I Have Something to Say About That…

Thoughts from Author Jenny Proctor

Judge not, that Ye be not Judged

28 Comments

A few years ago, a sweet and energetic young missionary started her mission in our little tiny branch here in the secluded mountains of North Carolina. She was excited about the prospect of meeting others, of teaching the Gospel and ministering to any who were willing to listen. While I believe her heart was in the right place, a few things seemed to be holding her back.

One Sunday in the hallway, she bounced up to me and asked me what part of Utah I was from.

I smiled and shook my head. “I’m not from Utah,” I replied.

“You’re not?” she asked.

“Born and raised right here in these mountains,” I said. “Did someone tell you I was from Utah?”

She smiled. “Oh, no. I just assumed you were from Utah because you’re pretty.”

Huh. Talk about a backhanded compliment. If you know anything about me, you know I’m very proud of my southern heritage. I love where I live… the culture, the people, the flavor of the south. I wasn’t happy with the implications of her remark.

What I FELT like saying was, “Wow. So where does your bigoted idiocy make you from?”

But I didn’t do it. It would have been just as ridiculous a remark as her own and I’ve never been one to try for intentional obnoxiousness. And really, what good would it do for her to think that the folks of North Carolina are not only ugly, but mean too?

(Note that I am not denying any cases of unintentional obnoxiousness. That seems to follow me everywhere I go and while I’ve often tried to disengage myself from such an identification… it clings to me like dog hair on your favorite black pants. But I don’t seek it; not on purpose, and certainly not by sparring with Sister missionaries.)

For the short period of time this sister served in our area, she continued to struggle. Her disdain for the people, for the smallness and sometimes lack of functionality of our branch was obvious. I hope that wherever she served next, she was able to learn to love the people, regardless of appearance, color, or fashion sense. I hope that she was able to realize that a person’s need for the Gospel, or ability to serve therein has nothing to do with how one looks and everything to do with how they feel.

Judgement is an ugly thing. It hurts to be judged and even worse, I think it hurts to judge wrongly and then realize opportunities or friendships lost because of our own shortsightedness. We can pin people into categories and by so doing, completely miss the person that they really are, the magnitude of what they might be able to offer to us, to others, to everyone.

When all we see is too southern, or too slow; too fat, or too thin; too old, or too ignorant; not capable, not willing, not pretty, we miss what’s on the inside. And though it sounds cliched, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Truth be told, my little tiny mountain branch is a little quirky. We are an imperfect branch, full of imperfect people; people that have never lived anywhere but right here in these mountains. People that have been to college, and people that have not; simple people, complex people, pretty, not so pretty, fat, thin, and everywhere in between. But among those people, in all their diversity, are people that when faced with challenges and overwhelming obstacles, steadily put one foot in front of the other and live the Gospel. There are people who when they have nothing, give everything to serve others, to serve the Lord. This branch has taught me much about love and sacrifice and those lessons didn’t have anything to do with appearance.

Many years ago, a different missionary was called to serve in the town where I grew up. The first few weeks after his arrival, his “southern” jokes were relentless. He spoke of toothless rednecks, refrigerators on porches, and hound dogs on every front step. He was harsh, to say the least.

One day, my mother, also southern-born and proud of it, backed him up against the wall and said, “Elder, are you planning on baptizing anyone on your mission?”

“Absolutely!” he energetically responded.

“How do you plan to baptize people you don’t love?” my Mother asked.

Chagrined, humbled, this particular missionary went on to serve an outstanding mission and I believe wholeheartedly loved the people here when he went home.

Stereotypes are judgments too. Redneck. Yankee. Utah Mormon. Valley girl. They limit us, keep us from being people, individuals that can serve and contribute. They keep us from being ourselves, and from loving others for who they are, instead of for who we think they are based on judgments.

So we should just stop. The end.

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28 thoughts on “Judge not, that Ye be not Judged

  1. I think that this is something we all struggle with. It's so human to stereotype. I have found myself doing it without even realizing it. Maybe it's easier than really dealing with people as individuals, I don't know. But the true equalizer is the cross. When I see myself rightly in view of the cross, then I understand that I am no different or better than anyone else. I am a sinner in need of grace. Christ saved me, not on the basis of anything I did or could do, but because He loved me. There is no room for boasting then because if He can save me, He can save anyone. It's all by grace. What a beautiful Gospel!

  2. I'll have to admit, I have done some judging in my day! Then, life happens, and I learned, and I looked past, and I grew. I think that judging others makes for an ugly, ugly person. I have seen it in all generations…Thanks for the reminder and for a good post!

  3. Stereotyping is one thing (wrong nevertheless), but over-the-top judgments like that just blow my mind.Wow. Just wow.

  4. I'm not sure why, but I guess we feel the need to categorize people in order to make sense of the world. It can be so hurtful,though, as you have illustrated here.I love the example of the missionary and your mother. What a great way to bring the point home.I was very appalled to read about the sister missionary, though. How sad.Having just moved into a tiny branch (probably tinier than yours), I have realized that our quirks are just that much more obvious. When only 5 or 6 families attend church, it does make it harder to fade into the background! And what an opportunity for growth. So far, I am loving it.

  5. Being from Arkansas…we try really hard not to stereotype.I am absolutely shocked at that sister's comment.Judging, now, is something the people in my wonderful ward are all still working on.

  6. I remember some Sundays in our branch in Puerto Rico when we would start sacrament meeting with eleven people in the building. Honestly, I kind of miss those days.But that's not what your post was about. It's good to remember that the scripture has a JST that clarifies that we should not judge "unrighteous judgment". We "judge" things – and people – all the time. But it takes a great deal of spiritual intuition to get it right, and usually, when we do, what we see about that individual is something so powerful, so overwhelmingly worthy of love, that we are "blinded" to their imperfections.CS Lewis talks about being careful around others, because they are all Gods in potentia. I, myself, would do well to remember that.(And as a snarky side note, I can only assume that your little sister missionary has never watched the Miss America pageant, since southern women absolutely DOMINATE over there!)

  7. Great post J. Your mom is awesome. I love the mental image of her backing that kid up against a wall. I'll bet he's grateful that she did that.

  8. What a great message! I have this problem and without intending to I start judging people by their appearances. I hate when people do it to me so I hate myself even more when I do it to others. I grew up in a very judgemental family and am working hard on breaking that chain. Unfortunatly I have to have my hubby remind me A LOT that I'm a labeler. One day I hope that I will see the person's spirit instead of their appearance. Thanks for the reminder!

  9. If it makes you feel better, I am failing miserably at my resolution to be more judgey.

  10. Stereotypes can be very ugly. Annette Lyon posted about this topic a few weeks back. Hard to escape stereotypes as we are all humans making judgment calls (internally or verbally). I'm a girl from Las Vegas, I know. It's a city that is so much a part of me, and yet way too many LDS frown upon it, "it scares them" or something. Which drives me crazy.All the same, we all try (I hope) to become better people, day by day…What comes to mind is a quote from Joseph Smith (not word for word, just as I remember it…),"Nothing is to calculated to help a man (insert woman/sister missionary here) to change as taking them by the hand and watching over them with love."I, too, was an exhuberant, judgmental sister missionary once, in Uruguay, South America, no less. Many years ago, there I was, saying dumb things & regretting it years later. I realize now that I began learning lessons (sometimes in very hard ways) that I'm still struggling to learn today. Sadly, just because someone is wearing a missionary tag doesn't mean they are tactful or thoughtful. Although they very well should be. Another lesson I learned (gulp) first hand.A few months back I had a dear mission comp remind me, word for word, some of the snarky things I told her once, 15 years ago! I was senior comp & she was my greenie. She was kind enough to have a big heart & love me all the same. A kindness I am grateful for, still today.Great post. Whenever I see a missionary now, I cross my fingers & pray for them to have the tact I may not have had.

  11. Soooo well said. I grew up in the South and got tired of the stereotypes. I also attended a deaf branch for several years where you really do see service up close and personal. I think your mom taught that elder a great lesson.

  12. Amen. I would say more but you said it all, and you said it well.

  13. At least she didn't think you were all ugly AND stupid. Because that's the usual southern stereotype. I must admit, I take great pleasure in showing up people who think they're smarter than me based only on their limited knowledge of my heritage.Well said, little sister. You're a better woman than I because, strangely enough, I actually seek out opportunities to be intentionally obnoxious.

  14. So, my sister served in NC a couple of years ago. So I started reading your post thinking, "Wouldn't that be funny if she was talking about Emily?" Then I finished reading, hoping and praying that you're NOT talking about my sister! I agree with you completely. We need to just stop. But honestly, there are times when I say things and shortly thereafter realize that an incredibly judgmental thing just came out of my mouth. Someday, I will get my brain and my mouth under control.

  15. Thank goodness for G.R.I.T.S.Can't wait to reunite

  16. My four year old daughter always wants to meet everyone we see and talk to them at length. She is the best example of loving your neighbors and "judging not". Her heart is pure and full of compassion. I can only try my best to emulate her.

  17. My friend and I have been talking about this same topic recently but from a different perspective. Judging and labeling someone and categorizing them in "positive" categories. This can also be less than helpful. If you tell someone they are smart all the time and then they do something to disprove that, what does that tell them? That they are dumb? Or when I was a kid, saying that I was a "molly mormon" then made me feel like I had to make myself appear perfect. I'm still getting over those tendencies I developed as a child judged by others. You have to be careful with any kind of

  18. Having lived all over the US, I've seen first-hand the regional stereotypes…they are all alive and well!But the good thing is that we're all basically the same…I love the Southern colloquialisms…the accents are charming and the mannerisms endearing. Equally, living in Idaho, AZ, MO, TX, CO, CA, –I could go on–I've met wonderful people all over! Your brother must've been inspired to talk to that elder…it's true, until you love the people they don't care what you have to share with them.

  19. I loved this post! You said it how it is and I love that!I love the description of your branch, it's basically the same make-up of every other branch or ward FAMILY.And I love that about our church

  20. And I realized that I said LOVE waaaaay to many times.Sorry.

  21. And I realized that I said LOVE waaaaay to many times.Sorry.

  22. I guess I just don't get it. You're upset because she called you pretty?

  23. Anonymous, while she might have been complimenting me, she was very clearly offering a negative opinion of my hometown and the other people that she had encountered here. She was basically saying, (and much of this was implied through her attitude) "People from North Carolina are backwards, and since you seem normal, you must not be from here."I care much less about someone appreciating my appearance than I do about someone's inability to recognize the goodness and love that exists in people… even those that may not be attractive. And maybe that's what I left out of this post. This person's preconceived qualifications of others and her quickness to see only what's on the outside interfered with her ability to truly appreciate them. And that's the sort of thing we should avoid.

  24. It may also be worth noting that this was a brand new missionary… far from home and perhaps still trying to fit comfortably into her missionary shoes. It IS different here, I don't hesitate to admit that. And while different isn't bad, it could certainly take some adjustment. It does me not good to judge her harshly or not allow her room to grow and stretch and learn about people. I certainly need that room, as we all do. We are all works in progress… trying, struggling, working each day to act as Jesus would act, to love as He loves. I know I'm not there yet, but I'm trying. And sharing examples like this one, when words spoken blindly and innocently can still cut deeply, will help us all be more aware, I think.

  25. What a fantastic post! Glad I found your blog. 🙂

  26. Came over to your blog after your post on MMB. Beautiful! Amen I agree with your post today. I also enjoyed browsing.Darling blog and you are so cute. Hooray for a little girl! Hope you are loving your holidays.Tauna

  27. I found your blog through random links from some good friends. I LOVE this post. Harsh. For all involved. I'm 34 and I can look back in my early 20's and have so many of "those" moments where I said something stupid and was completely clueless that it was stupid. Man. Good thing there is such a thing as forgiveness. And learning from experience. I live in "small town Missouri". And I love it. I wasn't raised here, but chose to live here. It's the lack of feeling judged that makes me love it so. Thanks for the post. And the reminder.

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