Why So Judgmental?

Why are Christians so judgmental, when it’s obvious that God is all about love? This is a hard question to answer. It’s normal to judge. We all do it. We depend on judgment. We depend on a shared moral code. Distinguishing good from bad preserves the peace. It guides us in our common life, as a community and a nation.

But God tells us not to judge. God tells us to replace judgment with forgiveness. He tells us to love each other as He has loved us. How do we make sense of this?

Suppose you’re sitting in a park on a sunny day. Maybe you’re even reading your Bible. You happen to see a guy drinking a couple of six packs, and he’s getting pretty drunk. You know what the Bible says about drunkenness, so what do you do? It’s really hard not to say, “Man, that guy is a bad person. He needs to change. He needs to find Jesus.”

Well, maybe he does need to find Jesus! Maybe you are right. But before you judge him to be a bad person, think about Jesus. What would Jesus do? I think He would look at the guy and say, “I see his heart. He was born into sin. Who wasn’t? Now he’s sinning. Who isn’t? I think I’ll go talk to him. I’ll go love on him.”

That’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t look at the guy and say, “What a bad person.” Jesus looks at the guy with love and understanding.

If that’s what Jesus does, then why should a Christian, a follower of Jesus, look down on the guy? Some Christians even judge a guy and then expect his admiration. I’ll let you in on something. It doesn’t work.

Some people treat their kids the same way. They drag them to church. They tell them, “You’re bad! You need to do better!” Kids hear that, and guess what? They feel bad!

This is terrible. It’s terrible that kids live in fear of their parents. It turns into fear of God, and I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about actual, scared fear. They will look at God and literally be scared of His judgment. “Mom and Dad think I’m bad. God must think I’m bad too.”

Teaching children to fear just wounds them. It drives them away from God. That’s not what we want! We want our children’s hearts to fill with love! We want them to love themselves and love their neighbors! But love only happens when children experience God’s love. Not their parents’ judgment.

Let’s go back to the guy in the park, the one you were tempted to judge. Judging him does not help him. It hurts him. It pushes him further away from God. It doesn’t help you either. Judging others hurts you because it draws you away from grace and into a judgment mentality.

Here’s what I try to do. I see that guy in the park, and I think, “Well, in my view, what he’s doing is wrong. I’m not going to go and get drunk with him. Does he need Jesus? Yes. But I’m not going to bring him to Jesus by smacking him in the back of the head with a Bible. He’s not going to love Jesus because I’m standing there, telling him he’s wrong.”

How about just loving on the guy?

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

“I’m Sorry”

We don’t want to wound our children, but we’re not perfect. It can happen! And you know what? There’s grace for that. Wounds can be healed. We do it by building relationships of trust.

I’ve been reflecting on ways to do that. It’s important to respect our children as individuals and learn how each one ticks. Then we can engage with them in ways that show them how much they are valued. We can ask for and receive their permission to protect their hearts. We can pay attention to our tone of voice and speak to them kindly, keeping it level and safe for them. We can explain our anger to them, especially when it’s really ourselves that we’re angry with.

And we can tell them, “I’m sorry.”

The temptation is to say, “I’m the mom,” or “I’m the dad, so it’s my way or the highway. If you don’t like it, too bad.” It’s tempting, but that stuff never works. Ever. It gets kids to shut up and do what they’re told, but it doesn’t build trust.

I’ve done it to my kids. I’ve been impatient or I’ve been in my weakness, and I’ve told them, “Hey, too bad. You’re going to do it.” And they’ve done it. But later, I didn’t feel good about how it went down. I don’t need to wound my kids. I want to be able to say to them, “Let’s talk about this.” So I’ve gone to them and recovered the situation. We’ve sat and talked.

There’s nothing to be lost from having a conversation with my kids. I’m the parent, so I’ll get my way. My way is the right way and I know it. But I talk to them about it. I explain that they’re thinking from a child’s perspective, and I’m thinking from a grown man’s perspective. That’s why I want them to  trust me, and understand that I’m protecting them with what I’m asking them to do. I’m making them better, and I’m watching them become leaders. “I don’t want you to be wounded over it,” I tell them. “I want your heart to remain intact and pure. And I want us to have a relationship.”

We sit there and we dialog. We talk it out. Before you know it, I’m not angry with them, they’re not angry with me, and we’re having a conversation. I ask them if they have any resentment towards me over what happened. If they say yes, then I apologize. I say I’m sorry.

It doesn’t matter if I was right or wrong. My kids have resentment, so I say I’m sorry. By apologizing, I’m not saying they were right. I’m saying, “Look, I’m sorry that I affected you in that way. You know that what I said was right, but how can I say it to you where it won’t hurt you?” All I have to do is ask. They’ll tell me. And then I can say, “Okay, next time I will do that. I’m sorry you felt so hurt.”

Should you say you are sorry? No question. Absolutely, yes, you should always say, “I’m sorry.” If you want a relationship with your children, you’re going to have to understand that.

I’m raising my kids and I’m going to mess it up. When I make mistakes, I have to be a dad and a human being. That means I have to look at them and say, “I’m sorry. I don’t agree with what you did. I don’t like that you did it. But I did not handle it correctly as your dad, and for that, I’m sorry.”

This is not easy. Parenting is not easy! But it’s dialog, and I love having conversations with my kids. This is how we heal wounds and build trust, and it’s awesome.

Mad At Myself

Wounds can be healed in a trusting relationship. Last time, I wrote about building trust by recognizing and respecting the different sensibilities of our children. I am building a relationship of trust with my sons by understanding them as individuals. They each have their own way of thinking and feeling, and I am committed to paying attention and protecting them.

When you are able to do that, then you will know how to speak to them. I have found that being soft-spoken, gentle, and firm works best for all my children. (This is actually a good tone to take with everyone!)

If we were perfected in God’s kingdom, we would always get this right. But we’re far from perfect. We’re here on earth, in our flawed and sinful flesh. We’re going to get it wrong a lot.

My biggest frustration is that I get angry when I mess up. I have to be very clear with my sons about this. Otherwise, they take my anger the wrong way. They think it’s directed at them. I have to be proactive and tell them, “Look, I’m not mad at you. I’m mad at myself. I need to get you to understand that some things are wrong and I don’t want you to do them. I also have to keep you from doing things that might get you hurt. I have to protect you and your heart, but I don’t always know how to talk to you so that you will understand. That frustrates me, and I get mad at myself.”

It’s my duty to teach my children. It’s so important to me that they grow into the awesome people and leaders that they already are. Part of this is helping them understand the difference between what to do and what not to do.

The crucial concept here is understanding. My goal is to give them understanding. Teaching my sons how to behave is also about teaching them to trust me. I don’t want fear. I don’t want them to go around scared to do things because they’re afraid of being punished. If all they have is fear, then their behavior doesn’t come from trust. They’re just scared.

When scared children get old enough that they don’t have to fear their parents anymore, then they’re going to get in a lot of trouble. That’s why we need understanding. I have to get through to them in such a way that they will understand what’s right and wrong, and why. I need to be sure that I’ve taught them the difference between what’s safe and what’s dangerous.

But in my flesh, I don’t always know how to speak to my children in a way that is appropriate to the situation. When I don’t know what to do, I sometimes resort to what I heard when I was their age. I don’t always like to see that in myself, so I get mad at myself. That’s when I have to make sure to tell them, “Listen, I’m frustrated with me. I’m trying to protect you, and I don’t know why I can’t get through to you. I know I seem angry right now son, but I’m just reacting to myself. I am not mad at you!”

Honesty like this can have miraculous results. It can start a conversation. He’s not scared anymore, and I can say, “What you’ve been doing is wrong, but let’s sit down and talk about it. Tell me what you’re feeling right now. Why are you doing this?” Since I shared my feelings with him and clarified my anger, he trusts me. So he shares his feelings. That makes everything easier for both of us.

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Soft-Spoken and Filled With Love

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

Are we aware of the tone of voice we use when we speak to our families? Do we understand the feelings it causes in them?

I haven’t always been aware of this, and I regret it. I didn’t know about the effects of tone, because it doesn’t really affect me. You can pretty much use any tone you want with me and it won’t bother me. You can be mad at me using a pleasant tone, and you can be mad at me using a harsh tone. I’m probably going to respond the same way.

For me, the words you use are important. Not just the words, but the respect you use when you approach me. Respect is very important to me. You can shout or be soft-spoken, and I’ll be okay with it as long as you treat me with respect. But if you are disrespectfully angry with me, I’m going to put my foot down. Even if you use the nicest, most gentle voice ever, if you disrespect me in that voice, I’m going to double down.

Since my issue is with respect, not tone, I had to learn how important tone can be to others.

My wife is the one who brought this to my attention, especially once we had kids. She tried to get me to see that the tone of my voice is a big deal. At first I fought with her about it because I found it frustrating. I couldn’t get it, since I don’t get affected in the same way.

Then I began to understand. I began to understand that the tone I use when I talk to my children is very important. It’s important to my wife, too. I was determined to learn how each one of them gets affected and to take that into account. They’re different people, and they respond in different ways.

My tone of voice affects my oldest child the most. If I use a strong tone with him, it scares him. He can’t listen because his brain is going a million miles an hour. He’s actually scared, so he’s literally not listening. That means we’re not connecting.

My middle son is more like me. He can hear me if I take a tone of voice that is serious or emphatic. It doesn’t hurt his feelings. My youngest is kind of in between, but more on the sensitive side.

I want to do the best I can to love them, so I decided to keep my tone of voice level and kind. I even do this with my middle one, although he can handle a sharper tone. I avoid using a harsh tone. I try to stay calm. I focus on listening, and not reacting.

I really work hard on this. I don’t always do it right. In fact, I mess it up weekly. But it’s important. I said last time that wounds can be healed. I truly believe this, but first, there has to be trust. Taking care of the feelings of my family is an important start.

More on this next time. See you Saturday.

Wounds Can Be Healed

I left off last time by listing the kinds of questions I ask God — and myself — in order to parent my sons the way that God parents me. Sometimes, my sons need to be corrected, but they don’t ever need to be wounded. Reading The Cure & Parents taught me that if I parent out of my immaturities, then I will wound my children. I really don’t want to do that.

Obviously I’m not perfect. No matter how intentionally I set out to parent my children the way God parents me, I’m still in my flesh. I will make mistakes. I will wound them. But wounds can be healed. They don’t have to be transmitted from generation to generation.

Wounds can be healed if I have permission to speak into the lives and hearts of my sons. I have to earn their permission, and that happens by loving them as individuals. I have to take time to fully understand who my kids are, how they tick, and how their hearts work. That way, when they do something wrong, I will know the best way to correct them. I’ll know what works best for each of them.

No child is just like another. Suppose two children steal candy from the store. I don’t think we can deal with them the same way. If it were my kids, I would have to take each of them aside and dialogue with them. My responsibility is to understand how each one thinks. I need to know how their hearts act and react. That way, when I explain why it’s wrong to steal, each one of them will hear me because I’m speaking to him in a way that he, personally, will understand.

Since they are different people, the dialogue will not be the only thing that’s different with each one. They will probably also need a different kind of correction. To one I might say “Okay, this is why it was wrong for you to steal the candy. We’re going to take it back, and you’re going to tell the store owner that you are sorry.” But I may ask the other one to do something else.

Children notice this, especially siblings. And they will say something about it. “But my brother didn’t have to do that!” When that happens, I say, “Yes, because you’re not your brother. Your brother had to make it right too, but he had to do it in a different way.”

We have to learn to see things from each child’s individual perspective. That way we can help them understand things from their hearts. When it comes to correcting their behavior, we can make sure they understand that we are going handle things based on who they are. We can also help them understand why that matters.

Families frequently handle issues the same way for each child without accounting for how each child ticks. They don’t get the knowledge they need to take the right corrective action. So with the best of intentions, they wound their children.

At the same time, parents handle their children the same way that their parents handled them, which is how their parents handled them. We can keep tracing the same threads back, from generation to generation. Before you know it, it’s traumatizing. It’s traumatizing to the children, and it’s traumatizing to families.

How many of us have said, “I’ll never do this when I have kids!” I’ve said it myself. I remembering saying, “I will never do this like my dad did it, “ because I remembered how it made me feel. Then I find myself in the same situation. I’m in a panic and I’m in my flesh. What is my first resort? To do it like my dad did it. To do the one thing that I had vowed I would never do.

Right?

So if I don’t have my head about me, and I don’t use the wisdom of God to parent my kids the way God parents me, then all I’m going to do is resort to how I was wounded. It’s a scary thing for me, because parenting is not easy. I know I’m going to mess it up.

But I also believe there’s grace for us, parents and children. Even when you mess up, you can still create so much trust with your children that they will grant you permission to speak into their lives.

Wounds can be healed. I truly believe that!

More on this next time. See you Wednesday.

Don’t Wound Your Children!

Truefaced just published a book called The Cure and Parents. (Click the title for ordering information.) Here’s the blurb:

The Cure and Parents is our most requested felt-need resource. This is not a book on formulaic parenting or behavior management. The Cure and Parents is a book for the parent; highlighting how important it is to develop trust with your child. This resource will walk you through how grace allows us to face our own life experiences so that we can mature. This in turn will allow us to guide our children and offer them truth in a way they can trust.

I really connected to the theme of maturity. It’s important for parents to keep maturing, the book says, because our children will only mature as far as our immaturity takes them.

When I read that, it wrecked me. Because man, it is so true! As our kids grow up, we can treat them a certain way, but it’s only going to go so far. We can control them for a certain amount of time, and in fact we have to. When they are very young, they depend on us for everything. But eventually we have to build relationships of trust with them. If all we ever do is try to control them, then they may never mature past our immaturities.

This is so important to understand! My parents, my mom and dad, did they best they could. I truly believe that. But how I was raised, or how you were raised, or how my wife was raised, is going to be affected by our parents’ immaturities.  If they had immaturities, then maybe we only matured to that point. As a result, we might carry some of that immaturity into our marriages and into the way we raise our children.

When parents try to raise their children from their legalism or law mentality, you can see their immaturity. Parents think, “if we can keep control then everything will be okay.” I’ve been there. I’ve tried it.

Do you see how this can cause generations of wounds? Someone has to break the cycle. Until someone looks within and decides no, I no longer want to be immature, we’ll continue to transmit wounds from generation to generation. Trust and healing come when we say, “I want to do things differently. I want to mature. I want to continue to grow. That way, when my children get into their maturity, they won’t mature past me. They’ll want to continue in relationship with me.”

I really want that with my children.

I know I’m going to mess up, but I’m committed to this. I try to sit back and ask, “What is God asking me to do here? How does He want me to handle this situation, traumatizing, little, big, whatever? What do I need to do, so that I can look at my son’s heart and protect it? How do I get my son to trust me and my opinion? How do I make sure he knows that he’s protected, but that what he is doing is not okay? How do I correct him without wounding him?”

I ask God for help because I know that this is what God does. He corrects me without wounding me. Those who love God see that. They love Him because He first loved them. They’re drawn to Him because of how He treats them.

I want to parent my sons the way God parents me so that they’ll look at me and love me, knowing that I loved them first.

More on this next time. See you Saturday.