There was a very rich girl in high school that always stood out in my mind. She seemed to have things so easy when things were so difficult for me. She had the most expensive clothes, car and house .
I saw her a number of years after high school and she was pregnant. I was pregnant as well. I just saw her in passing and again thought of how I was wearing my husband’s clothes because we couldn’t afford maternity clothes for me but she was all fluffy and fancy looking. Three months or so after I gave birth I saw her in the gym and the first thought in my mind was, “Well, since her roots are bleached blonde I guess she isn’t breastfeeding.” Such a flippant and judgmental thought that I just tossed around in my head. As if somehow I got to think those thoughts because I had had struggles and she was the rich and perfect girl. I even went on with my ugliness, and I mean deep down true ugliness by thinking, “She probably has her baby in the gym daycare where she’s gonna get sick!” Where , I had my baby at home, and I knew I only had 30 more minutes to work out before I had to get home to nurse her.
It had to have been not 5 minutes later when I ran slap into her. I asked, “So how old is your baby now?” She told me that her baby was born premature and had passed away shortly after. I am crying even now as I write these words. I had deemed her the “Fluffy shell” of a girl. I had NO idea what her life was like. I assumed assumptions beyond assumptions that were nowhere near the truth. I judged her on her shell. When she had lost a baby! I could not have felt lower as a human being then I did in that moment. She was a mother. The thoughts in my head, even though not spoken out loud, were a disgrace to her as a human being. She deserved better than that. I will never forget that lesson in judgment. It hurt my heart so deeply. I went home and held my baby after I had unknowingly judged another mother who had just lost hers. And what if she had not lost her baby… would those thoughts still have been OK? Absolutely not! Somehow I thought just because my life was hard, and hers looked pretty, that I got to judge her. When in fact she was very pretty and I was deep down quite ugly. Those kinds of thoughts make people ugly. No matter your circumstance, to judge another makes you very ugly. I apologized to God in that moment and prayed that I could become a better person. There was also another lesson that I needed to learn. And that was me realizing that I was not the only person who had been through pain. And just because I had been through sexual abuse did not make me the authority on tragedies. I shouldn’t be determining who is to be judged based on their own tragic situations. At that point in my life I had not yet learned the true value of empathy. I have come a long way since then.
We often shrug off these comments in our head and think, “I am only human.” But is it human to judge others? Is it human to judge based solely on what you see? If so, that’s not the human I want to be.
I’ve noticed in the past if I were around judgmental people it was much easier to become superficial. One day, I was walking around the mall with someone in my family. She saw a girl and said, “Ugh, she so should not be wearing those pants. They make her look fat.” and “Did she not look in the mirror before she left home?Because that skirt is totally see through” And I would notice myself agreeing in my head with what she said. Even AFTER my lesson from God, I would still slip into noticing superficial things if I was with someone else when they judged..
I think this is how people get caught up doing the wrong thing. Someone else is drinking so they end up drinking. Someone else criticizes a girl and so they do the same.
In my journey to heal from abuse I have learned that being in the moment is the only way I can be true to myself. Being in the moment means you don’t just casually breeze through life and through moments without thinking. It means that instead of nodding in agreement when someone points out an overweight person, your mind says,”STOP. I disagree.” And I will challenge that comment with something positive instead of just following right along.
One day it finally hit me. This family member saw a girl running down the sidewalk and said, “Keep on running. You have a lot more to go!” And I said, “At least she is out there trying!” I had no idea what was inside that shell. No idea. She could have already lost 100 lbs. She could be fighting bulimia. She could have a thousand reasons why she was overweight to begin with; diabetes, thyroid issues, chronic illness… Why did my family member get to say something negative about someone she didn’t even know when this person was actually out there running?!
That moment stopped me from wanting to be around people who did that. To this day I have no desire to continue a relationship with anyone who judges someone on their appearance. I had already stopped judging people in my own head. Now I didn’t want to be around anyone else who judged out loud.
A few years ago, I was taking my dogs for a walk. About a mile away from my home, I loved going past this one house that had sunflowers every year. In my wheelchair it took about 10 minutes to get there. I passed by this house and the sunflower garden was just dirt. I wondered why the owner hadn’t planted the flowers this year. Day after day I went by their house and no sunflowers. I finally saw a man in the yard and I yelled, “What happened to the beautiful sunflowers?” He came out to the road and told me that he had always planted them for his wife, but now she had cancer and he was too busy taking care of her to plant them. He invited me in to meet her. We had a lot in common. We struck up an immediate friendship. I went over to her house once a week for a few hours. She laid on one couch and I laid on another . We talked about how frustrating it was to have a dusty shelf that we knew we couldn’t dust, her because she had cancer, and me because I have a muscle disease. We talked about how we evolved into not caring about the dusty shelf because it really didn’t matter so much. There were so many more important things to talk about than dusty shelves. I was with her the day before she passed. I remember holding her hand. What an honor it was to know her.
I met her because I noticed the disappearance of the sunflowers. I didn’t judge the man for not planting them. I simply noticed. You can notice and be aware without judging. In fact, noticing and being aware are brilliant gifts to have. It allows you to see past the bare gardens and the fluffy clothes and see what lies underneath all of that.
I judged that girl in high school because everything about her appearance was fluffy. Her hair was fluffy. Her scarves were fluffy. Even her boots were fluffy. Her appearance was just a fluffy outer shell. And our body is really just that. It is an outer shell. It is what carries our soul.
We are not a body with a soul. We are a soul with a body.
Last weekend I went to a funeral of a very kind man. He had an open casket. I looked at his body lying there and it was completely surreal. Because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that that was simply his body. He had died of cancer. Cancer had taken over his body. But cancer was not who he was any more than his body was who he was. He was who he was because of his soul. Because of what lied beneath that outer shell.
Yesterday, my daughter caught me passing a little judgment, old ingrained habits still pop up I will shamefully admit, and anyway, I saw a woman in a on-line picture holding her baby and she had just had a C-section. She was all made up and beautiful. I remembered how I looked after giving birth and said out loud, “Well she probably scheduled that C-section like so many do these days because there is no way she looked that good after childbirth.” My daughter pointed out to the bottom of the picture that said, “This wasn’t a planned C-section.” UGH. I had come so far.Just by looking at her pretty face, I assumed that she had not been through what I had been through in childbirth. My daughter, who is quite outspoken, called me out on my judgment. She pointed out that I had no idea what this woman had been through and I really should not have just assumed. My daughter is wise beyond her years. She was born with this pure sense of being. I’ve never heard a judgmental word come out of her mouth. She speaks up for the fighters and the warriors and the underdogs. She never makes rash decisions based on a few minutes of knowing someone.Always, and I mean always, she sees the inside before she even looks at the outside.
I guess judgment is a lesson I will have to keep working on. Had I just taken a moment to NOTICE the lettering under the picture I would have not assumed anything. But in truth we never know what has happened in a person’s life that has put them where they are right now. We don’t know why they wear certain clothes, have certain hairstyles, or carry themselves a certain way. And it absolutely should not matter.
Why do we judge? Insecurity? Jealousy? Envy? Is it because we have been taught to judge by example? Has it been modeled to us? Is it because we ourselves have been judged? The “why” does not really matter. No matter the reason, the act of looking at someone and assuming you know absolutely anything at all about them, is wrong. We are looking at the body of a soul. We have no idea what that soul has been through.
One of my friend’s daughter had cancer. She spent over a year in the hospital with her daughter. I don’t know everything she experienced but I was there for some of it. Now that her daughter is in remission I think “I hope when she goes out people are kind to her because she has been through hell and she deserves some extra kindness.”
It would be much easier if we all had signs around our neck. “Had a child that survived cancer. Still exhausted to my core.” (for my friend.) “Just lost a baby. Trying to work out at the gym anyway.” (for the girl from high school.) ”“Was raped. So I put on this weight that I am now desperately trying to lose.” (for the girl that is running on the sidewalk.) “Made it through today even though I was worried I wouldn’t.” (For me.)
But none of us have signs.
We can choose not to judge. It is a choice. All that is required of us is to not assume based on what we think we see. And let this be the last lesson in judgment that we ever need to read. Remember, we are not a body with a soul, we are a soul with a body.