It’s tempting to judge people based solely on what we see on the surface, but that’s never a good idea. As Jesus pointed out, we can be so quick to see the flaws in others and blind to our own flaws. It’s not our job to judge a person’s heart or motives, and even when we try, we’re not very good at it, because we can’t see a person’s whole story. Here’s what I mean…
Behind that cocky man with the “tough guy” demeanor, is often a small child who felt picked on or powerless and promised himself that when he grew up, he would never be a victim again.
Behind that woman who flaunts her physical assets and sexuality is often a little girl who felt neglected, abused or unloved and is haunted by the thought of being alone or undesirable.
Behind that greedy business tycoon is often a kid who grew up poor and experienced the powerlessness that poverty often brings so he promised himself he would never feel the pain of poverty again.
Behind that know-it-all, arrogant intellectual is often a kid who felt “stupid” in school or powerless in other areas and now hides behind a facade of intellect or academic degrees as a way to regain control of his/her life.
Behind that hardened criminal is often a scared kid who was surrounded by crime and brokenness all his life and never saw a path to escaping it.
A person’s past pain never justifies their present sin, but knowing their story can often give us more compassion and less temptation to pass a harsh judgment. Here’s a powerful, real-life example from my new book The Seven Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships to illustrate what I mean…
My Aunt Laurie is one of the most lovable people you’ll ever meet. She has a contagious joy and her laughter fills the room from the moment she walks in the door. Even now, as I’m writing these words and thinking about her, I’m smiling. To know her is to love her, but she wasn’t always so lovable. In fact, there was a very dark time in her life when she was unrecognizable from the warm and joyful person she is today.
Decades ago, she was addicted to heroin, she was a convicted felon and she was involved in a string of dysfunctional relationships with some dangerous men. If you were to meet her back in that season of her life, you would have probably passed by on the other side of the street. You wouldn’t have wanted to get to close. You may have shaken your head in disapproval and labeled her as a “junkee” or a “criminal,” and on the surface, your judgment would have been correct, but there’s always more to the story than what we can see on the surface.
I’ll bet your perspective would change if you knew the rest of the story. She wasn’t always a “junkee.” In fact, the dark path that led her down that destructive road can be traced back to a single moment on a day that tragically changed her life forever. I was only five-years-old, but I remember the moment vividly. I remember it, because it was the first day I ever saw my father cry.
Aunt Laurie and her family were enjoying a beautiful summer day out on the lake. Her daughter, Tina, was leaning over the side of the boat to look at the water below when she slipped and fell in. Her Dad, my Uncle Dean, heard the splash and instinctively did what any father would do; he jumped in after his little girl. Neither of them knew how to swim. They both drowned that day.
A few days later was the kind of funeral you pray your family never has to experience. Dean and Tina were placed in the same coffin, and when my Aunt saw the body of her husband holding the body of her little girl, something inside her broke. It was the kind of pain no human heart could possibly endure. When she made the decision to put that needle into her arm for the first time, it wasn’t so that she could feel high; it was so she could feel numb.
Now, does her tragedy justify her sin? No. But knowing her story changes something. Doesn’t it?
It’s never okay to sin, and we never should justify our own sin or anyone else’s, BUT stories like Aunt Laurie’s remind us that hurting people in this world need our love, not our judgment. They need our support, not our condemnation. It was Mother Theresa who poignantly said, “It’s impossible to judge someone and love them at the same time.”
SO, the next time you see someone acting completely unlovable (and we’ve ALL been unlovable at times), extend them some grace. People usually need love the most in those moments when they deserve it the least! It’s not our job to judge people, fix them or change them. It’s just our job to love them and trust God to do the rest.
For more ways to build your faith and your relationships, check out my new book The Seven Laws of Love (by clicking here).
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