What Not Judging Is and Is Not

I wrote last week about not judging as a form of spiritual discipline. It occurs to me that part of our problem with not judging is that there’s a great deal of confusion regarding what is meant by not judging. So I thought I’d share a couple of thoughts regarding my understanding of it.

Primarily, not judging means being open to correction. My parents used to always say to me, “you think you’re always right”. Which was true. If I thought I was wrong, I would change my mind. Why would I knowingly hold onto a belief which I knew was wrong?

The truth is, we all work from the assumption that what we think is correct. That’s not the problem. The problem is that when we judge, we cut ourselves off from considering that we might be wrong. And we’re always wrong about something. Otherwise we’d be God.

We get into trouble when we fail to accept that our understanding of what is right is always going to be inadequate and flawed. Unfortunately, a lot of churches actively encourage us to judge by insisting that their teachings are indesputably correct. Adopt church teachings as your own, and you never have to face the limits of your own understanding. In fact, holding firm to your faith, they teach, requires that you refuse to be open to the possibility of correction.

Of course, this is simple idolotry and not faith. It is churches claiming for themselves authority which only God is able to hold. And contrary to what some Christians try to tell you, the church and God are not interchangeable.

If we want to follow God and learn his ways, we have to always, always, always be open to having our judgment corrected. Not judging, to me, doesn’t mean refraining from seeing what’s right in front of your face. It just means being open to having your understanding or judgment regarding what you see corrected. Continue reading “What Not Judging Is and Is Not”

Looking for the Good – People Edition

Finding and explaining what’s wrong with people is a great past-time.  It’s fun, easy and makes you feel better about your life.  It’s the junk food of human relationships! Believe it or not, figuring out what’s good about people is a great past-time as well.  It’s challenging, satisfying and makes you feel better about the world.  It’s the gourmet meal of human relationships. There are … Continue reading Looking for the Good – People Edition

Gifted in Public

My kids and I took a little trip today to a local cave.  It’s a sight seeing sort of place with some cool geology and stalactites and stalagmites and such.  We’ve been there before, but not for a couple of years, so it was new enough for my boys for them to enjoy it again.  I was, however, kind of disturbed to learn that they let the bats that overwinter in the cave stay in the attached gift shop as well.  At least I think they said they let the little guano machines hibernate there – I was a little distracted corralling my girls.

What was interesting about this trip for me, however, was to watch the reaction me and my kids got from the various people on the tour with us.  You see, half of the group was attending through a local Young Mensa field trip group.  The other half were just random folks who had the bad luck to take the tour at the same time as us.  My kids were the youngest ones there and, as usual, they made a spectacle of themselves.  My girls (almost 2 and 3) did get obnoxious towards the end, but that was just a part of the problem.  You see, my boys are just very outspoken – quick to answer any question, even the rhetorical ones.  And they ask enough questions to get a reference librarian to tell them to give it a rest.  Plus they say odd things like, “I find these stairs more disconcerting than I remember them being last time.”  (The 9 year old.)  or “I can’t wait to get off of these stairs so I can put my feet back on terra firma.” (The 13 year old.)  The (almost) 2 year old pretended to be a cat-dog (a puppy that meows)  most of the time and dramatically warned us, “no touching” if we got too close to walls or “look out – monsters!” when we were warned about a creepy part coming up.  The 3 year old suggested that there might be a tiger behind a gate leading to a dark area she couldn’t see and pointed to every calcium carbonate formation in the place.

What I noticed and what I finally have something of an answer for, was that half of the group did not seem to enjoy our presence.  One older woman in particular repeatedly glared at me and my kids.  Her husband kept shaking his head at us as if to say, “what has this world come to?”  These are the responses I have become quite familiar with: the disapproving looks, the stares which seem to say “why don’t you make them shut-up!”, the averted eyes which indicate that we’re embarrassingly weird.  I get them everywhere I go it seems.

However, I noticed a quite different reaction from the folks with the Young Mensa group.  I caught of lot of knowing smiles and some rather reassuring nods from the parents whose kids had already made it through the younger, more rambunctious years.  They too probably knew what it is like to have kids who talk too much, ask too many questions, are too smart for their own good and unnerve the more normal people around them.

I live in a part of the country which is largely populated by much more somber, serious and conformist people that I am used to.  There’s a joke which captures the flavor of a lot of the people here which goes: “Did you hear about the Norwegian farmer who really loved his wife?  Yeah, he felt so passionately about her that he almost told her.”  We, on the other hand, are from Chicago.  We were socialized by intense, argumentative Poles, lively, talkative Irish and rowdy, playing-the-dozens African Americans.  Even if my kids weren’t the sort who go around using words like “undulate” and “non-sequituer” in a sentence, we still wouldn’t fit in real well here. Continue reading “Gifted in Public”