I've recently started something new... and NOW... I'm wondering why in the world I fought it so long.
It literally seems crazy that it has taken me so long to even give it a try, but then again, I've got eight kids and the past 20+ years have been mind-foggingly busy. I didn't think I had time to try and figure out how to fit one more thing in my schedule, especially something that required time and resulted in very little that could be considered "productive."
I've begun taking a "mini-sabbatical" day - aiming for one such day once every two weeks. During that day, I mostly don't do any of the normal daily work/chores/etc. Instead I read, sleep, try a new recipe, work on the kids' scrapbooks, watch TV or movies, write letters just for the fun of it, just write without the purpose of publishing on a blog or in a partnership building letter, read some more, participate in ministries/volunteer/community stuff that I've never tried before, etc... I'm sure you get the idea.
I say "mostly" because I still have to help pack lunches and get the kids off to school. I still have to help with homework. Dinner still needs to be prepared. Sometimes bills need to be paid on that day, or a kid needs to see the dentist. But for the most part, my husband takes the kids to school and I have an entire day to do what I want instead of trying to get done all that needs to be done, all that I think others expect of me.
I'm discovering that while it's not necessarily been a good practice for crossing things off of that ever-growing to do list, it has been good for my health - particularly emotionally and spiritually. And as I'm not getting any younger, I'm finding that the stress of not ever having any (enough remains on the bucket list) down time has a definite physical impact on my body.
On one of my recent "mini-sabbaticals," I was watching an episode from a favorite television show we'd downloaded, and there was an interesting bit of conversation-leading-to-reconciliation between a young adult daughter and her mom.
Daughter confesses that she needs to stop defining Mom based on her mother's very worst moments. Instead, Daughter recognizes that life is complicated, that they can disagree and that even in the midst of those disagreements, she can respect Mom for the pretty incredible things her mother has accomplished, as well as the values she has consistently modeled for Daughter.
Stop and think about that.
What if I fought defining the people in my life by their worst moments? That doesn't mean I forget those bad moments or that I continue to allow someone who's hurt me to continue to hurt me and/or others. But it does mean I choose a conscious recognition that people are far more than a two-dimensional caricature. It means acknowledging that every single person is multifaceted, a sinner in complex and broken world, and that probably most of them do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Thus, I am judging without real knowledge if I try and use a single act or a particular exposure to define him or her.
In John 7, Jesus gives the instruction to ""Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly." In other words, judgments - as in pronouncing judgment and passing sentence - shouldn't be made prior to a complete - or at the very least, more complete - picture.
I can't help but wonder.
How much better might my relationships (casual or intimate, business or pleasure, lifelong or "seasonal") be if simply refused to give those those momentary glimpses of someone at their worst more weight than any or all others, if I focused more on seeing God's image in that person, and the potential of what h/she could be?
Sadly, it doesn't appear to be a mindset that comes easily or naturally.
Unlike my new "mini-sabbatical" habit - something that I fought against for a really long time but that is quickly becoming a habit almost as necessary and welcome as breathing, learning to not define people by those vivid and worst moments will be something I'll have to fight for, every day, for the rest of my life as it does not appear to be a governing tendency, desire or instinct that just characteristically flows out of my being.
Besides all that, there's another reality.
As Wayne Dyer so aptly said, "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself."
Any strategies, teachings, practices you use... or that you'd recommend... to help those of us who struggle with this sort of judgmentalism fight for something different? Something better?