As I stood there on the stage, the spotlight shining brightly on me, I looked out at the packed room filled with teenagers and began my internal monologue, “They’re all staring at me, are they judging me…my clothes, how I wear my hair, my body shape…my age?” “Are you?!” I asked emphatically. Complete silence held the room. “We all have felt the sting of being judged – AND – we all our guilty of judging others. How about we talk about this.” For the next four days I was blessed to enter into a deep dive with these young people around judging.
“Judge not, that you be not judged” is what it says in the Good Book and I must confess that might be at the top of the list of my personal flaws. For me, try as I might, it is a heavy lift to not succumb to the trifecta of judgement: judging others, judging self, feeling the judgement of others. These three are clearly interconnected. The more I feel judged, the more I judge myself, the more I judge others. Every week I walk with individuals both personally and professionally whose lives and works are significantly impacted by being caught in a cycle of judgement.
“There’s one I remember so dearly, it’s called ‘The Three Character Classic (Chinese classic poem) People, at birth, are inherently good…Those six letters had such a great impact on me when I was a kid…And I still truly believe them today, even though sometimes it may seem like the opposite is true. But I have always found goodness in the people I met – everywhere I went in the world…anyone who has the faith and the courage to hold onto the goodness in themselves and to hold onto the goodness in each other, no matter how difficult it is to do that.” (Chloe Zhao, first Asian woman to win an Oscar for Best Director). I find this insight from a woman in a profession steeped in judging and judgement particularly inspiring.
The wisdom in Chloe Zhao’s words is her invitation to switch the narrative. I believe this is the same invitation that Jesus of Nazareth is giving in his words, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” We move out of the endless cycle of the trifecta of judgment by both believing and looking for the inherently good in all. The invitation is to trade in our lens of judgement for a lens that sees neighbor and self as beloved children of God.
Let me be clear, this is the real heavy lift. Switching from judging to beloved child of God world view takes real discipline. Especially because it is counter cultural to the present prevailing narrative. Challenging as it is, I know it is the transformative work of becoming the Beloved Community.
As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry often encourages, “Love God, Love your Neighbor, and while you’re at it, love yourself.”