My son would say, "You judge my friends harshly, Mom!" And I was frustrated to explain that I had been given from God deep and true affection for his friends, but also discernment about where the choices his friends were making would lead them. Even these many years later, two friends who have productive work lives and warm family relationships were on the path to a good life despite desperate challenges even when they were quite young. And so are many, many still stuck asking "Why are things not better for me?" without making changes in their choices.
We see this with such stark clarity with many of the young people caught up in the legal system. A startling number of young offenders are graduates of the foster care system. Who offers these kids a place to get a meal and run a load of laundry through when money is tight. Who do they call to go with them when they buy their first car or are thinking about getting married? Who tells them that all the challenges of being 18 or 19 or 20-something are normal and this is part of laying the foundation from which we operate in the future? Who tells them cautionary tales about long-ago family black sheep and how they turned things around? Who tells them about the heroes in their family tree? Who listens to them? Who coaches them? Who prays passionately for them?
Some kids are better served because they are fostered by grandparents, older siblings, aunts and uncles. I've known some of these folks over the years and most expend money and energy that restricts their own lives and choices as they struggle to instill hope for the future in children they love. And they try to be a safety net as best they can, but years of providing financial and emotional support can leave them with struggles of their own as they deal with age, illness, looming retirement and balancing the needs of other family members.
So today I ask you to pause before you judge, for the person you see as "lesser" may actually be a hero fighting odds you never imagine. And pause before you see the person as "nearly perfect," because nearly everyone needs a kind word or a generous moment as they struggle with sorrows we never guess.
Yes, my friend Seegar, I have learned to give folks a little leeway, cut them a little slack, choose to assume the best rather than the worst, quash my impulse to assume I could do better with their lives if I were driving. Thank you for all the prickly people I have found have tender hearts, all the loud people who have lonely hearts, all the abrupt people who have broken hearts that I would have missed knowing had I not had that conversation with you.
Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. John 7:24