About nine years ago, I found myself sinking in a quagmire of my own self-righteousness. I deemed myself “discerning” and looked down upon people who didn’t see things the same way I did. Was I right about what I believed? Yeah, I think so, and after much research and experience I still believe most of those things. But was my heart in the right place? Not at all. I would walk up and down the aisles of the Christian bookstore with my like-minded friends and giggle and snort about the ridiculousness being written, marketed, and—worst of all—sold. I would eye-roll at nearly every preacher I heard and disregard most things that those who loved me said. I put people in blanket categories that God never compartmentalized. I was a “cage stage” theologian by every definition of the word, and it left me feeling so very empty. I remember consciously thinking “This is too easy.” The vacuousness of being judgmental made it quite obvious that this isn’t what I was created to do.
I’ve felt that way multiple other times since then, and parenting has opened the gates to all kinds of new shortfalls. Five years ago when I first started learning about natural childbirth and breastfeeding, I got involved in a group that strongly advocated those things as well—and who respected me for my level of commitment as a “crunchy mama”—and I had trouble seeing how other moms could possibly choose differently for their kids. Then, a couple years later, I started really believing in the value of family, and I simply could not grasp why people didn’t want to have kids right away when parenting is so awesome. Most recently, I think I’ve become even more opinionated than ever and I just really wish in general that everyone in the world would think and act exactly like me. Yikes. Lately I’ve been experiencing that same feeling as I did a long time ago when I was snickering over other people’s bad theology. It just feels way too…natural. I’m going along with the vicious tide of my self-exalting nature and trying to ignore whatever is harmed in the aftermath.
I still advocate reformed theology, natural birth, breastfeeding, the value of families, homeschool, etc. And even in the midst of my most judgmental seasons, I have had genuine love for people who disagree with me. I think it would be an insult to the God who is changing me if I admitted to always being a total loveless monster and hypocrite. That said, I don’t think I can really overstate the badness of my natural disposition. Who I am without Jesus is truly a terrible person. And when that person oozes through this new person that I’m becoming, it’s a bad thing. I need to expose it, I need to kill it, and I need to be overcome by something better.
At root of being judgmental is, of course, pride, but I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of pride that is wearing a sneaky disguise: insecurity. I can reflect on all my most judgmental seasons and see a girl who wasn’t sure of herself and needed to drag others down to elevate myself…if not with my words, I would belittle people with my thoughts. Little judgmental thoughts are like taking bites of a candy bar that help me feel better about my own insecurities. I make a mistake or a poor choice, I start to feel bad about it, but then I remember, “Hey, so-and-so does this all the time and worse!” or “At least I’m still better at this than most people.” That, my friends, is toxic thinking.
So…what’s the solution? Whelp, I’m convinced it’s not “loving myself.” At risk of sounding judgmental, I’m going to firmly disagree with the popular notion that the cure for insecurity is telling myself I’m awesome. Here’s why: self-focus in one way is not going to be cured by self-focus in another way. Self-focus, whether it’s arrogance or insecurity, is going to be destructive. I am so very finite and have so many problems and so many weaknesses that “finding myself”, “loving myself”, etc. can only have, at best, severely limited results. There is only so much “greatness” to peer into, if any, and I have so little to offer myself. Historically I’ve only gotten myself into trouble. Aren’t we all this way?
I’m only ever becoming more and more convinced that the key way to grow in self-confidence is to grow in confident humility. Say what!? I am privileged enough to know some of the happiest and most awesome people on the planet, and guess what! They care so much about others that they don’t have much time to think about themselves. And that is not to their detriment. When we’re not seeking approval from other people (or ourselves), we are freed up to love recklessly. And, of course, the only way we can see ourselves rightly with a sense of confident humility is if we behold the Greatest thing, the only being in the universe who does not need to be humble (because there is none greater than Him) but who willingly chose to humble Himself and become a servant. Jesus said that anyone who wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all, and He has exemplified that in His birth, His life, His ministry, the washing of His disciples’ feet, His prayers, His death, His resurrection, His Church, and then there’s that gloriously mysterious verse in Luke 12:37 in which Jesus suggests He will have us recline at the table and He will serve us. (What!?)
This weekend I heard a speaker say something quite profound: Christianity isn’t rocket science. It’s simply good news. I need a Savior, God has provided a Savior. He changes me. Notice that little children aren’t fretting about insecurities; they’re not thinking “Wow that person is so weird” or frequently comparing themselves to others (unless we train them to do so.) They know their parents love them and that's all they need to know. They’ve got too many holes to dig and Play-doh snakes to make to worry about if they dig more holes or make better snakes than most kids do. Why can I not learn from them?
So, to summarize:
Being judgmental is an easy but empty way to live.
As we get older, we should grow in graciousness; we must not mistake “crotchety” for being the same as “wise.”
Confident humility and loving others recklessly will free us.
There is no true humility without knowing Jesus and beholding God.
Let’s become like children and live in delightful assurance of being truly, deeply loved.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today