I grew up on a farm. We were one of those farm families where multiple generations lived on the same property. My grandparents lived over the ‘crick’ and down the lane about an eighth of a mile.
There were some incredible benefits to this. My parents rarely had to scrounge up a babysitter, we had double the outside space to play in, and Grandma almost always had ice cream or popsicles! There were also some challenges. Perhaps the most challenging was that unless the field in between was planted in corn we could see each other’s houses. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it brought lots of questions and sometimes judgments. While it worked both ways, it was more often my grandmother who was the accusing party. “Who was that blue car? What did they want?” “You guys got home late last night.” “You got home from college at 2 and it’s 7. Why are you just now coming to see me?” It was a perfect combination of not enough to do and too much to see.
The longer we stay sheltering in our homes the worse I see us becoming about judging our neighbors (both physical and social media neighbors). We get so caught up in the realities within our own homes that we begin to judge everyone around us. We can’t help but notice the neighbors who have had friends over for dinner every week, or the people who went on vacation when we were supposed to be hunkering down. We side eye the mask-less faces in the grocery store, and roll our eyes at the idea of leaving our mail sit in the mailbox until Sunday night so that any potential virus would have time to die before we touch it.
We all have our own opinions and have decided what this time calls for. This can be good. It is important that we do our research and are well informed of the risks and recommendations, but the difficulty comes when we try to apply our rules to other people’s realities. Perhaps the neighbor who has dinner guests needs other people to survive their mental health. Maybe people who are traveling do so because ailing health means those opportunities could cease at any moment. Perhaps wearing a mask causes claustrophobia in a way that triggers panic attacks. That person who avoids touching their mail may be immune-compromised.
When we look at other people’s actions through our lenses and decide whether they are right or wrong, we are doing them a disservice and setting ourselves up for unnecessary frustration.
We all have our own reasons for being judgmental of our neighbors. Maybe it is out of fear for our own health or sanity. It could be the threat that for anyone else to be right means I’m wrong. For me, as a self-proclaimed super dooper rule follower, its often about envy. When I am begrudgingly
following the rules and I see someone else break them, it is all too easy to be jealous of their ability to break the rules. Whatever the reason the temptation is for all of us to judge one another.
Scripture tells us that it is not our responsibility, but we do it anyway.
This season that we are in tends toward added stress and short tempers. We easily fly off the handle because the unknown and fear for our own safety has left us an emotional powder keg. That’s not what God wants for us. God wants us to experience grace. God wants us to know that even when we do get on our high horse there is forgiveness. With all of us under stress the natural tendency is to become explosive with each other when in reality what we should be doing is offering grace. We need to remember that other people have realities that are different from ours, and we need to stop villainizing people who make decisions we wouldn’t make. Instead of judging, ask God to help us offer grace.
This won’t always be easy. There will be people who seem to just not care. Those people deserve grace too. My goal for the month of June is to respond to the judgment welling up in me with an attempt to see the other person’s perspective. I hope that you will join me in this endeavor. May God extend grace to all of us and in turn may we be able to share just a little with our neighbors.