I used to want to puke if people were kind to me, especially Christians. I believed that nice people were fake, two-faced phonies. Sarcasm and cynicism, I believed, were somehow more genuine attributes. The funny thing is that I was fake. I was nice to people to their faces and rude behind their backs. Even my own biting cynicism was a mask to cover my insecurities and anger.
The Power of Grace
Now, I care a lot less if people are fake – that’s their prerogative. When you come to realize that you’re life is full of grace, you have an opportunity to extend the same grace to others. I get why people are sweet in person and are judgmental behind my back. I’ve known that pride and insecurity intimately. Yet, I’ve experienced true and consistent kindness even when I didn’t deserve it. My fear of other people being fake was my own issue, not theirs. I was missing out on the goodness of people because I was judgmental, I was unable to make friends because I couldn’t be a friend since I couldn’t trust. Since I feared people’s disapproval, I disapproved first.
I wish I could say that I became lovey-dovey towards people in one epiphanic moment. Instead, my heart stretched to the point it felt like breaking throughout the last two years, and then when I thought I was done growing, it stretched more, and it still does. But I can honestly say that I have opened my heart to people more than I ever thought I could. In turn, God put people in my life who have lavished me with genuine love and grace. I’ve gotten to know some wonderful people whom I would’ve previously judged and disliked just because I didn’t understand their kindness.
Judge and You’ll Lose
There’s this great verse in the Bible that reminds me that if I judge, I may believe I am superior, but I’m really a loser: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same thing.” Romans 2:1 NIV. The Message translation says, “It takes one to know one.”
I wish I could say I’ve mastered this, but I haven’t. Yet, I have a little more self-awareness to at least see that when I thought kindness was fake, kindness wasn’t coming from a genuine place in my heart. This judgment was only hurting myself. I failed to see my own need for change, and I missed out for years and years on relationships with wonderful people.
Judging People Vs. Using Judgment
Being non-judmental is not analogous with accepting all behavior. I can discern that a behavior is harmful to myself or another, and not tolerate it. At the same time, I can deeply understanding that I am no better than anyone else. This means that I will still have to confront inappropriate behavior, yet I can do this with kindness.
This is probably the hardest part for me: how to set firm boundaries with love. People who are violating boundaries don’t usually enjoy when others set boundaries; it feels unloving to them. And honestly, I need work on the “with love” part. Sometimes I’m harsh and firm in a curt way that comes off rude.
Here’s the bright side: I’m a work in progress, and I have lots of opportunities to practice this one.
To Love and Be Loved
The more I get to know God, the more I understand why his top two commandments are to love Him and to love others. It’s for my benefit. I’ve been on the side of not liking God or people either, and I have to say, it’s a lonely and bitter place. On the flip side, it’s a much more vibrant and enjoyable life when I am loving God and people and allowing people in.
My heart belongs to God – that gives me courage to love. His heart is for me to know and show love. Little by little, one day at a time, I get to grow just a bit more in this.