I've never been someone who just blends into the crowd. I am extremely outgoing. I'm confident. I talk to strangers...at length. I'm passionate about A LOT of things. I have a three-year-old who dances everywhere she goes while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" at the top of her lungs. Pretty hard to go unnoticed with that last one. All of those things are fine with me. It's who I am. But prior to dreading my hair, at least I LOOKED like everyone else on the outside, even if I was a little crazy on the inside. These days, it's pretty clear that I am not like the others. And when you look different, people seem to stare more. It's very strange to go from being occasionally noticed, to having people blatantly gawking at you. I can understand it though...because before I had dreads, I would totally stare at people who had dreads. Because I WANTED dreads! Of course, it's a little hard to determine what is in people's minds when they are staring. Do they want dreads too? Do they know someone who has dreads? Are they wondering how a white girl got her hair to knot up like that? Were they judging me because I looked different?
Which brings me to my next point. Judgment. Picture yourself walking through the mall or the grocery store. You see someone who looks different than you or who may be acting different than you. Is your first reaction to comment out loud to your companions? Maybe a comment about how silly that person looks? Or how obnoxious they are acting? Maybe you're not with anyone, but you still think it and you inwardly roll your eyes as that person walks by.
We've all been there. If you haven't ever judged someone by their appearance...I really don't think you're human. Is it truly possible to just look at someone and acknowledge that they are different, but not judge them? Is it truly possible to just look at a person for WHO they are inside and not what they look like on the outside? Is it truly possible to see a SOUL instead of a BODY? I think so. But for me, it won't happen without letting Christ control my mind.
When I see something or someone that is different...especially if they happen to be rubbing m the wrong way, the reaction of my flesh (a.k.a. sin nature) is to judge. My mind is usually not filled with loving, uplifting thoughts about that person. That can only come when I am abiding with Christ and HE is the one controlling my thought life. When He is in control of my thoughts, HIS thoughts come through first and mine get thrown away. When my thoughts align with Christ's, I think first of how that person's day has been, what kind of things they've had to deal with, and the kind of hurts they have experienced in their life. I look at them with a more gentle spirit and I recognize things in them that I myself have struggled with in the past or things I am still struggling with, but don't want to address. In Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus offers a reminder in our dealings with others:
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye".
Judgment has an entire industry. Just look around as you check out at the grocery store next time. Gossip magazines are a great tool to help you judge others. "Brittany shaves head!". "Paris in jail!". Is your first thought..."she deserved it..." or "what on earth was she thinking? She's crazy". Or did your heart hurt for Brittany as she struggled with the whole world watching? As Paris cried out for her mother...did you laugh at her or feel her pain with her? Jesus showed nothing but love and mercy to ALL people. He broke bread with prostitutes and tax collectors. He rebuked those who were judgmental in their thoughts toward others. It doesn't mean that they won't have to experience the consequences of their sins or that they should continue on that path. But He looked at them with LOVE first. Next time you want to pick up one of those magazines...think about the thoughts it causes you to have and what purpose they have in your life. Is an industry based on gossip and judgment one you want to support with your money?
It's not always strangers that we judge...we judge those closest to us. Our friends, our family...those we love the most. Think of how different your group of friends could be or how different your family could be if the only words from your mouth to them were edifying and uplifting...only allowing thoughts of grace or forgiveness to come into your mind and out of your mouth as you speak about them or to them. I know that all of you have probably experienced deep hurts in your life...and they often come from someone close to you. It is possible to judge the situation apart from the person involved. It's hard, but you can.
"...so i have developed an exercise. we'll call it a spiritual discipline - that, if applied to my lifestyle every few days or weeks, will strengthen my 'higher self' or 'new man' or 'bad a**' or whatever it is that cooperates with the Spirit of God (i.e. unrelenting generosity & compassion). it's called "people watching". i know we all do it. some of us even watch people watching other people. but this is maybe a bit different because of the intention - in the same way one could eat a big mac for nourishment or only for entertainment. so the intention to cultivate is this: no partiality. meaning, that as i am watching big/small, dirty/clean, sober/stoned, rich/poor, pretty/ugly people... i am doing so with the intention of seeing value in each one that i focus on. breaking subconscious habits of finding people less than. i am confronting automatic response patterns and prejudices that come up, for example, when i see an anarchist and just want to write him off as an angry lost soul. first, i have to acknowledge that i really do feel this way and then try to move into projecting/thinking/praying only good things for this person - as well as asking the Great Spirit to help me out with my crusty, impatient tendencies to be closed jerk. basically, asking for help as i work towards becoming a more merciful, understanding person. and we all know that life is a lot better when you are hanging out with someone like that. things feel on time and you feel as though you are actually a unique and interesting person."
When those judgmental thoughts enter your mind..."capture" them and submit them to Christ. When you let negative thoughts run rampant in your mind...the outcome is always bitterness and a hardened heart.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8)."
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2)."
You will be amazed at how different your entire life can be if your thoughts are focused on the GOOD things, not the bad...in people, in situations, everywhere. This is not just a Christian philosophy...people of all faiths can embrace this concept and choose not to judge. Set your mind...and have eyes of mercy.