Some time ago Page and I went to see the play “Big Fish.” It was magnificent, a celebration of music, dance, love, and life. It took me a while to get into the celebrative mode, however, because of the man who was seated in front of me. I nicknamed him “The Human Metronome.” He shifted constantly. He was tall and broad-shouldered. The seats were not designed for folks with longer legs, I suppose (folks like him... or like myself). And so, he had difficulty finding a comfortable spot. Each time he shifted, he would block my view. So, I would shift in my seat in order to see around him. That would last a minute (usually less), and then he would shift again, once more blocking my view. So, I, too, would have to shift to see the stage. It was constant, his moving left-to-right-to-left-to-right, like a metronome.
At one point I said to Page: “He is driving me nuts!” She answered: “And think what you’re doing to the woman sitting behind you.” Good point. We so often fail to see in ourselves the very qualities we are so quick to condemn in others. I heard a woman say about another woman not long ago: “She is the worst gossip in the world!” That sentence itself is a statement of gossip. She condemned someone else for doing what she was doing in that very moment. I have been guilty of the same.
I have a friend who recently said: “That guy is a menace on the highway. What he doesn’t know about driving would fill a book!” The man who made that statement averages about three speeding tickets annually and once had his license revoked for a year.
Jesus taught: “Judge not that you be not judged. For the judgment you extend will be that which you receive.” He understood that we fail to recognize (or admit) in ourselves what we are so quick to condemn in others. The late Bryant Kirkland once said: “If you are always late for every occasion, you will probably not easily tolerate someone who is late meeting you for lunch.“ “For the judgment you extend will that which you receive.”
Perhaps when I feel inclined to point an accusing finger at someone else, I should first ask myself why I am so upset, so intolerant. Where does this rising tide of negative emotion come from? Am I seeing in someone else something that I would prefer to deny in myself, but their action is holding a mirror up to me and I resent it? “Judge not that you be not judged.” In at least one sense, that includes being our own judges – acknowledging and confessing realities about ourselves that we would rather ignore.
A friend of mine said that across the years he has learned to be increasingly tolerant of others by simply saying: “Jesus died for them, too.” It’s not a statement that condones anyone’s wickedness. But, it is a statement that confesses that at some point, we are all in the boat together. We have all dropped the ball in some way or another. And we are all in need of something we cannot provide for ourselves, namely, the unconditional Grace of God. “Jesus died for them, too.” When I notice how poorly tended someone else’s garden appears, rather than criticizing, perhaps it is a wise idea to weed my own.