This word alone is more loaded than any blog post can explain.
Let’s start with the feeling it evokes when spoken, heard, read…
It’s a sinking feeling.
The very thought of being judged, or the realization that we so often judge others – it hurts.
“She has an amazing family. That’s got to be so nice.”
What nobody sees are the nights when she woke up to the sound of yet another argument. The nights when she heard her door open and there stood the younger brother in his P.J.’s asking for “a story.” On those nights, she read him “Berenstain Bears” to drown out the voices of anger and unresolved hurt. And no one knows about that one night, when a dead cell phone was charging, a voicemail was left by a sister saying goodbye. She was 16. They might see the “amazing family”, but they don’t know about the recent reveal of the shame left in the wake of a babysitter’s abuse. No one can see inside a family praying for healing for a terminally-sad heart, and for cancer to be defeated and for a soulful boy to give his heart to the Healer.
No one can see into the “happy” families that sit on Sunday mornings and serve on Wednesday nights without really trying.
“She’s so happy all the time. It must be nice to not have real worries and be all sunshiny.”
She tears herself apart in the mirror every day, picking out each flaw and mercilessly holding it up to her own unattainable standard. “Never _________enough.” This repulsion of her body is so intense, she disappears into the bathroom, flirting with the idea of rejecting all those enemy calories, like it never happened. It is her body, after all, that holds her back from the life that would truly make her happy. Having an attractive appearance, they say, is “not important” and yet “absolutely necessary” at the same time. WHAT?!
Life has felt void of the height of emotion she’s supposed to have for a couple years now. She’s seen all the right doctors since then, each one looked down their nose at her for ‘just feeling anxious and sad’. She couldn’t bear it if her friends looked at her that way too. So she pastes a peaceful smile on her face and prays it’ll conceals the ache she’s been carrying.
“I haven’t seen her at church in weeks. I guess she’s not really all that she makes herself out to be.”
She started by curbing her earnest prayers, wondering more about what others thought, while blinking back tears that used to come so quickly. She didn’t want to be too much. Not too emotional or too spiritual. She didn’t want to be a burden.
She’d been wrestling with God for months. She so desperately wanted to build on her relationship with Him, but her rejection from the church has left her so confused. The joy that used to fill her soul seems tainted, and she wasn’t sure whether it would come back.
The disconnect crept in slowly and confidently. She was there and not there all at the same time. She was sitting in a circle of “community” and realized she no longer had the energy to pray out loud, for fear that she would say what was expected and not what she really wanted. There was a “group” and it was clear that she wasn’t a part. No one even noticed she’s stopped coming. Does she still belong there? Does this all just boil down to some “self-seeking behavior” like they say?
It’s woven into each of these realities. Our assumptions and explanations are a lot simpler to believe because learning the whole story is just
“none of our business.” too much effort.
These stories are part of me and part of women whom I love and respect. For all I know they might embody your story too.
We settle for constructing our own realities. The most painful thing about judgement might not be about being on the receiving end of it; it might be about coming to terms with the doses of judgement that we dole out. It’s much easier to create a story for someone than it is to come into their mess and try to understand their hurt. I so often miss opportunities to uncover truth and let the Spirit work in/through me to be present with whomever it is.
The space created that keeps The Body fragmented and torn is often made up of the things we don’t know. These things we don’t know, we take the liberty of filling in the gaps ourselves.
Let’s remember this is a two-way street of self-less concern on one hand and the bravery to be vulnerable on the other. It’s only when both are lived out that we create the atmosphere of edification and truth. Call me an idealist, but I think we can do this…together.