For the dear life of me, I couldn’t justify the angry, hateful looks I was getting from the woman a few people ahead of me at the check-out line. Marina and I had been driving by one of our favorite stores and decided to pull in and buy a needed gift. Rina grabbed her new doll from the car and we walked through the door. I selected the game we wanted, she went over to look at the toys on display, 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 the other way, only to look back to her furious stare. What? What could it possibly be? I’d never before seen her in my life!
Relief filled me as it was her turn at the register and Marina returned 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! Weeks before, we purchased this 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, it’s fuzzy hair and dewy, plump complexion, 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 assume 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 one hundred parenting books over the years in an unending (yet futile) attempt to do it all “right?”
I was a bit shaken when we drove home because I honestly can’t ever remember anyone looking at me with such loathing. The more I thought about it though, the more it made me laugh. Rina had walked in quickly and carefree in her typical fashion. The doll’s face was turned to her chest and the feet were dangling. It looks so very real. You truly have to see and hold the doll to believe it. (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 a person 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 peered 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 they weren’t choosing joy or being grateful enough.
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 greatly as I became aware of my presumptions, and I worked on changing them. I slowly came to the conclusion that we can’t control what thoughts pop into our heads, we can only control what we do with them when they do.
The book we used in the study was Living Beyond Yourself by Beth Moore, and in it she states, “God’s judgment is always righteous, but ours is tainted by the flesh. Our judgment of others is colored by our attitudes, our pasts, our personalities, and our positions. Only God is the perfectly righteous judge.”
What situation in this stranger’s life caused her to have such a strong reaction toward what she saw? 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, loose way Marina was holding the “baby” and thought I was a fool. 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 shoes or the consciousness of another. We all carry baggage, memories, hurts, fears, and life circumstances that cause us to act, or react, very differently.
After the Living Beyond Yourself study, whenever a negative or judgmental thought showed up toward someone else, I intentionally crumpled it up in my mind and replaced it with a prayer or a loving thought toward the other. I walked through Walmart saying over and over in my head, “God bless you” or “God bless your little heart.”
But seriously, over time and with consistent Bible reading, God completely changed my heart and my ugly thoughts decreased. Now, my habit is to pray for protection and salvation for the individual my attention is on, or to thank Him for their life. If I’m in a situation that I just can’t come up with anything positive, I’ll stop my detrimental thoughts by passionately praising God for His sovereignty and lordship.
I want nothing more than for God to know how thankful I am for His forgiveness and blessings. And to NOT be detestable in His sight by drawing inaccurate conclusions about others or judging the very precious beings He so lovingly created. Every one 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 daily give one another love and understanding and compassion … God wants that for HIS children. So, I’ll continue to challenge myself to believe the best in others and give them tender grace and acceptance. It’s not ever easy, but God gives us the ability and the desire to do so.
To the dear woman in the store that day – you didn’t know that what we were carrying wasn’t real, and I don’t know you or what you’re carrying, but God loves you and so do I.
And, 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.”