Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On not judging...

Margaret from Minnesota Mom has got me thinking about something that has been on my mind a lot/I've been struggling with lately. In her post, The Grace of Losing It (Part I) (part two can be found here) she talks about witnessing a mom "lose it" in a BIG way with her children in a public place.

That got me thinking about my internal struggle with not judging such mothers when I see them interacting with their children, whether it's their tone of voice, their discipline methods (or lack thereof), etc. that I disagree with. I feel like I'm finally making some progress in this area lately (it's only taken five years!). I try to give the mother the benefit of the doubt that maybe she's having a really bad day or just really doesn't know how to discipline. I acknowledge to myself that I don't know all of her circumstances and that I would probably behave the same way or maybe even worse if I was in the same situation and finally I say a prayer for her.

So, with that background information, I want to relate to you a story.

The other weekend I was out running errands without kids. It was great! I went to four or five different stores and I was able to get in and out so quickly.

My last stop was Target to get some school supplies and miscellaneous household items. As I'm walking the aisles (you know the ones that have the things that mommies like that you never go down if you have the kids with you), I hear a child screaming either at or for his mother. Over and over again he yells, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" It's a very big store and he sounds far away so he must be yelling very loudly.

My non-judgmental self thinks, wow, someone must be having a tough day, and I continue shopping and try to ignore what I am hearing and think about other things.

But the child continues to yell over and over and over again. I remind myself that I don't know the circumstances of what is going on and maybe there is a reason for this behavior. And then I think, what if this child is lost! He could be lost and calling for his mother! How horrible! I hope he finds her or she finds him soon!

Shortly after these thoughts the yelling stops and I feel assured that the mother and child must have been reunited.

I continue shopping and after a while I head down the aisle with school supplies. As I'm throwing a couple of things in my cart I hear the child yell again for his mommy. However, this time the yell is very close by. In fact they are in the same aisle as I am and it is obvious that the screaming child is being extremely sassy and disrespectful to his mother. I think that surely this mother is going to correct her son and not let him talk to her this way. I pretend to be deeply engrossed in looking at the various types of lunchboxes so that way I won't embarrass the mother as she deals with the situation. But what I hear her say is, "Well, then, do you want the blue one instead?"

What!?! I'm shocked! Not only did she not correct her child's out of control behavior but now she is catering to his demands! You've got to be kidding me!

Now I look over at the mother and I lock eyes with . . . my neighbor! It was my neighbor's three year old son that I have been hearing this entire time! I know I have a surprised and extremely guilty look on my face and I struggle to find something to say as my cheeks begin to flush.

"Um, hi." (Boy, that was a brilliant recovery.)

She responds with a hello, we have a little small talk and then I get out of there as fast as I can.

So, I still have a lot of work to do. It was hours later after relaying this story to Eric that I realized that I never did say a prayer for her. So, I started out okay but in the end I broke all the rules that I had set down for myself to keep myself from judging others.

Maybe I need some new rules, or maybe I just need more practice. Does anyone have any suggestions?


veronica said...

I, too have the same struggle, and aside from prayer and actively practicing charitable thoughts, I think it is something that we will struggle with our whole life, unless the good Lord desires to take that cross away from us...do not fret, my dear, you are not alone...but keep praying with hope and confidence and I know that our Lord will be pleased with your efforts!

Colleen said...

Oh, thank you, Veronica! You're words are so comforting and reassuring!

Margaret in Minnesota said...

It's not too late to pray for your neighbor, you know. ;) Some of my best prayers are applied retroactively! (Like yourself, I am often very slow on the draw.)

We want to better, though, and as Veronica says, sometimes our Lord wants us to suffer the humility of having judged someone so that we're not so quick to do it next time.