Yesterday I sat down and tried to think of the first time I ever judged someone. I’m sure it was before preschool when I looked at that one kid with glue on his face and was sure I was of higher stature. Probably even before my toddler years when that one babysitter didn’t sing Itsy-Bitsy Spider with the hand motions and I knew she was inherently inferior. Maybe it was sometime during infancy when the polka dots on my grandma’s dress were so distracting I would blame her choice to wear such an outfit on my incessant diaper soiling.
Whenever that first moment of judgment crept into my consciousness, I knew it was there to stay. I enjoyed using this evolutionary adaptation to make myself feel better, to inflict pain on others so as to not notice my own. Judgment allows us to bubble wrap our own feelings as we plow through fragile humans that surround us, using their flaws, their mistakes, and even their bodies as fertile ground to plant our inflated facades.
When I judge someone else, I am deciding for them that my life, my beliefs, and my choices are superior to theirs and, because I decided this, they should feel bad about themselves.
Judgment destroys vulnerability. Judgment destroys dialogue.
I have seen dialogue destroyed by judgment in the past week, especially dialogue around Caitlyn Jenner. Disgust, self-righteousness, popular opinion, celebrity attention, religious belief and judgment have clouded this conversation. We have ALL been judgmental.
When I was planning this post, I was thinking about all the points I would make about why Caitlyn Jenner’s story is heroic, beautiful and overwhelmingly spiritual. I was going to explain how seeing an individual being honest, vulnerable and confident about her inner self after years of shame, secrets and insecurities is exactly what the gospel, the good news message of faith is about. Christ came to set us free, to give us life. Freedom to be who we were made to be and who we can most fully and openly live as each day.
I was going to talk about all those things and more but then I realized that even by doing so I would be judging Caitlyn. Having one-sided conversations, opinion pieces, and Facebook posts about Caitlyn Jenner’s “decision,” is not productive nor is it dialogue. For in the same breath that we all air our feelings about her life, her body, her choices we are deciding her worth and her value for her. We are not her close friends, family, community members. We are simply privileged outside observers to human beauty.
Let us not use her real, human life as a pedestal for our opinions instead of celebrating with her. We are called to “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” And I know that in this moment Caitlyn is finally rejoicing.
May we simply be still, despite our judgments about her, and rejoice in another human’s rejoicing.