Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
This is one of the most quoted verses of the day and it is often misused. I have a story and admonition that go along with it, though.
Today the boys and I met a friend at Chick-fil-A. Typically, the boys do well in the playplace, but any time that Ryan will be interacting with strangers I have to hold my breath a little.
Ryan, for the most part seems “normal.” However, shortly after he turned three, I began to suspect that something wasn’t quite right. Few people agreed with me. Most thought I was a paranoid first-time mom. But by that time I had coached hundreds of preschoolers in gymnastics, run a church nursery for almost 2 years, and several different ages of Sunday school classes. I had a pretty good idea of what “normal” should be — even for boys. And I could see that in certain areas Ryan didn’t fit. The year that he was eligible for free pre-Kindergarten at the local Christian school, we took advantage of the opportunity. It enabled us to have some objective outside input from his teacher. She agreed that testing to help understand his behavior would be good and got him into the special services program at the school. I will forever be grateful for the test that was done and the wonderful way Mrs. Bailey helped explain Ryan’s difficulties. She was able to tell us that he is definitely a “gifted” child. What does “gifted” mean? I’m sure that there are some great websites that explain more in-depth, but in a nutshell, he’s super smart intellectually, but socially awkward. Thankfully, he’s so close to “normal” that few people know or suspect anything. But the unfortunate difficulty of that is that those who don’t know have little patience for him. Or me. And we sometimes face brutal judgment or lack of understanding. But I’m truly grateful that God is using this to mold our entire family. And perhaps others around us.
While there today, a boy of about four joined my boys in the playplace. His mom and grandmother sat on a different side of the window watching from outside. Though having a conversation I was trying to keep an eye on what they were doing. However, I missed the game that they began playing — “The Stinky Shoe Game.” Apparently, Ryan made up this game while in the playplace. (Totally a boy thing!!!) And part of the game was to try to get the other person to smell the stinky shoe. Suddenly the grandmother jumped up, went in the playplace and began to speak a bit harshly. Unsure of what the boys’ roles in the trouble was, I stepped in, corrected what I did see, then asked if they were playing kindly. The grandmother didn’t give my kids a chance to respond. She just snapped at me about him putting his shoe in the little boy’s face. I, of course, made Ryan apologize, then let them go back to playing. And I apologized to her. End of story.
Well, not really. The grandmother returned to her seat with mom. She kept her hawk-eye carefully trained on the activity in the playplace and occasionally tossed disgusted looks my way. They finally decided that they didn’t like the play (which had now turned to Ryan being a monster) and left, the grandmother making a bit of a rucus as they went.
I’ve finally learned that I will often be embarrassed by something Ryan says or does when we go out. The occasions are growing far less frequent as he grows older and we continue to try to teach him social graces in every moment of every day. Three or four years ago I would have been embarrassed, angry, and depressed. I would have spent the day crying, wondering why I was such a terrible mom and if I would ever figure out how to teach my son to behave. Wow! The places God has brought me! He’s shown me that this kind of response is completely born of pride and the desire for man’s approval. He’s taught me that these are great teaching moments, for all involved. And He granted me the grace to be able to see that the problem isn’t mine or Ryan’s. That lady responded the way she did from her own pride. She quickly cast judgment on Ryan and me without looking for any insight. She didn’t care to have compassion or the wisdom to teach her grandchild how to handle that kind of situation well. If she had asked a question or two, she might have found out that they were playing a game. She might have asked if that was a nice game to play. She could have told her grandson that the proper thing to do would have been to say, “No thank you. I don’t want to play that game.” Instead she showed disgust for God’s precious sheep. (Of course, I have no idea if she knows her Creator, but the result is still the same.) And she taught her grandson that instead of showing people compassion, we should cast judgment, scorn them, and (probably, I have no evidence except human nature) slander them later.
I am incredibly grateful that God is knitting in me confidence in what He is doing in and through my “gifted” son. He is my GOOD Father who is giving me good things though they may sometimes hurt. I have not written this to receive sympathy or pity. I do not wish anyone to give my son “special” treatment. I prefer that he learn to handle the world as it is and I love that God is allowing me to help in that in nearly every moment of every day. I write this so that others will be slower to cast quick judgment as the lady today did. I have been that lady. As I said earlier, I have worked with hundreds of kids in gymnastics. There were times that I cast judgment on the parents as not doing their job only to later find out a child was minorly autistic or there was trauma in the home. Sometimes the judgment may have been accurate, but it wasn’t my place. In the above Scripture Jesus goes on to say,
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
At the end, Jesus does give a place for believers to judge other believers — when they have dealt first with their own sin. When my judgment (or anyone else’s) comes from my pride, then it comes from my sin. I don’t believe God is punishing me for casting judgment on those poor parents, but I find it interesting that He says in verse 2, “with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged.” Exactly what I did to those parents at times is what I now experience. So be careful of casting judgment.
I mostly wanted to tell my story and how God used it to remind me of this Scripture. My husband did a more in-depth discussion of the meaning of these verses and whether we should speak up. You can read it here.