Hi, my name is David and I’m an Alcoholic. Although alcohol has never been a victim of my addictive personality, there are many things that have. I openly confess at different times in my life to having been in the grips of nicotine, video games, TV shows, food and a host of other predilections I could name. One of the reasons I believe Alcoholics Anonymous has been so successful in the lives of so many is its philosophy of leveling the playing field. There is no room to judge because we are all addicts here, and no one is better than their neighbor.
Have you ever noticed just how often we do judge those around us, whether it be close friends or family, or just the jerk who tries to run us off the highway – here I go again, yes, that happened yesterday. Again! I am going to suggest 3 good reasons why this is not only counter-productive, but actually damages ourselves and those around us.
Reason 1 – For those of us who profess faith in Jesus, there is a well known statement by Paul in the New Testament when he says – “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.” (The Message) In simple terms, we have all failed to live a perfect life and needed rescuing. Even more compelling, our standing with God has been restored not by any effort of ours, but by the actions of this Jesus who did what he did for every single being who ever lived, lives or who will live on this earth. By the way, for those of us who think we have some special, more elevated standing in the hierarchy because we go to church, this was the result of no effort on our part, but it was all Jesus…for everyone! Later on, this same Paul says “The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.” (The Message).
Reason 2 – It occurred to me, when I shone the spotlight on my own tendency to judge others, that deep down, my motivation was to make myself feel better! We seem to think that robbing someone else of their dignity somehow enhances our own. If I can identify weakness or fault in others, somehow it makes me look better by comparison. In effect, all we are accomplishing is a cover up of our own deep seated inadequacy. Acknowledging our own humble failings and rejoicing at the good in those around us actually releases us to enjoy our own self-worth and fully accept who we are. From there, it removes the damaging barrier of superiority and releases us to enjoy deeper relationships with those around us.
Reason 3 – The environment we create through our judging of others rebounds back on all of us as we struggle to hide our failings and build a defensive wall. It was Jesus that said “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment.” It occurs to me the more judging is inherent in our culture, the more we fear our failings will be judged. This leads us to hide, cover up and avoid admission in order to preserve our standing in the community, be this family, workplace, church or any other human tribe. Our fear of being judged by others deprives us of one of the most powerful weapons in finding freedom and healing. Admitting when we are wrong and acknowledging our weakness. This brings us back to the power of Alcoholics Anonymous. Admitting we have failed, that we are no better than the person next to us and that we need help from each other and ‘a higher power’ gives AA adherents a proven path to healing.
It is far too easy for those of us who profess faith in Jesus to imagine that we are somehow superior to those who don’t. We might do well to reflect on the words of Paul. “There is no partiality with God!”