By: Jana Greene
“None of us has ever seen a motive. Therefore, we don’t know. We can’t do anything more than suspect what inspires the actions of another. For this good and valid reason, we are told not to judge. ” ― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives
You don’t understand me. You may think you know me, but you don’t.
If you only knew my heart … you might not judge me so harshly.
Or, you might judge me even more harshly….if you knew my heart.
A few weeks ago, I posed the simple question on social media: “If you could describe the feeling of being judged by others in one word, what would that one word be?” I received an avalanche of responses from people of all different ages and creeds - in rapid succession. Most of the responses were graphic, the words divided pretty neatly between two camps:
Deep, wounded feelings of inferiority, and a strong, almost violent verbal depiction of spiritual beating.
Being judged does not feel uncomfortable… or a little unpleasant.
It’s personal. It’s the worst kind of personal, because it confirms the fundamental fear of being misunderstood, and couples it with the sting of rejection.
My own word to describe feeling judged was “jagged.” When other people judge me, it makes me feel torn – not slashed in a way that is easily mended or stitched, but with uneven edges and patches missing. When the full brunt of the judging stops stinging, I can tell that healing will be slow and scarring.
Isn’t that the crux of feeling judged? If taken to heart, it never heals just-so. Judgment feels jagged, because it is sharp-edged self-righteousness … like the blade of a sickle, separating us one from another without benefit of cautery.
Many readers responded with similar words.
“Raw”" shared one friend. “Cut-to-the-bone, ashamed, disgusted, disappointed, gut-wrenching….take your pick.” She continued, “ it’s never fun to feel judged… like you came up short on character or something.”
Broken. Splintered. Betrayed. Heavily yoked.
Another friend found it difficult to stop at one word to describe her feelings. “Violated and victimized,” she explains. When people smile to your face, and talk behind your back, “It is sabotage , emotional hijacking.”
Being assessed as “not enough” is just as painful, as having your value estimated by another human being is often worse than having been misunderstood.
“Vulnerable,” described one young woman. And as if she had made herself vulnerable in the posting of the very word, others added to the sentiment. “And less-than.”
Misrepresented. Misunderstood. Rejected. Pitied. And perhaps most stingingly, condemned.
“Unworthy,” shared one. “And crestfallen.”
“Small,” said another friend, to whom I would never would have attributed that feeling. “You know – like someone has just decided you’re not worth a place at the table.”
The comments of one person gave me great pause.
“When someone passes judgement, I feel like they put a label on me, stuck me in a box and taped it up tight. This enables them to just ‘walk away’ and not ever really know the true me. I have to also add that I think people pass judgement when they are afraid, or lack knowledge and empathy.”
Only one person can have one person’s experience. Only God knows what my experience is. The oft-repeated adage, “Only God can judge me” is true, but we forget that sometimes, when we are busy determining whose motives are pure and whose are not (as if we could ever know) and who among us is in the wrong.
Being judged by other human beings doesn’t make one repentant. If anything, it makes one defensive. Maybe when our spirits evolve beyond that spiritual schnaudenfrude (by your misfortunate deeds, I feel much holier) the blade will dull. I hope so. I think God wants his kids to be kind to one another. That evolution can only happen when we ask for God’s help in overcoming our human ways.
I have to be reminded of this constantly – to live this, because I’ve just made too many mistakes to survive spiritually intact otherwise. I’ve been too hurt, and inflicted too much hurt – in my careless, momentary value judgements of others.
And taking the judgement of others too tightly to heart slices and dices, jaggedly…opening a a big, black, sucking vortex of self-important insecurity. When the scars from all the judgement become too tight, it is a reality check that I am giving people too much power.
The power to stick me in a box, tape a label on it and walk away…and never even know the true me.
The true You.
You don’t understand me. You think you do, but you don’t. (Heck, I don’t even understand me!) But the Father, who understands every individual’s inherent value, does. And it’s personal.
God, in Christ, says …
“You think you understand me, but you don’t. If you only knew my heart, you might come sit next to me at the table, and know freedom.
I KNOW YOUR HEART.
There is no condemnation.
I’ve seen what you’ve done. It is finished, as far as the East from the West.
I’ve walked around in human skin, I know the temptations firsthand. It isn’t easy. Shake off that yoke.
Shake it off and stop trying to tie it around the necks of others. The burden is mine.
I understand you. In me, you are….
Perfect. Unbroken. Complete. Valued.
You are connected. Continuous. Fixed and whole.
I didn’t come to cut you away, but to bridge what is holy with what you are – what you really are …mine.”
“With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1 (Message)