Everyone Judging Anyone
by Kathleen Whitten
Public speaking can be a funny thing. Public speaking is like life: You're never sure what to expect, and apparently the audience isn’t either.
Many times groups invite me to speak without having seen me. Some assume I look this way or act that way, and when I do not fit their description, some have actually said, “Gee, we thought you were (older, taller, wider, wilder, calmer, more talkative, less talkative...). You get the picture.
But interestingly, most people go on to say, “But we are so glad you are who you are, because your message of God’s love really spoke to our hearts.”
Public speaking is just like life. We all have certain pre-conceived notions or images about the people around us. We have first impressions, second impressions and even third impressions—but that is all they are—impressions.
And even as we get beyond impressions and get to know a person on the inside, we still do not ever really know everything about him or her—even if he or she is a family member or even an intimate friend.
In relation to this, let’s mention a very dangerous activity.
It is not sky diving or race car driving. It can actually be much more treacherous in its impact than those activities. It is much more common. Most people do it every day. It is called: figuring someone out.
I’ve heard people say (myself included), “I really can’t figure out ‘So-and-So.’ ‘So-and-So’ seems to be blah blah blah blah... What do you think ‘So-and-So is thinking? Why do you think So-and-So did that?”
This practice of figuring someone out is dangerous territory for several reasons.
One: Any time we try to analyze or even guess the motives of another then we are judging them and this is a big “Don’t Go There!” according to God.
Luke 6:36-37 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Two: Life is complicated enough trying to figure out ourselves. It would be simply exhausting to try to figure out anyone else. Half the time we don’t even know why we do the things we do—how could we ever know why someone else does something?
Number three: When it comes to another person, we never have the full picture. There is always missing information. No one but God can know the whole story, grasp the big picture, or understand heart motives.
No one except God.
1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts...”
Only God can understand motives behind our thoughts. Only God understands our past experiences, our secret fears, our private dreams and our intimate prayers.
Recently, I had a great discussion with a group of women about how freeing it is to realize that everyone’s opinion doesn’t matter. Isn’t it strange that through our whole lives there has been this ominous being called everyone—although no one can tell anyone who everyone is.
“I can’t wear that. Everyone will think I am stupid.”
“Honey, we can’t go to the coast for only two nights. Everyone knows that isn’t enough time.”
“God, I’m not sure I can do what You are asking me to do. What will Everyone think?”
Does any of this sound familiar?
Would it be too weird to make up a T-shirt that said: “Who’s Everyone?”
Two things I’ve learned:
Everyone isn’t the one that matters.
We can’t judge anyone.
One time I drove several hours in heavy fog and light drizzle to speak in a nearby city. I finally arrived at a bank building which was the setting for the business women’s meeting. Upon arriving, I was greeted by a distinguished group of women who formed the welcoming committee that checked off names as people arrived.
I walked up to the first lady in the line and told her my name. She was looking at the lower half of my body and didn’t appear to be paying attention, so I repeated myself, “Hello. My name is Kathleen Whitten.”
This time, her eyes traveled from my heels to my skirt (which I then began to believe she must have perceived as too short) and then up to my hair.
Somewhat shocked, I repeated my name a third time and added, “I am the speaker for your meeting.”
“Oh!” another lady at the next table exclaimed, “Oh, well, of course we are so glad you are here,” she said as she got up almost knocking over the welcome table. “You’ll want to freshen up I’m sure,” she continued. “Uh, don’t you think that it would be a good idea for our speaker to freshen up before we begin?” She addressed the other hostesses.
Everyone murmured yes, and I heard a chorus of, “Please, do feel free to freshen up.” The first lady still had not even acknowledged my presence.
On the way to the bathroom, I felt relatively sure something was glaringly wrong with my appearance. Maybe I am much younger than they expected. Maybe my skirt is too short. Maybe I have something awful in between my teeth. I mulled this over in the ladies room while washing my hands. The door opened and the original unwelcoming hostess walked up to the sink and began to wash her hands.
Now I was challenged. I could ignore her as she had rudely ignored me, or I could make another attempt at being friendly. “It was really foggy on the drive here,” I heard myself say, “but that’s okay, ‘cause I kinda like driving in the fog. I like driving in the rain too, but I’m glad we aren’t in a downpour right now.”
Not so subtly, and without even glancing my way, she reached for a paper towel, dried her hands and exited the bathroom.
You know, a lot of things go through your mind when you are treated like dirt.
I thought about packing up and going home, but my stomach was growling and more importantly I believed that welcome or not—God had sent me with a message: ironically, a message about His love.
So after running several ridiculous scenarios in my mind: leaving, going up to the podium and talking about rudeness, hand pinning my skirt even shorter, or delivering my hour message in less than five minutes, I finally decided to pray.
“God, I know You sent me to these women to bring a message from You. But God, they do not even like me. Please make Your love shine through me in a way they will understand. Amen”
No sooner had I prayed than I heard a voice inside me say, “If you speak directly to her, she will hear you.”
“Okay,” I said out loud, not even caring if anyone was in the bathroom stalls and heard, “I’ll do what you say God.”
Even as I exited the ladies room, my mind began churning, “You don’t even know where she is sitting in that crowd, how can you ‘talk directly’ to her?’”
But as I headed toward the front table, I passed her. She was the table hostess of one of the front and center tables facing mine.
After the usual introductions, I began my talk. But for the first time in my short speaking career, I spoke almost as if I were addressing one person.
It is normal speaker etiquette to scan the room with your gaze as you talk. Instead, I faced the unwelcoming hostess for every important comment. I directed my attention to her and did my best to talk directly to her without being too obvious.
And something began to happen. As I talked, she slowly melted and came alive! She laughed at my little jokes! And she teared up when I described something touching. She clasped her hands in front of her face during suspenseful descriptions and frowned in contemplation when I talked about the depth of God’s love for us. She even smiled—no, beamed—when I described Christ’s love and forgiveness for us all. And I knew God was right: when I spoke to her, she really got it!
After the luncheon, several women approached, and she was among them.
While another lady was talking to me, I saw her friend lean toward the now beaming “unwelcoming hostess,” tap her on the shoulder and say very clearly and slowly, “Could. You. Understand. The. Speaker?”
And very slowly, very methodically, but with great joy, she answered her friend, “I huh-rd ev-er-y Wuhrd.”
She was deaf.
I cried on the way home after the meeting.
I cried because God is so wise and I am not. God told me that if I spoke right to her then she would hear me because she needed to read my lips.
I cried because I had judged someone and I was so wrong.
I cried because I had made a new friend.
And I cried because God showed me how to speak so that my friend would hear.
I learned in a very real way that day we don’t always see the full picture or hear the whole story.
I learned not only do we not always speak the same language, but some of us hear the same language in a different way.
All of us truly need God to direct us in communicating, understanding and loving each other. This is part of our human need. This is life.
Dear Jesus, please forgive me for the times I have judged another. I recognize that only You can know the intentions of someone’s heart, and it is wrong for me to judge anyone. I ask You now to please bless this person (s) I have judged, misunderstood, or harbored bitterness against.
Forgive me also Lord for over concerning myself about everyone. Truly Your opinion matters most. Forgive me for putting too much emphasis upon what everyone else thinks or does.
Help me please to live my life in such a way that You shine through. Help me to communicate Your love in a language people will understand without me being offended or touchy.God, please mold me into someone you can use.
Luke 6:36-37 “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”
1 Chronicles 28:9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts...”
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