I started a new job this last week. I wasn’t nervous about starting a new job, exactly. I’ve started a new job before. A few times, actually. Perhaps you have, too. The biggest anxiety for me over started a new job is wondering if what I think the new job is going to be, and what it actually turns out to be, are anywhere near the same thing. After that, I wonder about the people I will work alongside. What will they be like? Will they be helpful? Are they happy people? Are they people of integrity? What makes them tick and what will they think of me?
When it comes to other people, we make judgments based on their words and their actions. We then assign value based on those assumptions. We decide that we know what makes a person do or say what they do or say. We think it is our inherent right to know these things about the people we come into contact with. We think this about our most intimate friends, and we think this way of total strangers. Should the checkout associate at Walmart not greet us with a sweet smile and make pleasant conversation with us, we wonder what her problem is. We size her up and in the short time we are standing across the conveyer from her, we think we have her all figured out. We make judgments.
But the truth is, whether it is a new coworker, a spouse, or a total stranger, most of the time our judgments are wrong. We think we know. We think we have the necessary discernment to read a person’s motives, heart, or intentions, but the truth is we are far more likely to be wrong than right.
There is the person we present to the world, and then there is the real us. We most often hide the real us, because when we take the risk to present our real selves to the world, we so often regret the decision. People tell us that they want the truth about who we really are, how we really feel, but what they really want is the version of the truth that will make them feel the best about us and about themselves. So we continue in the charade. We learn to conceal from those even closest to us our deepest feelings and emotions.
It’s not fair really. I mean we hide ourselves, but expect everyone else to be so transparent. We put out there what the world, our society, our family or network of friends will most likely accept as normal or… acceptable. I do it, and you do it.
There is a saying that “actions speak louder than words”. I’m not sure I buy it. The truth is, I do a lot of things because I am expected to do them. If I were being the real me, I would do something completely different. My actions so often do not reflect my heart.
Is this post too honest for you?
I realize that when this sort of thing gets thrown out on the table it can make us second guess anything anyone has ever done or said. And that can be maddening for sure. That’s not the intention here.
So what is?
Ours is not to judge. When did we think that it was our job to judge the words and actions of another and deem them good or bad? It was for that very reason we were never supposed to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before that, those judgments would have been lost on us.
No one’s journey looks exactly like anyone else’s. We often presume to know just how someone feels or to know just why someone acted in a way they did. We have expectations of certain behavior and when a person behaves contrary to that expectation, there’s a problem.
We cannot pretend to know what’s going on in another person’s heart and mind. How can we when we rarely are sure of what’s going on in our own? We are complex beings created by a complex Designer. We make choices that take us down paths of destruction and pain and then expect everyone to be whole and happy and always able to do just what we think they should do.
Well maybe that distracted Wal-Mart employee has no idea how she’s going to make her small paycheck stretch to meet the needs of her three school-aged children who are at home alone because she can’t afford a babysitter. Maybe that friend is afraid if you knew the real truth about her, you’d choose a better friend.
Maybe we’re so busy trying to figure out the people around us, and qualify their actions, because it distracts us from dealing with the issues in our own lives.
The Bible tells us that man looks upon outward appearances, but God looks on the heart. (1Sam 16:7) It will be that way until Christ comes back and makes right all the wrongs.
We must take care in the judgments we pass on others. We will be judged by those same standards. (Matthew 7:1-3) Why? Because we are unqualified to judge. A judge can only make a right determination if they have all the facts. We rarely have all the facts.
If I want grace, then I have to be willing to give it. Maybe if we all lower our expectations of others, learn to be more patient and understanding of where they are in their journey, and trust what we don’t understand to the One who does, we’ll all live a little bit more in harmony with the people with whom our paths cross. I’m really going to try to do that with my new co-workers. And my friends. And my family. And well, everyone.