Reflections by Jerry Webber

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Honor the Interior . . . Do Not Judge

Sometimes I scratch my head at the behavior of people. I just don’t get it. Why do folks act like they do? Of course, the other part of my head-scratching is the thought, “Why can’t people act sane and reasonable . . . like me!” And then, there is the realization that I, too, do stupid things day after day after day.

I may fool myself into thinking that I have insight into someone else’s motivations, or that I can read another’s life, or that crazy behavior ought to be dismissed out of hand. But for all the information available to me, I am not privy to the interior landscape of another person’s life . . . to all the life experiences that have shaped her . . . to the numerous wounds and betrayals that lead him to act as he does . . . to the intricate, interior web of motivations that move her to act the way she does. I may see what appears on the surface of his life, but I cannot see the inner workings that are behind the behavior.

That is why Jesus said this:

"Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.

"You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend's eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye. How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye?

"You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye.
” (Matt. 7:1 – 5)

Within each of us are hidden patterns not visible from the outside. The human interior is infinitely intricate, woven mysteriously of our life experiences, our personalities and giftedness, as well as our brokenness and wounds. Thus, what we observe in others (and in ourselves) at the surface of life is a very small part of our stories.

I cannot see or know the motivations of another person, the interior landscape that leads them to certain behaviors and ways of being in the world. And those other persons don’t fully know their own interior motivations, either. It is all a part of our labyrinthine interior, the tangled rootage which becomes the source of our lived experience, the source of our attitudes, ideas, beliefs and behaviors.

This interior is the part of me most in need of transformation and reorientation. It is this more interior place within me that needs “conversion” and “salvation” – if we use traditional language.

Christian “salvation” is not some temporary behavior adjustment or behavior modification technique. Behavior adjustment is generally surface change which may evaporate when will-power subsides. Inner change that lasts must happen within me at the level of the roots of my behaviors, at the source of my motivations.

As we grow in Christ, we recognize that the actions of others arise from interior places we cannot see, and they are not subject to easy projections about motive and cause/effect. Each human is too complex for that kind of simple judgment. So Jesus said, “Do not judge others. . . .”

And growth comes in seeing my own interior landscape more and more clearly . . . not deceiving myself, but facing who I am and the truth of my life.

So I refrain from judging others, because I cannot fully see the wounds and brokenness from which their behaviors arise.

And I refrain from judging myself, because my behaviors come from my own intricate history.

The response of Christ to this, both in others and within myself, is compassion and mercy, not judgment. . . . And an ongoing invitation to see more truthfully, both my own life and the lives of others.

For Prayer: I ask God to soak me in love and compassion. Then I ask the same for others.

I think of a particular person in my life-world, and consider the complexity of who that person is, a complexity that I cannot fully see. I pray for her/him with compassion, both for their actions and for their motivations.

Then I pray for others who are judged hastily or harshly.

Finally, I pray with compassion for all – including myself – who judge others hastily or harshly, based on what we see at life’s surface.

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