“Where do you want to eat?” Such a simple question, right? Maybe for others; not so much for me. When I eat out, deciding where to eat begins with an inventory of several factors in my mind. I examine how hungry I am, the available choices for restaurants, how much time I have, whether I want food just to fill my stomach or whether I want comfort, excitement, etc. Then I look through all the “files” in my mind containing all the foods I will eat and decide which available food best meets the requirements of what I’m looking for. Makes total sense to me. Often makes those around me shake their heads.
One clue as to why it takes four mental questionnaires and the opening of three drawers in my mind’s file cabinet to decide where to eat came when I completed the Myers Briggs Personality Indicator quiz. This popular personality classification system uses questionnaire answers to assign four letters that describe four personality traits. The fourth letter of this four-letter window into my personality was my eye-opener. I was awarded a “J” (Judging) as opposed to “P” (Perceiving). That means I like to have things decided in my mind. No open drawers with question marks hanging out. No mental papers left fluttering around willy-nilly. Everything needs to have its place, neatly filed.
That “J” always brings a small tug of guilt. Since judgementalism is often addressed in the light of judging other people, it carries quite negative baggage in my mind. I do not care for the practice of deciding another person’s worth…period. I don’t care what factors are used. I just find the concept of one human deciding how much another is worth distasteful, whether that decision is made based on skin color, religious preference, state of origin, financial status or any other worthless measure.
Since I took the Myers-Briggs test I’ve been conscious of that “J” and tried to make even more certain that I didn’t judge people. Judging tacos versus steak is fine. Judging people, especially the state of their heart, is NOT. As a Christian, I find many examples in the Bible that agree with this.Recently, a Scripture passage that I first read probably 45 years ago hit me in a brand new way. The words were uttered by Christ, who often used simple analogies to get his point across. Speaking about judging in the book of Luke (chapter 6), He said:
“41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Simple, right? True. But this time as soon as I read it, I was transported a new place in my mind. I stood opposite of a good friend, my hand outstretched to his eye. I was focused on a speck of dust that I saw clearly, and was trying hard to take it out of his eye. The only problem was that I had a large stick in my eye. Literally. It hurt. Badly. Even worse, I could hardly see. At all. In the midst of my pain and half- blindness, my hand kept gouging different places in his eye. Did I stop? No! I just kept reaching and poking and scratching. Since my skewed and veiled mind could clearly see the speck, I couldn’t make myself stop trying to remove it.
Did it help either one of us? No! It hurt him terribly, and didn’t remove the speck. Even worse, it didn’t remove the stick from my eye, either. We just both stood there, with me making his pain worse and accomplishing nothing in relieving my pain. And both of stayed as blind as we always were.
I realized in that moment that, when I focus on others’ faults, all I do is increase their pain. In reaching out to solve a tiny problem in them, I just make it worse…and I miss any opportunity to make anyone’s pain less; theirs or mine.
I will not soon forget the pain of that moment. It caused me to turn back to reality with a new determination to acknowledge the sticks in my eyes. It turned me anew toward the painful work to remove them, instead of looking through blurred, pain-filled eyes and seeing only the tiny faults of others.