Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks that in many areas our culture has gone bananas with the harshness.
You know what I’m talking about. Trump makes a nasty comment about Fiorna’s looks. People say negative things about Beyoncé’s thighs after her Super Bowl half-time performance. (I mean really. Body-shaming BEYONCE? Are you insane?) Somebody posts a picture of the gorgeous slice of cheesecake she got, and several folks weigh in below, commenting on her weight and the importance of a healthy diet.
Think of all the Mommy Wars stuff. Breast-feeding or bottle-feeding? Vaccinate or don’t? Public, private, religious, or home schooling? To spank or not to spank? Should your teenagers get jobs or do extracurriculars? Pick the wrong answer and you’ll be summarily shot. (Spoiler: there will always be somebody who thinks you picked the wrong answer and is willing to tell you all about it.)
It’s everywhere. If you drive a Land Rover, you must be an entitled snob who doesn’t give a rip about the environment. If you have a Kindle, you are trying to take down the publishing industry. If you serve your kids box mac and cheese, you are contributing to childhood obesity. If you are comfortable in your skin, you are a mean person shaming anyone who doesn’t look like you – who isn’t your body type or shape or size or color. If you say Black Lives Matter, you clearly think all the other lives shouldn’t. If you are a Republican, you want to oppress the poor; and if you’re a Democrat, you are clearly a communist, and lazy to boot.
We are so quick to jump to judgmental conclusions about each other based on tiny amounts of data – like our choice of vehicle or where our kids go to school. And I think what it all comes down to is that we are afraid. We are afraid that if someone is doing something different from us, one of us must be wrong.
There certainly are plenty of wrong things to do out there, and I’m not saying that we should just let those go. (That is often more appropriately done in private in the context of a friendship, not Tumblr, and especially not to someone you don’t even know.) But when we keep the main things as the main things, and stop making everything else so doggone black and white, we’ll start to see things differently. Breast- and bottle-feeding parents are both lovingly feeding their children.
If you’re a Christian like I am, then there’s another layer we can see going on here. God calls different people, different families, to different things. Maybe the Hoopers are buying that big house for the kingdom, planning to use it to serve their community as they host events, house missionaries on furlough, and become family to foster children. Maybe the Maxwells are sending their kids to that pricy private school with a missional mindset – private school families need Jesus too, after all.
People who are shopping at Whole Foods are just trying to feed their families well, just like the folks shopping at Kroger and HEB and Walmart and Central Market and the farmers’ market. And sure, there are people blindly buying – and you can share cool articles about avoiding preservatives and or eating organic. That’s great. But hopping on somebody’s Facebook post about the amazing deals they got at Walmart to lecture them about the evils of “cheese products” smacks of a harshness and judgment that we have way too much of right now.
That podcast I’m really into, Sorta Awesome, celebrates the idea of “sorta.” We can’t do everything, y’all. We can’t raise chickens AND read the classics to our children AND work full-time AND run the community garden AND have a profitable Etsy shop AND be PTA president AND take our kids to all the national parks AND sleep 7-9 hours a night AND run marathons. So we figure out what works for us, and we do that as best we can. We do sorta. For me lately, that looks like embracing the fact that eating an apple is better for my body than eating a box of Mike and Ikes, even though there’s obviously sugar in the apple too. It looks like trying to move my body more, even if I can’t really pull off a proper “workout” most of the time.
Would it be so hard to give other people the benefit of the doubt? To assume that they have actually thought about these things? Do we really so desperately need to be right about every little decision to the exclusion of all other options that we are a bunch of meanies? Is Mean Girls our new model for adult behavior, but instead of keeping nasty comments in The Book, we publish them far and wide?
Our quickness to condemn others shows our fear of condemnation. It doesn’t smack of grace, y’all. It doesn’t even smack of justice. Instead of wanting to assess the situation for what it is, this disposition is actually looking for faults, hypercritical, and often hypocritical. Word Hippo (my favorite thesaurus) brings words like censorious, carping, hair-splitting, persnickety into the conversation.
I’m not okay with being persnickety, and for a person who has been given immeasurable grace, it’s exceedingly unbecoming. Remember Jesus’s parable about the servant who owed the king an obscene amount of money and, when he pled for mercy, saw his debt forgiven? But then he went and got a colleague who owed him a comparable pittance thrown into debtor’s prison? And the king found out and revoked his debt-forgiveness program? It is a warning to us.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That should to reorient our hearts and make us gracious. If the Gospel is deep in our hearts, then it will ooze out of us. So if you, like me, recognize this harshness in yourself, the answer is the Gospel.
The answer is always the Gospel. Drive it deeper into your heart.