Confessions of a Recovering Judgementalist
Hi, I’m Malinda. And I’m a recovering judgementalist.
I’d like to blame this wonderful part of my personality on my parents, upbringing, or some other outside force which caused me to see most things as black or white, but alas, I think it’s just me. Sure, I can say that I believed the best in people, that I had grace, compassion and mercy, but those would just be lies.
The truth is that I’ve always struggled to believe that people are doing their best. This applied to motives and choices. I mean,”if you’re overweight it’s also because you’re lazy. It has nothing to do with your thyroid or medications and everything to do with the fact that you eat cake and milkshakes for breakfast every morning. Sure, you can call them frappucinos and muffins, I’m sure that’s why Starbucks labels them as such. But they aren’t helping you with the weight loss,sister!” Yep. I’m awesome, I know.
The other part about my enchanting personality is that I’m also struggling to overcome perfectionism. Which simply means that if I don’t have much grace for you, you can bet that I have even less for myself. I’m trying my hardest and I expect you to try too.
It never even occurred to me that the definition of “trying” could be different for different people.
And then, I read the words of Brené Brown, and something clicked. In her book, Rising Strong, after much research and many interviews and honest conversation with people, she came to the conclusion that most people are doing their best. Even though she started as a doubter, like me.
She shares a particularly personal journey toward this conclusion and recounts these words from her husband: “my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgement and let’s me focus on what is, and not what could be.“ Isn’t that just a killer? So much for my comfortable world of judgmental attitudes and quick conclusions!
At one point, I had to stop reading because I knew that I could not move on past this idea without confronting my inner judge. Basically, Brené, you ruined me—in a completely wonderful way.
Now, when I see that woman coming undone in line, the father who looks like he just rolled out of bed as he walks his kids into school, the barista who should be home nursing their hangover instead of serving the public, the guy sleeping in a tent under a bridge, the teenager using foul language around my kids at the park, those who can’t kick the addiction, can’t get a job, can’t make the mortgage payments, can’t remember their kids recital time, can’t save money, can’t lose weight, can’t forgive their parent, move on from the divorce, let go of old hurts, get into anger management courses—when I see them, I hear her voice saying, “most people are doing their best.”
What life am I living where I’m keeping tabs on what everyone else is doing, or not, measuring up to, or not, achieving, or not?
It’s hard, friends. Truthfully, I cannot exude any of those qualities on my own. Because, as I stated earlier, I’m an overcoming perfectionist myself. I can’t give what I don’t have. And the only place I can go to find more grace for my own short-comings and failures and pathetic fumblings through life… is Jesus.
In one act of mercy, He erased what I will spend a lifetime creating.
He poured out compassion repeatedly while alive, and in His death, He removed the need for striving.
He embodies grace and empathy.
He is the King of second-chances, and the Hope-giver for those without any.
When I lay down at night, struggling to keep the tears from soaking my pillow, with worry of all that I neglected to finish and regrets over what I could have or should have done; when moments flash of wasted time and energy, I can run only to one place: the cross. Here it is all covered by a love that is too immense; it is inescapable.
He holds me there, reminding me that He has done it all.
He gave the best, so I don’t have to.
The standard of perfection is captured in One person alone, and I am not Him.
And I should stop expecting other people to be also.