I’m judgmental. After years of confession, penance and prayer, I have come to realize that I judge others when my focus is too much on me and not enough on God. Tearing others down gives me the false impression that I am built up. I know this is not truth and yet I fall into it way too often.
Recently, Michelle and I went on a retreat in Florida. We participated in an activity called sculpting. In this activity, a couple who I know personally but to protect them I will call Greg and Julie, gave a 3-D testimony of their broken relationship by “sculpting” all their important family relationships. Each participant played a role in Greg or Julie’s life. I played the part of “adult Greg” and Michelle was “adult Julie”. Greg had not been very good to his wife and they were on the brink of divorce. My first inclination was to judge him. In fact, I had been judgmental toward him since I met him. As we began the activity, this guy and his wife “sculpted” scenes from their past. Greg put “Greg’s father” in this angry, condescending pose pointing down at “child Greg”. ”Greg’s mother” had her back to Greg and the father and was disengaged. Greg’s brother just wanted to be the perfect son and everything that Greg was not. ”Child Greg” had the look of wanting to please the father but feeling like he could do nothing right in his father’s eyes. He felt completely inadequate and anger was growing within his heart. As I looked at this scene, I started to feel some of the pain of Greg’s childhood. Then I looked over to how Julie “sculpted” her family – a smothering mother, disinterested father, a resentful sister and the “child Julie” who did not feel safe and secure in her own family. I felt some of her pain and the difficulty it presented in Greg and Julie’s relationship.Next, I looked down at three “children” sitting at our feet – three miscarriages who died in the Julie’s womb before birth. I know as a father the joy of having children and can only imagine the pain of losing not one but three babies. Then, Greg and Julie “sculpted” Michelle and I as “Adult Greg and Julie” in an interaction that alternated between aggression and “it’s your problem not mine” from Greg and “how dare you” and “I’m pushing you away because it hurts too much” from Julie. As I allowed myself to enter more and more into this “sculpt” I felt Greg’s pain. For those few minutes, I was Greg. I felt the pain of a father who didn’t know how to love me. I felt the pain of loosing three children and the feeling of helplessness and inadequacy as a man, as a husband and as a father. I felt the pain of two wounded people trying to make it without God. It was the closest experience I ever had of “walking in someone else’s shoes”. As I “walked in Greg’s shoes”, judgment melted away; self-righteousness melted away. The only emotion that remained was compassion. I felt a deep love and compassion for Greg. Even after the activity was over, love and compassion for Greg remained.
Then it struck me. Isn’t this a picture of Jesus’ love for us? Jesus does not waste one moment judging us. He enters into our lives – our joys and struggles. He knows our pain. He is present in our relationships. He walks in our shoes. He took all judgement upon himself on the cross. What is left for us? Compassion. Thank you, Jesus.
Humbly submitted through the missionary hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.