Thursday, June 25, 2015

Judging -- When you don't know the whole story.

We go to a church in our closest city when we are able.  It's a little over two hours away and it gives us a lot of discussion time being in the car that long.  We often discuss what the homily or youth group was focused on.  Even though we are adults, we are welcome in the youth group as we have a good relationship not only with this church but many of the teens.

One of the many topics we discussed recently was how there are so many different ways of judging others.  There's the obvious "What you are doing is a sin" way of judging others, but sometimes we can be judging just because we don't know the whole story.

An example of this is some years back I had hundreds of McDonalds monopoly pieces that were winners for free food.  I had sent away for a lot of game pieces, and had way too many.  I gave a huge amount to a local church to give to those who might not be able to afford lunch otherwise.  If someone were to see a family each one with a meal that costs about $5 and you suspected they were on welfare, would your first thought be that they got it free or that they shouldn't be allowed to eat there because they should save their money.

I've seen memes go around that people using food stamps shouldn't be allowed to have an iPhone.  How do you know how they got the iPhone?  Was it a hand me down?  Does the person have a job and that's their work phone but still can't make ends meet and is on food stamps?  Did they buy it before they lost their job and it's not cost effective to sell the iPhone and buy a different phone?  Is it borrowed from someone?

I had someone lecture me after church not knowing the full story of a relationship.  I don't like damaged or broken relationships, but there are times that a person is so toxic it's a good idea to not include them in your life anymore.  Taking one person's side of the story is rarely a good idea.  It takes two people to have a relationship and unless the one person is a child, it's rare that anyone is totally innocent.  (Like I said, it's rare, but it is possible.)

Other ways of judging?  Telling someone they shouldn't eat something because they are overweight.  I had a woman do this to me in Germany one time.  Another time I was eating a turkey sandwich and was told that the reason I was fat was because I ate too many turkey sandwiches (it was my nightly snack, and honestly, when you have turkey, wheat bread, and mustard, it's not that high in calories!)

I try to stop myself when I assume things.  I don't know the whole story.  Those fancy shoes that a poor  child is wearing might be a thrift shop find.  That person who is "so fat" they shouldn't be eating that piece of chocolate cake may be celebrating their birthday and may have already lost a couple hundred pounds and this is the first time in a year they have eaten dessert.  The wedding that doesn't serve alcohol might not be doing it to be cheap but to not put temptation in front of guests who are alcoholic.  (I'm learning more and more people appreciated the decision we made to not serve alcohol.)  The teenager working at the local fast food place?  Don't assume he doesn't care because he is young.  He may be a great worker.

Just remember, things may be different than they first appear.  Even if you are pretty sure something is not right, and you do want to speak up, often the best way is to ask a question.  I saw a boy take a bite out of a donut at a self-serve place a couple years ago.  I was watching him long enough I knew he sneaked out the donut, took a nibble out of it, and put it back.  Instead of telling him I did wrong, I asked if he had paid for it before he took a bite out of it.  I knew he didn't, but it was a kinder way of bringing the problem to the attention of others. (Of course, even if he had, it wouldn't have explained away him putting the donut back in the case, but it would have, at least, presented a different situation than what I thought I was seeing.)

But try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  Things might be a little different than they first look, and kindness is always the best first response!

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