Guest Post: Judgment Between The Lines

This post brought to you by my friend Sarah Salter, her blog: Living Between The Lines offers me a fresh perspective from those who are outside my normal sphere. While I know you’re used to witty repartee and random musings of my travels, life, or feelings. I asked her to post something that she would like to share with the world. What she returned to me is something which is telling, truthful, honest and something I honestly struggle with. Often, when we’re feeling attacked, especially by those who we generalize as “Christian,” we run dutifully to Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” We forget that judgement comes in many forms, sometimes as “help.” This help can be sometimes more hurtful than if someone was attacking us. When someone attacks us, we can easily discredit it as someone being a “hater,” not worthy of our time and effort. When that “help/hurt” comes from someone we respect, like or know, the hurt cuts deeper. Something to think about as you choose your words, even to those who we know, like and trust.

At any rate, I’m pleased to bring you this guest post from my very dear friend. Thank you for reading, welcoming her, and sharing your comment love. – Schnik

every body has a share
(Used under Creative Commons, Thank you to: Aphotoshooter!)

When I got hired by the online magazine that I used to write for, the first thing they asked for was a bio.

“We just want four or five sentences to tell your readers who you are.”

Yeah, right. I’m a complex creature. How am I supposed to fit all that I am into four or five sentences? But somehow, I distilled my entire self into a handful of sentences that made me sound as stale as Ritz crackers left open too long.

Then, I joined Twitter. And what do they want but a compact bio. Only this time, I had to say it in 160 characters.

I’ve been thinking seriously about rewriting my bio. And out of everything it could say, what I really want it to convey is that I’m normal. I don’t think my current profile conveys that point. As a friend recently told me, “If I’d read your profile first, I’d never have followed you.”

“Then why did you follow me?”

“Because so many of my friends do.”

Oh.

So, what’s so “abnormal” about my profile?

It says I’m a Christian.

I’m a weirdo. Not long after I joined Twitter, I began reaching out to meet my tweeps in person. And what I found was that some of them were hesitant and anxious about meeting me. Many of my unchurched tweeps had seen my profile. Just knowing that I’m a Christian makes me fearsome to them because what if I’m as judgmental as most of the other Christians they know?

I never changed my profile. I just hoped that my actions would show folks that I’m not a fearsome, judgmental, “hater.” And overwhelmingly, my conversations with my unchurched tweeps tell me that they’ve come to realize this. They accept me for who I am.

I’m still thinking of changing my profile. Why?

When I was a kid and I’d do something wrong, one of the common responses that I’d get from my parents or church members was, “How could you do/say/think that? I thought you were a Christian!” Like my Christianity made me somehow less human. Like it made my emotions less valid. Like it took away my right to be flawed. Yet, I guess I thought that one day, like my brother’s hand-me-down jeans, I’d outgrow the expectations. And if I didn’t outgrow them, at least I’d become good enough to meet them.

I’m thirty-three years old and I haven’t outgrown this expectation of perfection. I also haven’t become good enough to meet it.

65 - Perfect Recall (Used Under Creative Commons, thank you to Tourist On Earth!

In my daily life, it translates into being expected never to have a bad day or never to have disagreements with people. It means that I weigh every word that I say, just in case it will reflect badly on God or The Church. It means that when I’m depressed, I fake being happy so that my sadness doesn’t make God seem less than good. When I’m angry or hurt, I stuff it down because Christians are peacemakers and selfless, right? And last summer when I woke up one day wondering if I had enough pills in the house to kill myself, it almost kept me from asking for help, because “good Christians” aren’t this screwed up.

I’m still thinking about changing my Twitter profile. It has become a “brand” across my avatar just as clear and brazen as you would see on the flanks of a bull. “CHRISTIAN.” And it carries that expectation of perfection that has weighted down every other aspect of my life. And with that expectation, it’s brought plenty of judgment in the forms of emails, text messages, and even phone calls from people who don’t think I’m a good enough Christian to have “Christian” as a part of my profile. (Incidentally, I’m pretty sure that God doesn’t have a problem with it. It’s people that have a problem with it.)

I’m a Christian and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not perfect and I readily admit it. But maybe for a little while, I could just be looked at as “normal” instead of needing to be perfect. I could just be Sarah instead of being The Church Lady. I could be accepted instead of demanded from. And instead of performing, I could just be.

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36 responses to “Guest Post: Judgment Between The Lines

  1. Pingback: Invitation | Living Outside The Lines

  2. I love this post, but I do hope that you keep the label so as to redefine it. I understand the struggle as I share the “brand” in my profile as well….and while I detest the judgments and assumptions, I have come to realize that labels only have as much power over us as we attribute to them. This is one of the “by choice” tags…but there are many other tags that others suffer with that are not by choice tags. For some, it is race, for some it is weight….for some it is a physical deformity.

    But regardless of the ‘tag’, we are all loved and children of God. You can remove a “by choice” tag, but it only hides the special truth about the fact that you believe you are saved by grace. The other meanings, as determined by fellow humans? Meh…..

    Love you, special friend….I am honored to be your friend.

    Cheryl

    • Cheryl, your words mean so much to me! Thank you for sharing them! And I’ve pretty much decided that I need to rewrite my profile in a way that conveys my Christianity AND my normalcy. I’m an English major. I can handle this assignment! It might take a while though. Love you, friend!

  3. Cheryl,
    What great comments. I agree with your assessment. The hardest part of labels are for most, they’re a “one size fits no one.” I agree that we must strive to continue to embrace whatever it is that makes us who we are. In my life i’ve heard such phrases as “I normally don’t like ‘this type of people’ but I really like you.” Nothing angers me more.
    I can’t speak for Sarah but I’m not a label. I’m not a representation of an entire segment of the population. I’m just me, too.

  4. Oh Sarah.. yes!
    You are breaking the mold, letting the world see that we are indeed “real” people, but always beloved by our Lord.
    Their expectations of us are not our problem, we can only attempt to fulfill His desires, His opinion being the only one that matters. Yes, we want to cast shining light upon Him, and that you do!

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I agree in many ways. I believe we do put too much stock in others’ opinions. We are approval seekers. We hope that out friends, acquaintances, and loved ones cherish, agree and support who we are. Sometimes that support is jagged and cuts deeper than hate, though.

      Thanks for stopping by!!

    • Karin (aka His FireFly), I confess that I’m really a people-pleaser deep in my heart. I’m used to being misunderstood by unchurched folks… It’s always been that way. But when I began to step out of my people-pleasing and walk a different way, I began to be misunderstood by the churched folks, too. And I don’t think I was emotionally prepared for that. And it’s caused growing pains. And that’s what these are. Thanks for coming by!

  5. My dear Sarah, I think you are a fine example of a Christian woman. I don’t know what is in the hearts of people who have sent you cruel emails or texts to you, but feel free to forward them to me! I just love getting all Hungarian in the face of people, and I haven’t had the opportunity to do so in a long time! Please? Pretty please?
    BTW, I’d rather have a friend who will cry with me in my troubles and let me do the same with them in theirs (and yes, maybe even offer sound advice at some point) than a perky acquaintance who makes me feel like I can never measure up. You are the friend. My friend. God bless you, hon.

    • Oh Dear Helen!

      I couldn’t have said it better. Your comment made me smile so large. I hope I’m never on the receiving end of “getting all Hungarian.” But I would love to watch that from the sidelines!

      Thanks for reading, commenting, and being you!

    • Helen, even as I was writing my post, I knew that I couldn’t get it all said in one post. The truth is, most of the folks that have criticized or rebuked me have done so out of caring or concern. The problem is that when they see a problem in me and their remedy causes me to go against my convictions, I can’t do that. I’m afraid my vagueness causes this response to make no sense and I regret that. I guess the bottom line is that if I’m following my convictions, I can’t let the opinions of others derail me, as they’re often prone to do.

  6. I am one of them there Christians… and worse than that, I am a Southern Baptist! AHHHHhhhh Run for the hills!!!

    But… I am not perfect… I make mistakes. I do things wrong. I am human…
    I had sex before marriage. I was an addict. I have lied. I have been greedy. I struggle with pride. I can be selfish. And that is just the tip of my iceberg.

    Who am I to judge anyone? My belief and relationship with Christ has nothing to do with me or what I have done/not done. It is all because of what Christ has done for me in spite of me.

    Sure, I will take an opportunity to share with friends about my beliefs. I write a Christian Living focused blog… but I am not the judge, the accuser, or the executioner. I am a fellow defendant… I just have the best defense attorney one can have and would like to share the contact with everyone.

    Keep your chin up Sarah. You’re normal and we love you for it!

    • Dusty, thank you for your thoughtful insight. I think we all want to be better people, in the eyes of our friends, families, acquaintances and the general public.

      It’s the shared demons that bring us strength.

      Thanks for coming by and saying hello!

    • Dusty, thanks for coming by and sharing. And thanks for being so open here. It made me feel much less alone in admitting that I’m not now, nor have I ever been, perfect. And maybe you can identify with this, too: I’m such a perfectionist and I’m so performance-driven. Way moreso with myself than anyone else. I need my attorney to defend me to myself AND to everyone else! Ha!

      Thanks again for all your support and encouragement!

  7. Thanks Nick and thanks Sarah. We feel those pressures and expectations of people, and sadly, that goes for everybody in some form or fashion. I have definitely struggled with the “Christian” label and then when you throw “Christian leader” in the mix–fuhgetaboutit. All I know is, I have to be okay with me no matter what anyone else says. Yep, I’ll stumble and probably fall in some way–even every day. It doesn’t mean I’m not changing and growing and I believe it’s all due to God’s grace. Good stuff! Thank you both.

    • Jason,
      It can be tough in this day and age. We reduce people to a few words, characters or initial perceptions. We rarely characterize people by their thoughts, words and deeds. Until we get to know them.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • Oh, my gosh, Jason, I know EXACTLY what you mean! I jumped out of the frying pan (being a preacher’s kid) and into the fire (being a full-time ministry leader). When any Christian messes up, it has consequences, but when you’re a Christian leader? Oh. My. Gosh. You can totally, single-handedly affect sometimes eternity! Thank God that He’s big enough to fix my screw-ups! I would be so lost if I was trying to navigate this obstacle course on my own!

  8. Great, true words Sarah! It brings new meaning to the phrase “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. Or, in this case, don’t judge someone by their brief, online profile. Social media is just that, social. Talk and get to know someone before judging someone by a short blurb. I am ashamed that I have been guilty of this in the past, and shudder to think what wonderful people I passed up on because of a few short phrases. I have learned from this mistake and won’t be repeating it in the future.

    • I am guilty of this, too. It’s something I struggle with, too.

      So many friendships missed out on because I judged people from the perception, rather than who they are.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • I don’t typically choose my followers by their profile, honestly. Usually, if someone I trust, trusts another person enough to follow them, I do too. And a few times, this has gotten me in trouble. But mostly, it works. Once, several months ago, I followed someone who was a friend of a friend and they said something so offensive it absolutely angered me. I almost unfollowed them. But because of who else they were friends with, I gave them a second chance and got to know them. Today, they are one of my most precious and trusted friends. The moral? Don’t just a person by one tweet. Get to REALLY know them. Thanks for coming by, Cari!

  9. I so love this post. I hate how labels can be so divisive and used as weapons against us.

    I complained about it once on Twitter about the “crunchy” label. I’m not really “granola-enough” for some and way too much for others. Then a friend said, “Well, why not just say you’re a Snickers? A little crunchy, a little salty but sweet?” Works for me!

    I think you have done it the right way, though. Knowing you as a friend has brought me closer to my beliefs and in some really difficult times when it would have been easier to just turn away. Being an example of the Love Christ asks us to have for one another is so much more important than all the other stuff. No one is perfect. No one. Even Jesus got angry in the Temple, right? To expect everyone with a “Christian” label to be perfection and to constantly pretend to be perfect is alienating and I believe it defeats the purpose.
    The Jewish Talmud says that Job had a door on all four sides of his house so that strangers wouldn’t have to walk to the other side to find a way in. By making the requirements to fulfill the label so strict requires so much more than just walking around to find the door, but also climbing a few ladders, swinging across a rope, leaping over a few crocodiles, and searching for a door knob just to feel like you “fit in”. Christians come in all shapes and sizes and denominations and with life stories as varied as the ages. Welcoming with Love and not being blinded by the temptation to judge seems a beautiful way to live.

    (I do apologize for this being written in such a choppy manner. I’ve had to keep stopping and starting and I’m afraid it shows – ❤ SarahBee)

    • Sarah! Thank you for the comments, I asked for a post that would make me think, and that’s what I got. 🙂

    • Sarah Bee, I love how you brought out the example of Jesus becoming angry in the temple. Nobody would’ve expected that of him. That happens with us, too. We put each other in boxes and we have expectations of each other. I’m learning to love to shake up others’ expectations. It keeps us all on our toes. And Nick’s a good one for that, too! You never quite know what to expect from him and that’s one thing I love about him. Thanks for coming by, Sarah Bee! Love you, Sister!

  10. Pingback: Putting My Paddles Back in the Water « Phoenix Rising

  11. As with everyone else, I love this post. I think it speaks to how a lot of us, Christian or not, feel. It is so easy to judge someone on the surface. Heavy people are judged to be lazy, without restraint, inept, incapable, etc. “Beautiful” people are judged in the opposite. Christians are judged to be perfect, without repute, incapable of “evil” in any form, someone everyone should look up to and emulate. Non-Christians are judged to be sinners, without morals and prone to things that are “unclean”. Really, how can anyone ever dare to make any judgements on anyone else simply based on the surface stuff??? As humans – and WE ALL ARE – we are fallible. We all make mistakes. We all are in a constant state of learning, not only life lessons, but those that are specific to the individual success of our individual lives…that’s the beauty of humanity. We are all individual, with wonderful gifts and enrichments to share with one another. We will fall down. We will skin knees. We will offend. We will be ashamed. We will be apologetic. We will be repentent. I am not you and you are not me. If you haven’t taken the time to know me and understand me, then please don’t take the time to judge me, either. I promise to return the same respect to you, because really that’s what it truly all about…respecting and accepting one another for who we are…human beings.

    • The sad part, my dear, is that those who think they’re helping are ones who tend to hurt us the most. They should know better. Instead they do it under the guise of “loving.” 😦

      Thanks for coming by and commenting! 🙂

    • Kari, I love your comment! Your thoughts here are right on! But this also makes me think of something else I’d like to mention. BECAUSE you love me, when you see me running head on into oncoming traffic PLEASE stop me! I may be mad for a minute, but in the end, I’ll love you more for saving my life!

  12. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. (Romans 7:18-20 NIV)

    Dear Sarah,
    It was only a few days ago that we had a discussion about this topic. The first thing I would like to say is I am so blessed to have met you on Twitter! I think it is amazing that technology has made it possible for people to find a friend with similar (or not so similar as your post explains) traits. Your profile didn’t turn me away, but I did fear that you were a “better” Christian than me. If there is such a thing! I am a people pleaser by nature so this puts a lot of stress on me already…AND thinking that I also have to measure up to what people think of me instead of how God sees and knows the REAL ME…whew!!!

    Just like “normal” people, I have had bad experiences with “church” people and Christians who judge. I am not perfect. ( although I tell my husband I am pretty close to perfection!!) I believe that those of us who try so hard to hide their imperfections are the ones who probably have the most to hide. I admit that I am one of them. I get angry. I yell at my kids. I can be selfish & stubborn…and the list goes on. Now after all those I’s (told you I could be selfish) it is YOU and a few others who are helping me to open up and be a little more transparent about my flaws. ( Including my friend Carrie who is now with Jesus ) Having said that, it still bothers me to do so because I still worry about what others may think…especially those reading this right now!!!
    I am not a writer or a leader and my grammar probably stinks. But I know God is using this as therapy for me and to love YOU through me. We are a lot alike in our views about life, people and the love of God. For this I am thankful to have you as a friend. You are a sweet blessing in my life and don’t go a changin’ for anyone! It is through you that people will come to know the real love of Christ. If we were all perfect, then there was no reason for us to be saved by the blood of Jesus!

    Hugs to you!
    Mary

    • Mary,

      What thoughtful insight! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. I also love the friends I’ve met though technology and I know I’m far better off with them in my life, than without.

      Nick

    • Mary, where do we learn this inferiority complex that we have? This thing that tells us to look at each other and compare and try to measure up? I’ve fought this my whole life! I can’t even take a compliment. When somebody compliments me, I have to tell them why they’re wrong. A friend DM’d me over the weekend to tell me how much I’d blessed them and I DM’d back to tell her how flawed and horrible I was. Why do we do that?! Ugh! The Bible says that Jesus knows the heart of a man. He KNOWS we’re not going to be perfect, but He loves us just as we are anyway. So, why do we have so much trouble loving ourselves just as we are?

      I love ya, Sister! Thanks for coming by Schnik’s little slice of paradise here and commenting!

  13. Thanks! Posting was hard for me to do…but I promised I would and I keep my promises 🙂

  14. Pingback: Labels | Schnikisms

  15. Best post written by Sarah ever!

    I might be rewriting my profile also. 🙂

    -DS

  16. This is absolutely one of the best posts I’ve ever read! Thank you so much for being so honest!

  17. Pingback: Top 11 Posts of 2011 | Schnikisms

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