I have been struck lately- like a blow to the head, really. With how essential it is not to judge other people in the decisions they make for their lives. Let me clarify from the start that I am not condoning hurtful behaviors that have far reaching consequences. Nor am I giving sweeping approval to choices that are obvious obstructions to moral codes of conduct. For I always feel that it is at this point that some will tune out or dismiss me, thinking I am off on a tirade promoting lawlessness and freedom without restraint. I am doing no such thing. I am not voicing approval of choices, but rather support for people. For choices and people are two separate things. Even when the circumstances are awful. Even when we don’t condone the behaviors.
We can still show love, empathy and understanding for the person.
Choices are lifeless things apart from a soul. It is our feelings, thoughts, emotions that fuel the soul. There are myriad reasons for why a person chooses to do one thing or another. And myriad influences to sway a person making life choices. Mental, social, physiological and spiritual influences. Personality, education and upbringing. Parental, familial, peer and church influences. Culture and nationality. Belief systems. Codes of conduct and morals. Faith in God. Or not. And these influences shape the choices people make, choices which are mere reflections of the soul. Lifeless without an understanding of the whole person.
When people make everyday decisions to follow through on choices, it is often at this point that a judgement call is made. We like to conjecture. Speculate. And while at times we commend and applaud others in the decision-making process, at other times, we criticize and condemn. And in truth, we really have no right to do either- make those judgment calls. For who are we? Who are we to point fingers in either applause or blame. In praise or condescension? Do we know all the reasons for why a choice is made? Have we been given a private viewing of a person’s private thoughts? Are we present for every move, privy to every piece of contributing circumstantial evidence? How easy it is to look at someone and make a judgment call about what they are doing. Or not doing. How easy indeed.
We like to play little gods sometimes, thinking that we know the big picture about people’s live. About choices they are making. About places they are going. About things they are doing. And, true. Some of these choices would for us, be uncomfortable. Wrong, even. But their life is not our life. Their story, not our story. Their shoes not ours to wear. We are walking at times the same path, but we all wear different shoes. And neither are our life stories all told through the same narrative.
The choices and actions of others are not ours to make. Therefore, we can no sooner jump into another person’s mind to completely understand a choice they have made than we can sit inside our comfort zone and correctly issue a judgement call, seeing every angle perfectly. We are not God. God is God, and He alone knows the bigger picture. Our job is to live our lives for Him to the best of our God-given ability, love our neighbor as ourself and pray continuously. For both ourselves as well as for others. Regardless of how we feel about them. We just lift them up in prayer anyway. For God alone knows, and He has orchestrated the stories of our lives. And he can make beauty from ashes…even for us. Even for me. And when we pray God’s will for our own lives as well as for others, suddenly it no longer matters what we think. It only matters what God knows.
God want us to be so concerned with living our lives for Him, with looking up- that we forget to look around at what everyone else is doing. Not that we forget everyone. We just aren’t preoccupied with what they are doing. With the choices they are making. For we are responsible for making our own choices and the for the lives we are leading. As I always tell my Kindergarten students, “You are only responsible for you…and that’s a big enough job!”
A big enough task to last a lifetime.
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By Lisa Owen