lamented how her mind percolated with criticism of a co-worker. Her ugly, unkind thoughts surprised her.
I said, “I’m glad we can keep our thoughts to ourselves. If everyone could hear what everyone else was thinking, the world would erupt with all our private judgments made public.”
Fake it till you make it makes a lot of sense in this context. Hide my biases until I can get a handle on them. When my heart is finally pure, I will present it as authentic to the watching world. This has worked for me many times. Or has it?
The Ugly Underside
Maybe my faking it is like a partying teenager who cleans up her trashed house just before her parents get home. Because they don’t see the breach in trust, the family is not free to deal with the underlying issues. The surfaces are clean but the lie hovers in the house. What hidden damage does the pretense do?
Lines of communication break down when we spray a sanitizing scent to mask our imperfect behavior or opinions. The scary parents are appeased but we are further from each other. Perhaps finding freedom from people’s judgments of me AND freedom from my own judgments of others is going to cost more than a hurried house cleaning.
Is there a better approach to finding this kind of freedom?
Hear My Confession
I was walking along with a crowd of typical American families recently — judgment alert— and noticed the many overweight people surrounding me. They all had soda straws pressed between their lips and the french fries pouching on their hips.
I pulled my husband Scott aside and giggled, “I just thought of a really mean joke.”
“What?” He grinned, warming to this rare confession of my judgmental cruelty.
I said, “Imagine a T-shirt for kids that said Destined for Greatness, but the Greatness is crossed out and Fatness is scribbled below it. Ha! Get it? All of these fat American parents are raising their kids to be fat!”
He was shocked. It really isn’t funny. It is quite mean and arrogant of me. Easy for me to laugh when I’ve done the parenting and nutrition thing perfectly—NOT!
The next week we were hanging out with friends and Scott began to recount this story of my judgmental attitude. Midway through, he realized he was about to confess my sin. I gave him a sideways glance and picked up where he’d left off. I was embarrassed to finish the revelation of my prejudice in its undisguised detail.
I’m not sure if any of our friends thought it was funny. But if they had any lingering doubts about my proud heart, I certainly dispelled them. Self-righteousness can stink up a room.
That night, I lay awake regretting the depths of my depravity. An honesty hangover of sorts. But the next morning it dawned on me that I could be glad that the blackness of my heart had been laid bare. Especially to friends that love me. No more pretending. I am free to be me. It was a taste of freedom from judgment. Yum!
Keys to Finding Freedom and Authentic Change
- Showing and telling the truth about myself catalyzes an authentic conversation.
- Authentic conversations free self-righteous or shame-filled people to tell the truth to each other.
- Telling the truth opens the door for more communication and authentic change.
Christians and others imprisoned by the belief they have to present a picture-perfect, “what would Jesus do” kind of life shut the door on authentic communication. On the other hand, authority figures and public figures who admit to their own shortcomings can embrace the ugly underside of others. It’s like a parent who never shames their errant child because they are honest about their own struggles. They can challenge each other as equals from their humble vantage points. This is key to finding freedom from judgment.
When we all stop pretending, we can also let go of the judgments we make and the judgments we fear from others.
Show and Tell: Taking Chances
Showing and telling our shortcomings comes with risks. The risk of hurting others. The risk of losing (or gaining) a reputation. The loss of likes, friends, acceptance, and love. Lately, we may lose even more.
But, I have spent too much of my adult life trying to look good—be good—when in fact I am not all that good.
Some of my sins I keep between me and Jesus. He says He loves and forgives me unconditionally. Not every confession need be public. However, other transgressions are painfully obvious so I’d better get honest with myself and others.
Pretending has created lots of space between me and would-be friends. I have presented myself as a whole-grain-cookie-eating, Bible-reading, clean-freaking woman. My question is:
Will you love me even though you know the truth? Can you bear with my mistakes?
Now that I am not pretending and defending my own righteousness, I can look at you without condemnation. Admitting my own mess frees me to have compassion for your struggle.
It’s true: I am judgmental, proud, and mean sometimes. In fact, I’m worse than you think. And now that you have judged me, we have something to talk about!