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March 2, 2013

Step back before passing judgement

I had just begun my career with kids when I was talking with five young girls. They were discussing a classmate and calling her a s---. 

Knowing that all of these girls were sexually active, I asked for their definition of s---. The boldest in the group immediately piped up, “Oh, it’s when you’ve had sex with more boys than you can count on one hand.” 

More recently, an eighth-grade girl was railing against the “s---” who flirts with all the boys. I asked for her definition, and she responded, “Girls who wear low-cut shirts and short skirts.”

When I was expecting our last son, a bunch of my co-workers were also pregnant. One of them made a decision that I felt put her baby at risk. Silently, I deemed her neglectful and forecast doom for the outcome. I asked my mother how I could possibly think such evil thoughts. She replied, “Well, I think judging someone else makes us feel better about ourselves and also gives us a false sense of security. We believe that if we make the ‘right’ decision, nothing bad can happen.”

A few weeks ago, I was messaging a former student. She sheepishly confessed, “I am very judgmental. I don’t know why I’m like that.” 

I know why. She’s human, and part of our (my) humanity is delighting in another’s mistakes. It comforts us that their sin might be more egregious than our own. We seem to believe that there is a sin hierarchy, and as long as someone fails worse than us, we are OK with the cosmos. I worked with a father who had sexually abused his children and who later told me, “I wasn’t like one of those guys who did it every night. It was only once in awhile.”

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