'He who is without sin cast the first stone' and 'Only God can judge me' are Bible based maxims that we quickly regurgitate when we are cornered by the sharp daggers of judgement and condemnation.
Every so often I ask myself why people jump to conclusions about others based on what they see, hear or feel, and then proceed to share these assumptions with others as though they were facts as solid as the very ground we walk on.
In Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night, a play filled with judgement and condemnation, the dreadfully lonely Mary Tyrone laments to her son Edmund about her deep desire to have a woman friend with whom she could gossip so as to escape her reality (1.1.209).
She longs for this pastime because she sees it as an intrinsic part of a woman's life which she is missing. But is it? Is gossiping necessary? Why do we feel the need to criticise others and compare them to ourselves or society's standard of what is acceptable?
'Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography' – Oscar Wilde
People frequently say that those who criticise others do so because they have low self-esteem. While others say they simply like to gossip and whatever they say behind someone's back they would also say directly to their face. I must admit that I am a work in progress when it comes to judging and condemning others.
Oftentimes I do it without even noticing. As a performing arts student, I know first-hand how damaging it is to your creative process when you try your utmost best and others laugh you to scorn. Either you have failed to do something perfectly or they simply think you look weird. Even though I know this I still find myself on the flip side laughing at others for the same reasons. However, as a tremendously inadequate portrayal of perfection, who am I to find fault?
The best example
What if God judged us every time we fell short of his standards of perfection? As I reflect on my own life, I think that God would have something to condemn me for every millisecond. Yet John chapter 3, verse 17 says, 'God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them.'
A few weeks ago as I prepared the words of Psalm 8 for a choral performance, verse 4 jumped out at me: 'What is man, that thou art mindful of him?' I wondered, who do I really think I am, that I dare to even think that I can pick at the imperfections of another?
Many a person has said to me that they do not go to church because church is filled with hypocrites who parade around on their high horses while preaching about loving thy neighbour as thyself. In John chapter 13, verse 35 Jesus says, 'If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples', a verse often forgotten or passed over by many of us, but which is so crucial in the way that we represent Christ in the world.
We should not cause others to cringe at the very idea of Christians, Christianity and the Church. However, we ought to speak the truth in love as Ephesians chapter 4, verse 15 instructs us, and never pretend to be perfect.
We've all experienced the hurt of being judged and/or condemned. The best reaction to such pain, according to the Bible and other scholarly sources, is forgiveness. My mother taught me about forgiving and forgetting when I was very young and I always thought I was the poster child for this because every time someone wronged me I'd get over it quickly.
However, in reality I have not forgotten people's wrongs. Instead I have kept everything that everyone has ever done to me in a neat, slightly ajar filing cabinet in the back of my mind.
A few days ago, I came across the results of Dr Fred Luskin's Stanford University Forgiveness Project. In his book Forgive for Good he highlights the many benefits of forgiveness, as well as the detriments of a lack of forgiveness, based on scientific research.
Some important points he makes at the very beginning of the book are, 'Forgiveness is not denying or minimizing your hurt (and) forgiveness does not mean you give up having feelings.' This erased many of my misconceptions about forgiving and forgetting, and I also realised just how much of a hindrance that filing cabinet in my mind is to my progress.
As we admit our shortcomings and ask God to forgive us, we can find solace in the scriptures which speak of a loving, compassionate and unchanging God who forgives our trespasses and throws our sins into the sea of forgetfulness. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 32 says, 'Instead, be kind and merciful and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.'
I know it will be hard, as we often feel like much has been done to us which seems unforgiveable, but why not give it a try? Let's take the rock-filled hiking bags of unforgiveness off of our backs and get as far away from them as we can. Even though it will not be as easy as the analogy makes it seem, we need not forget that letting these things go permanently is for our own peace and success.
Danielle Jones was born on the beautiful island of Barbados to phenomenal parents. She is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts in Drama as a part of a joint programme between the University of the West Indies, Mona and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica. She hopes to speak fluent Spanish someday, do global missionary work and spread the love of Christ.
Danielle Jones' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-jones.html