I was a little girl in the days before barcode scanners. I remember cashiers punching in numbers that appeared on price tags. Crazy. I know. Now a computer can read a few lines and numbers, and “blip, blip. blip,” know just what I bought and how much it costs. Amazing!
You and I are like bar code scanners. Only we don’t scan cereal, tater tots, and coffee. We scan other people. We can see someone struggling financially, watch their kids misbehave, see their marriage fall apart, and “blip, blip, blip” we have sized them up. Just like that.
Why is it so easy to diagnose the problems of others? We can do it quickly, without much information. Instantly, we know exactly how their problem was created and precisely what should be done to fix it. From our very limited, uninformed perspective, it seems so simple. In fact, it seems so simple, that we would never have gotten ourselves into that situation.
Blip. Blip. Blip
Ever been on the other side? Heard the scanning as you dealt with a temper tantrum in the middle of Walmart, or sat in a teacher conference for a failing child, or put the foreclosure sign in your front yard? Perhaps no one said a word to you, but you felt it. Judgement.
I began working this week. Outside my home. I have stayed home with my children for fifteen years. Confession. There were times that I judged those who chose to work, and even those who said that it was not an option to stay home. I would think, “if they would just manage their money better and change their priorities…” I know. I was stupid. We even said these words, “We will live in a teepe and eat rice and beans first” Looking back, I am so thankful that I could stay home. Whether I would have really lived on rice and beans? We will never know.
I only work half days, not even full time, and my whole life has changed. It’s almost like I wonder what I did with my time before I started working. I wasn’t sitting in a hot tub and eating chocolate, I was busy. Six kids. Laundry. Food. Calendar. But now I have to do all that in half the time I used to have. I cringe when I think of how I judged working women who were struggling to get it together. I am publicly apologizing.
So why is that we quickly judge other people when we have our own junk? Other people’s problems are like icebergs. We see the part above the water and think we know the iceberg, but the biggest part is below the surface, unseen by our eyes.
That’s why Jesus told us to mind our own business. You know. That verse about getting the plank out of our own eye? He knows our hearts. We judge and compare to lift ourselves higher. His solution?
When we see someone in a tough spot, struggling, even failing, let’s step away from the scanner. May grace be what is felt and heard from us.
I saw this video from a cool ministry called Plywood People. It’s about a doctor who was frustrated with patients from a low income area. Then she decided to walk a mile in their shoes. Until she did, she had now idea what was below the surface. Her scanner didn’t really work. What she did was not easy, but helped her give more grace.