I spent much of this morning following a breaking news story about a local politician embroiled in what will likely be a career ending scandal. Sadly, I would usually be right there with the rest of the public shaking my head in judgment and cynicism, lamenting the lack of morals and good sense so often on display in our public officials.
In this case, I am just heartbroken.
I know this man and I have worked with him. In spite of the demons he appears to be battling, I have always liked him and found him to be an outspoken champion for the poor in our community. Without his advocacy and leadership, the dreams of our recently completed shelter for homeless individuals would not have been realized. While we may not personally be friends, I consider him a good friend of The Lamb Center and I am deeply saddened by his struggles.
If I didn’t know from personal experience the good he had done in other areas of his life, I could easily read this morning’s news story and paint him into a monochromatic corner. The crimes with which he is being charged would make it easy for me to categorize him as a “bad guy” and write him off as just another example of evil, corruption and abuse of power .
But life really isn’t that simple or clear cut, is it?
I made the mistake of reading some of the comments people are posting beneath the online story. As I was reading, I wondered if any of these people would say these things to his face. Yet, even as I “judged” them for the joy they seemed to be taking in his public fall from grace, I recognized myself. While I might not post an ugly comment in an online forum, I too have looked at someone I don’t know personally and silently congratulated myself on my moral superiority.
But hopefully, I am still a work in progress. In honor of my 52nd birthday on Monday, here are five things I am still learning. More specifically, here are five things I would like to learn to live without.
The need for judgment
We are right to be outraged by outrageous behavior and we are right to hold each other accountable for our actions. Yet, too much of my judgment of others is based on incomplete information. What I can see is only part of the story. My faith tells me I am called to love other people, not be the judge of their character. Judging another’s heart is God’s job and I’m not God.
The need to be right
Sometimes, I need to learn to leave things alone . Just because I have an opinion, doesn’t mean others need to hear it. Just because I disagree, I am not required to attempt to change the other person’s mind. In most circumstances, there is only one loving answer to this question: would I rather be right or would I rather be kind?
The need to prove my worth
We live in a culture of comparison and competition. We tear each other down in a misguided attempt to build ourselves up, as if we were standing in line for a limited supply of self-esteem. When I find myself feeling superior to a sister or brother, I need to consider from where I am getting my worth. I am a child of God, but I am not an only child. I don’t need to hustle for my worthiness or fight for my share of God’s love by ranking myself against another.
The need for perfection
When I characterize my own mistakes as failure, I have little patience for yours. The more self-critical I am, the more I judge others. Striving for excellence is a worthy goal, but striving for perfection is an impossible goal. Embracing progress instead of perfection makes me more compassionate towards myself and others and allows room for growth and learning for all of us.
The need for comfort
People are messy. Although we like the order and predictability of categorizing people as either good or bad, most of us possess plenty of both. In my experience, our best qualities can sometimes be our greatest downfall. While I would feel more comfortable in a world of absolutes, I am learning to embrace and even enjoy the subtler nuances. Black and white thinking may be easier, but color bring more joy.
Joining my Friday Five friends today as we explore 5 Things I Want to Learn. Click over and celebrate all the wisdom of my smart friends!