A moment of irritation is all it took. I was judge, jury, and executioner. I was a fool making hasty judgments with little evidence.
It was a random Saturday and I was working diligently putting the final content touches on my first book. I was captured in concentration and my focus was on point. A few people were in my favorite coffee shop, the barista, two seemingly high school aged young men, and another lady, who I approximated to be in her early thirties.
The door swung open and friend of the two teenagers walked in and plopped down on the couch between them. He was filled with fire. Immediately, he broke the silence of my office away from the office.
His anger was apparent through his profanity laced comments of disgust. He told his friends how he was done with “that house” and he wanted to move out. He was “sick of it” and “was going to pack up and leave tonight.”
Noticing that he rode his bicycle to the coffee shop, I began a narrative in my own head. “What are you going to pack your trash bag filled with the clothes mom and dad bought you and ride your bike to…where? No where.” I felt quite self-righteous in my narrative. For that moment, I was the judge, jury, and executioner. No evidence was needed. I heard and saw all I needed to make the “right” call.
I kept my thoughts to myself outside of the momentary sigh. Caught up in this chaos, no one else heard my audible disgust. The three left the shop and began to talk outside.
A few moments later my alarm sounded and I had to leave to pick up my daughter. On my way out of the shop, I saw the young man struggling to fix his tire. The narrative began again. “Are you going to leave home on a broken bike now?” As I made my final righteous judgment, I heard the young man on the edge of breaking. His voice filled with tears, but his eyes wouldn’t cave. I heard, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.
“I can’t take it anymore! My mom said she would stop drinking, because of what the doctor might find. But once the tests came back clear, she started drinking again. She promised me she would stop. I can’t live there anymore!”
With his friends consoling him, guilt descended upon me. Who was I to judge? I can’t believe I mocked this young man, albeit in my own head, based on the stereotypes I have in my head about teenagers. I drove off asking for forgiveness and knowing I was a little bit wiser. I spent time praying for that young man and what he was going through. Then it hit me.
Sometimes the kindest thing to do is turn off the judgmental narrative in our head and refuse to allow sound bytes to influence our judgments and thoughts. We should spend time in prayer and positive thought for others. Too often we don’t know the full story, but we allow observable faults to distract us from our own imperfection. This often leads to permissible negative judgments, when we should be looking for a way to show kindness.
As I take this lesson with me and allow it to penetrate my soul, I can see many possible applications. The bottom line, we all need to spend time looking to help and heal. Let’s seek a chance to inspire and support. When we are blindsided by the behaviors of others and sound bytes give way to a negative narrative, let’s take a minute to know – everyone we meet is fighting battles we know nothing about. Let’s spend our time not in judgment, but in love and kindness.
It’s moments like these where we can have the biggest impact on others. When we can fuel another’s RISE through small acts of kindness. In the end, I have learned to be quicker with kindness than to judgment. And that is a change, I am grateful to embrace.