To know them, we must look to the good

I wrote the following journal entry for one of the classes I am currently taking. The topic is judging others, why we do it, and how it impact us relationally. It spoke to me as I wrote it, so I wanted to share it on a broader scope. If you can relate, please share a comment of encouragement at the end of the post.

 “In order to believe in people we must make a decision to know only the good in them. If our eyes are open, we’ll see the evil, too, but we must decide to know only the good. After all, only the good can truly be known. Good reveals, evil conceals. The evil in people is what keeps us from knowing them. To know them, we must look to the good.” – Mike Mason, Practicing the Presence of People (pg. 32)

I found this quote to be particularly telling in explaining part of why we judge people – we fail to look through all of their junk and see the good. As Mason suggests, we have to decide to only know and see the good. While this wasn’t in the assigned reading, I stumbled upon it while skimming. This quote in particular was an ‘aha’ moment for me because I am quite adept in analyzing patterns and finding faults, particularly when it comes to behaviors and habits. I justify my analysis by way of development; that is, leadership and personal development.

The standard to which I hold myself accountable very easily bleeds into what I expect of others. It’s as if I am expecting that everyone else around me is also working on their own development in the same given area at the same given time. If not, I should encourage them to do so. When they chose not to, then I find many reasons to judge them. Of course, I entirely realize how counterintuitive this is once I take pause and hear myself say it out loud.

The natural side-effect is that my influence is diminished when I try to hold people to my standard rather than their own. I think this really is the crux, for me, of why I judge people: I expect them to be at the same place and trying just as hard as I am to improve. It’s not realistic at best, and it sets everyone up to fail at worst. Judging others seems to come from either a deficit within ourselves, or a false expectation of others. Either way, we can easily find ways to identify the shortcomings of others long before we see them in ourselves.

Relationally, I have found a tendency within me to close myself off to people once I find a pattern of behavior that I don’t like, especially if it’s one that they either deny or refuse to correct. Trust and personal responsibility are the two biggest trip wires for me. If I can’t trust you, then I don’t have any need to acknowledge you beyond what is required. If you refuse to take personal responsibility for your life, then we really have nothing in common. When this happens, I can easily write people off. As I get older and go deeper into personal and leadership development, I am realizing that writing people off only closes me off to relationships, and to being a positive influence for others.

I have been judged a lot throughout my life. My family didn’t have much money, and I was a bored student with unchallenged potential. Therefore, I was the problem kid who wouldn’t amount to much more than a criminal record. Honestly, I danced dangerously close to fulfilling that stigma. I was fortunate in life to have a very select few people who were only capable of seeing the good in me. Those pivotal few still hold a special and unshakeable place in my life, and I owe much of the credit for any success I accomplish to them. While I fully believe that one must make their own luck and carve their own paths, there is something to be said for the guidance that God gives us through the people we meet.

Now, it is my turn. I need to be increasingly aware of opportunities to be a ‘select few’ for someone else. It may be for my daughter and my step kids, or one of their friends, or for one of the guys at work. Looking for the good in others opens me to relationships and allows God to use those relationships for His purposes. I value my legacy, and what I most want is to live a life that adds value to others. Being quick to judge is not a milestone on that path, so it’s helpful to me to carefully consider this as a reminder and a warning: Good reveals, evil conceals. To know people, I must look to the good.

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