I spend most days with a measuring stick in my hand. I whip my stick out when I want to see how others’ measure up. I use it to see if they are accomplished, fit, beautiful, spiritual, athletic, funny, intelligent. I use it to see how they look in comparison to me. Are they as talented? As hard-working? As functional? I use it to see whether I should shower them with praise or raise an eyebrow of disgust when they come my way. Should they be spoken well of in conversation, or should I point out their errors to anyone who will listen?
You’re probably carrying a stick in your hand too. Take a moment to look at it. What’s written on it? What are the units of measurement scripted on the side? If you are like me, your stick may read units of judgment. I put it against anyone I come into contact with. Where do they fall on my measuring stick?
That person is incompetent.
This man is awkward.
She is so spoiled.
He is too loud.
They are doing it wrong.
(I’m slightly – ok more than slightly – embarrassed to admit these thoughts in writing. But here it is disclosed – my habit of continually scouring of people to decide where they fall on my stick. This habit often manifests itself in “judging eyebrows” as my friends call my expressive reaction to people that are…weird.)
Hidden at the bottom of my stick is this memo: Remember, judge other people because it helps make your own insecurities seem less apparent.
Because really, we are mostly concerned that we are not as thin as the girl next to us. We don’t have as many achievements as the person across the room. We wish we had more friends like she does. We want a bigger paycheck. We would like to dress cuter. We would like to be funnier, or more outgoing, or better at managing our emotions. Our insecurities are uncomfortable to confront, hard to control. So instead we simply point out the faults, oddities, and deficiencies of others. It is far easier to whip out a measuring stick of judgment than it is to look at the problems brewing in our own soul. We are looking at the speck in our brother’s eye rather than working on the plank in our own.
(Have you ever taken the time to visualize this image Jesus painted? It is outrageously hilarious and also kind of gruesome. Imagine a person with a two by four lodged in their eye socket attempting to remove a piece of dust with tweezers from their friend’s eye. Jesus was a funny guy.)
I think the worst part about our tendency to measure with judgment is that we have to live our days in fear, cowering from all the other judgment sticks pointed in our direction. What if they notice the extra pounds around my hips? What will they think of my messy house? Do they know I got all my clothes at the thrift store? What would they think of me if they knew I lost my patience with those children? Will they think poorly of me if I cancel our appointment? Will they think less of me if they see that I’m struggling?
Because when we measure with judgment we expect everyone else to do the same. What a sickening loss of freedom and joy we choose by living this way.
Take your stick up in your hand again. Turn it over. The opposite side of the stick shows a second option of units to measure by. Units of grace.
That person may be new to this job.
He has many obstacles to overcome.
She is little and doesn’t know better.
He is just excited.
They are humans, liable to fail. Just like me.
What if we began to actually measure by grace? What if we looked at the people we encounter today and regardless of their faults or struggles or irritating habits we offered grace to them? What if the stick we held up against them read, “God’s creation, dearly loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, covered by grace.”
And the best thing about extending grace? It comes right back to you, just like a boomerang. With the measure that you use, it will be measured to you.