For the dear life of me, I could not justify the angry, hateful looks I was getting from the woman a few people ahead of me at the check-out line. On this particular day about three years ago, Marina and I were driving by one of our favorite stores, Brainstorm, and decided to pull in and get a gift we needed for a party later. Rina grabbed her new doll from the car and we rushed through the door. I selected the game we wanted, she went over to see the toys that were displayed, and I got in line to pay.
That’s when I noticed this stranger, about my age, staring at me. I would look away only to look back and see that her eyes were pressing into me with a fierce rage. Once, twice, three, FOUR times I looked away, only to look back to her furious stare. What?? What could it possibly be? I had never before seen this woman in my life!
Relief filled me as it was her turn at the cash register and Marina returned to me from the play area nearby, her doll sprawled across her arm. She wrapped her other arm around my leg and we waited. The woman finished her purchase, looked at Marina and the doll . . . THE DOLL! . . . and shot me one more venomous look before marching out.
Oh my gosh, she too thinks the doll is real! Months before this day, we purchased a beautiful “reborn” doll from our neighbor who makes them, and Marina loved dressing the doll in real baby clothes and taking her everywhere. From it’s size and weight, to it’s fuzzy hair and dewy, plump complexion, all the way down to the realistic lines and creases on it’s face and feet, this doll has tricked (or scared) everyone the first time they saw it.
I assumed she thought I was careless and irresponsible for letting my young daughter walk around the store with a tiny newborn flopped in her arms! But wait, me, careless? The mom who still tries to cut her pre-teen and teenager’s steak into tiny pieces for fear that they’ll choke? Me, irresponsible? The mom who has read no less than 100 parenting books over the years in an unending (yet futile) attempt to do it all “right?”
I was shaken up when we drove home because I honestly can’t ever remember anyone looking at me with such loathing. The more I thought about it later though, the more it made me laugh to think about what she must’ve been thinking. Rina had walked in quickly and carefree in her typical fashion. The doll’s face was turned to her chest and her feet were dangling. It looks so very real. You truly have to see the doll and hold it to see what I mean. (See photo above, which baby is real?)
But, truth be told, how many times have I judged someone without taking a closer look? How many times have I just glanced at someone or their kids or their life, and decided right then and there that I had them all figured out. How many times have I thrown an angry look at a stranger? How many times have I looked and saw what someone was carrying, and thought I understood. Maybe they were carrying anger, and I thought they were a bitter, resentful person. Maybe it was sadness or an low-lying attitude, and I assumed that they weren’t being grateful enough for the positives in their life.
God started convicting me about every judgmental thought that came my way several years ago, when I was participating in a bible study and the content of it settled on my heart. It began to bother me so much as I became conscious of my negative thoughts, and I worked on changing them. I slowly came to the conclusion that we can’t control what pops into our heads, we can only control what we do with those thoughts.
The book we used in the bible study was Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer, and in it she writes, “Judgement and criticism are fruit of a deeper problem – pride . . . Whenever we excel in an area, it is only because God has given us a gift of grace for it. If we are high-minded or have an exaggerated opinion of ourselves, then it causes us to look down on others and value them as “less than” we are. This type of attitude or thinking is extremely detestable to the Lord, and it opens many doors for the enemy in our lives.”
What situation in this stranger’s life caused her to have such a strong reaction towards seeing Marina holding the “baby?” Maybe she just recently lost a child? Maybe she’s been trying for years to conceive and has been unsuccessful? Maybe she just simply didn’t like the casual way Marina was holding this tiny, precious “baby” and thought I was a complete idiot. Who knows?
And that’s the point, really, that none of us ever knows. We can never truly understand what it’s like to be in the mind or the shoes of another. We all carry baggage, memories, hurts, fears, and life circumstances that cause us to act, or react, very differently.
After the Battlefield of the Mind study, whenever a negative or judgmental thought showed up towards someone else, I intentionally crumpled it up in my mind and replaced it with a prayer or a loving thought towards the other person. I walked through Walmart saying in my mind, “God bless you” or “God bless your little heart” over and over again.
But seriously, over time and with consistent Bible reading, God completely changed MY heart and my ugly thoughts decreased, to where now, my habit is to just pray for protection and blessing for the person that my attention is on, or to thank God for that individual. And if I’m in a situation that I just can’t come up with anything positive at all, I will stop my detrimental thoughts by passionately praising God for all He’s given to ME.
I want nothing more than for God to know how thankful I am for all He’s blessed me with. And to NOT be detestable in His sight by drawing inaccurate conclusions about others or judging the very precious things He so lovingly created, each one of us. Everyone of us is so unique, so different, so beautiful in the eyes of our Father. Each of us has a journey all our own.
Just as Craig and I want our kids to give each other as much love and grace and forgiveness as they possibly can . . God wants that for HIS children. Oh, this life could be so much less painful if we would all seek that kind of loving spirit from God.
So I’ll continue on this journey of trying hard to believe the best in others and giving them grace and acceptance. There’s definitely nothing easy about the process. But to the woman in Brainstorm that day – you didn’t know that what we were carrying wasn’t real, and I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’re carrying, but God loves you and so do I.
By the way, the photo above? The baby on the right is not the real one . . . and the baby on the left is not the real one either. They are both dolls. Things are not always what they seem.
Matthew 7 : 1 – 5 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”