by Molly Audiss
Matthew 7:1 “Judge not that ye be not judged.”
Ah, yes, you are in the midst of a heated discussion (an argument), and you pull out one of the classic “fight phrases”- “Well, I can’t read your mind, you know!” There are many variations to this classic jab, some of which may be: “I’m not a mind reader!” or “Do you expect me to read your mind?” or “So now I’m supposed to read your mind!” If you’re honest, you will admit that, at some point in time, you have probably said this to someone, in a very sarcastic tone of voice. For you really good Christians, maybe you didn’t say it out loud; you just thought it. Whatever the case may be, when we become defensive, we love to stand on the fact that we cannot possibly know what someone else is thinking.
The odd thing is that, most of the time (except when claiming innocence in a debate) we do act as if we can read people’s minds. This is the hypocritical side of human nature. We spend much of our time assuming that we know what others are thinking and why they are acting the way they act. Sadly, almost every time we judge someone else’s motives or actions, we get it wrong. We really should remind ourselves often that we are not mind readers, and we do not know why people are the way they are.
Yesterday I was in the checkout line at the grocery store. I watched the cashier as she was serving the customer in front of me. As another employee at the store walked by, the cashier motioned him over, and pointed at something with which she wanted help. She never even spoke to the man; she simply pointed. No “please” or “thanks” or anything. Then, as the customer in front of me finished, paid, and walked off, the cashier never once spoke to the lady. Well, by this time I was dreading having to face this rude cashier. I could tell that she had a bad attitude. She probably thought that she was too high and mighty to be nice to people. The nerve of this girl! How did she get this job, anyway! These lovely Christian thoughts were racing through my mind as I smiled at the cashier and said “hello.” Of course, she didn’t speak to me-just like I thought. As she scanned my groceries, I took a closer look at her. I could tell that her jaw seemed swollen. A new thought hit me, and I asked, “Did you just get your wisdom teeth out?” She looked at me with sad eyes and, painfully murmured, “I need to get them out.” She could barely move her lips. Wow! What a difference a little knowledge brings to a situation. This girl was not speaking to people because it was too painful to talk; yet, here she was at work. Boy, did I feel badly about my assumptions!
How many times have we judged the way people are acting, and we’ve been so wrong! Unfortunately, most times we never do get the right information, and we spend our life with false impressions of others. We so easily categorize people. If a thin, beautiful woman crosses our path, well, she is probably a snob. She probably thinks she is better than everybody. But she may be a very nice person, possibly a future friend, if we gave her the chance. If we say “hello” to someone, and they do not respond- well, they are extremely rude. It couldn’t be that they are very shy, or that they did not hear us, or that they have a heavy burden and are not tuned into the world at the moment.
My first year of teaching, I sat with my homeroom in high school chapel. There was one boy who always fell asleep in chapel. I mean every time, without fail. I immediately pegged him as rebellious and unspiritual. Finally I approached him about his behavior. “I’m sorry,” he said to me in a very humble way, “I pay my way through school by bagging groceries. Sometimes I don’t get home until after midnight. This past week, a gang drove by at night and shot a bullet through our living room window. I guess I haven’t been able to sleep much since.” Whoa! That is not what I was expecting. I learned right off the bat that much more goes on in a teenager’s life than what we think. I am so glad that I had that experience my first year of teaching. It really taught me to look deeper inside a teen’s heart. Look past the sullen face and find out what is going on inside.
I wish that I could say that just one incident changed my thinking once and for all, and I never have had a problem with judging again. Sadly, the battle for the mind is a life-long struggle. We must have help from the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. We are so weak on our own. But we must keep striving to be like Christ.
Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt. If they are unkind or rude, try to think about all the things that might be going on in their lives that you know nothing about. Every person with which you do business in public also has a private life. Personal problems definitely affect every area of a person’s mind. Do not judge others. Always assume that, if your first impression of someone is not a good one, then you probably don’t have enough facts to make a ruling. Give people a chance. Ladies, we are not mind readers. Let’s just encourage everyone. And, as Bro. Jack Hyles used to say, “Be good to everybody, because everybody is having a tough time.”