Last week I discussed unnecessary guilt… if you didn’t read it I hope you now feel necessary guilt… just kidding… no, really; I’m kidding. Oh no, I likely really upset you. I’m such a horrible person… And yes, that was an example of unnecessary guilt. I’m brilliant… and that’s unnecessary bragging because clearly you know that… just kidding… no, really….
This week we’ll be looking at unnecessary judgement, so let’s start… if you haven’t already with my opening.
This week I had to go downtown. Notice the use of the word ‘had’. It’s not ‘I got to go’ or even ‘I had the privilege’. It’s just ‘had’. Going downtown used to get people excited like it was an adventure. Children would get dressed up and be on their best behavior because this was something special. Now going downtown is usually out of obligation. If you have to go downtown the response is usually something like, “I have to go downtown? Ah crap.” If you tell someone who cares about you you’re going downtown they’ll likely warn you to make sure you lock the car doors while you’re driving and if you’re married, your partner will make sure the life insurance policy is up-to-date… hopefully he or she will do both and not just the latter. When I was walking downtown I was looking around and it just seemed like a place of broken dreams and disappointment. Even if I filtered through the plethora of teen moms pushing a stroller with one hand and holding a cigarette in the other and the teen males with ‘I’m trying to look tough’ facial expressions and droopy pants, the people seemed burdened. I even saw a couple well dressed businessmen who looked like the kind of well dressed businessmen you would see in Toronto briskly walking with purpose, slowly sauntering like Eeyore through the downtown mall. It was like any drive they once had for their job had been spanked out of them. Walking around I was looking for anyone smiling, and maybe I just saw the wrong groups of people, but there were a lot of frowns that needed to be turned upside down. As an outsider I would say there are three main things that scare us from going downtown. There’s having to pay for parking – ew – the overconfident pedestrians who appear to think they can stop a moving vehicle with evil glares and then there’s the homeless people strewn about the core like Christmas lights in the summer. Outsiders typically hate seeing homeless people because it often leads to three main responses: fear, guilt (e.g. I need to help) and judgement.
I’m going to pause here. Have I said anything judgemental yet? Some people will say yes, but that’s because they’re a moron… now that’s a judgement. What I’ve written are actually observations and assessments. When smart people like Jesus say don’t judge, he’s saying don’t look down on people for having less than you or treating them special because they have more. We are all people of worth and should be shown the same respect. Of course, that being written, if I was speaking the above in a tone that was condescending then yes, I would be showing judgment, but what I’ve written is fine if you read it as I intended. Ultimately, observations and assessments are fine; in fact, they are wise. If I talk to a homeless person I’m not going to ask “What do you do for a living?” That’d be dumb and kind of mean. If I’m talking to a senior I’m not going to tell them a joke like I would tell one of my friends. Observing and assessing the situation helps prevent us from doing something stupid. This becomes a problem, however, when we use this to say someone is inferior because then it becomes judgement
So I’ve pointed out the difference of judgement (looking down on yourself or someone else) versus observing and assessing. What is unnecessary judgement? Judging others is always unnecessary, but it becomes particularly unnecessary when we look down on strangers. Unnecessary judgements stem from negative assumptions about people.
I’ve had the privilege of being on seven urban mission trips where I was part of a team that worked with the homeless and various shelters in different major cities in the U.S. Looking down on someone who is in a shelter and/or homeless is unnecessary judgement because you have no idea why they are there. For instance, one gentleman I met had his Masters of Engineering, but he was laid off and because of his age and lack of helpful connections he was struggling to find work. One person our host made sure I met was a very passionate Christian man who chose to live on the streets in order to show God’s love to the other homeless people. The one person who had the greatest impact on me from these trips was the first homeless person I ever spoke to, which was when I was in grade ten. At the one soup kitchen I was helping at it took two days of working there to finally muster up the courage to talk to one of the guests; I was shy. I ended up talking to a young gentleman who was in his early twenties. He was currently living on the streets, but he was starting as a mechanic the following week. He was trained and ready to work, but he had had difficulty finding a job until then and he was homeless because he didn’t have a family to support him. He was homeless for no other reason than he was in a bad spot. How could I look down on someone for having bad luck?
Too often we judge homeless people as being lazy and/or stupid in some way, but I have never found this. There are those with extreme mental illnesses, but if they’re homeless that’s the governments fault not theirs. And even if someone is homeless because he or she is lazy and/or “stupid” what gives me the right to look down on them for their choice? What gives me the right to look down on anyone? I may not agree with their choices, but instead of judgement I should be offering a smile, a simple conversation or some form of respect that can even include giving the person space. We all deserve respect and love and some people need it a little more.
This week may you recognize when you have unnecessary judgement from negative assumptions and the courage to put a stop to it.
Rev Chad David, Emotional Sex, emotional tune up