For the longest time, judgments have always thrown me off!
People used to get me overwhelmed by their endless critics especially because they were always coming from my fellow brethren in the Lord. For a phlegmatic person like me, I tend to run away from attention(‘trouble’), I would rather be in situations where I am not in the limelight and enjoy my space without the unnecessary hululaboo from people that comes with publicity and attention. But that has never worked, God has always pulled me from the backbenches and the solitary rooms to the be ‘the center of attention.’ For instance when I joined campus I always loved coming to the CU and I had a kind of permanent seat at the back and I would be at the door immediately brethren started sharing the parting words of Grace, no greetings… not that I did not want to talk to people or I was any shy but I was always trying to run away from the danger of getting too engaged with so many people, well this never worked for a long time, barely a semester and God in His own design brought people who were ‘stubborn’ enough with my stubbornness and the leader in me was pulled right out of that point, so I was in leadership through out most of my campus days. I think God used that for me to grow, to enjoy friendships, to engage, to learn decision making, and to serve my purposes. What a Faithful God!
That plus other similar experiences before and after I joined campus have exposed me to many people, and that has been the story of my life till now, and I keep loving every bit of it. But as exciting that journey has been, it came with its own challenges, I was always running away from attention because it attracts both love and hate in equal measure, both encouragements and discouragements from people in equal measure. It was hard for me to contend with people who condemned me, if you spread a lie/or negative rumour about me, I’d be devastated, if you raised an eyebrow at my working style, I’d want to go climb into a hole and stay there until you are long gone. I used to put up layers for some people so they don’t prick me. But it became an everyday activity- people were concerned about how I walked, how I dressed, who I talked to, how I performed in class, the friends I kept… every single detail about me was kept in check! I was now a center of attention, God made me to face all my fears head-on. At some point i journalled a single line in my journal ‘… even when I am swimming people still accuse me of raising dust…’ (the writer in me was overwhelmed to a point i could only express myself in that single line).
Do you feel overwhelmed by other people’s judgment? Like everyone expects you to anticipate their every little need and resents you when you can’t live up to their impossible expectations? Maybe you feel you have not lived to the expectations of people because they keep judging you wrongly, even family members? Perhaps even from your own church, where ‘saints’ keep spreading rumours here and there. People you thought were your friends remind you in a thousand tiny looks, comments, and gestures: you’re just not good enough. You feel like all you do is take on everyone else’s feelings- like a doormat where everyone wipes their frustrations and moves on. You might wonder, Will I ever actually feel good enough? Will they ever actually be pleased with me?
I got pretty much tired of my earlier approach. I no longer want to relegate myself to a hole like a tiny mouse unworthy and unable to be myself. I grew comfortable with people and loved being amidst them, people who know me well now, know that I will be the one initiating discussions or walking into a crowd to be part of them, and truly fellowship is beautiful. I am learning to bring the authentic me on the table without fear of what judgement I will get out of it. Jesus didn’t tell us to hide our light. He told us to shine it. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, I want to let my light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Mt. 5:15-16). I am learning to be ready to fly, like a butterfly, break out of my cocoon and fly-free, to live my purposes and serve the Lord fully and be who God made me to be.
But in these situations I have had some key reflections:
- Is this a test?
Some of this judgement times are sure tests of our Christianity. It is like a litmus paper too test our love and patience levels with people. It is therefore prudent to be keen to master what bad weed God is trying to pluck out of our lives. It could be anger and ungodly agitation that makes us throw back nasty words at your critics. Remember successful people master their emotions, many times we think we are cool and peace loving Christians until our true self is exposed under such situations, we snap at them in anger and bitterness and after that God rebukes us and corrects us on how we can handle such a situation on another time.
- Are They Trying To Help You Or Hurt You?
Before you get all up arms and claim that you are facing judgmental Christians, sometimes people are not trying to judge you but they are trying to give you advice and are trying to help you. You need to be able to discern which one is which. Just because someone may say something that you do not like, does not mean that they are trying to talk about you or make you feel bad about yourself. Sometimes they really are coming from a good place and trying to help you in your Christian walk. Most of my growth points have come about when people mention some things I do not do so well. But we have to be humble enough to accept correction and even appreciate the people who have pointed them out to us. For instance, if someone commends that they do not like my dressing, humility will bring me to a point of actually asking myself, ‘I am indecent?, can i change?’ but pride will tell me that ‘people will always talk, so don’t mind them’ and at the end of it i will be consumed by my own ignorance and pride.
Often times you may be the reason why you feel people are judging you. You may be doing all sort of evil and then when it comes back around to you, you want to blame other people and play victim.
I am learning I should never wash away my critics and wear the proud tag of, ‘I don’t care!’ Sometimes its easy to feel we are punishing our critics because they will keep talking but we will not change but we do not actually know that we are bringing ourselves down instead. May the Lord help us!
- Why am I a christian?
Sometimes when we want to leave a fellowship (I once thought of running away from one of the many fellowships am part of) because someone said something we did not like, we should remember that the whole point of going to church and being a Christians is to build your relationship with God. We should concentrate on working out our salvation which includes learning forgiveness and Love.
Could God also be drawing my attention to minister to some people? Maybe it is by approaching them in love and correcting what they said or it is by praying for them. Instead of thinking that a certain person has decided to hit on me and taint my reputation, why not think that God is drawing me to them to minister to them, or am I not a missionary?(I am grateful to one of my key mentors who has graciously helped me to learn this, he graciously tells me that, ‘Sarah, I think it is time for you and that person to have a fellowship’). And I have truly learned to.
- Do I allow them to define me?
If we let external criticisms dwell as internal truths, we’ll live imprisoned. What if Jesus changed who God created him to be in order to accommodate man’s standards? In order to please Pharisees or religious elite? Christ was criticized right, left and center but he was keen to stay on God’s mission. The negativity did not define Him. No one could waver His mission. It is during moments of experiencing negative criticism that I have learned that even in that time, God expects me to remain Faithful to Him, to be faithful in my service in the avenues He has called me to serve Him.
- How do i respond?
The Word encourages us to overcome evil with good.(1 Peter 3:9). From experience, I know that it is hard to be nice to someone when they are not nice to you, but that is what God requires us to do. “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.” Luke 6:34
If you retaliate against those who judge you, then how is that helping other Christians? Anyone can repay evil for evil but it takes a bigger person to be Christian, and to turn the other cheek and be nice when they don’t want to. If other Christians do not know how to be Godly, then you lead by example and show them how to be Godly. Go above and beyond and do something nice for them and expect nothing in return. The fact of the matter is, that they may still hate you. But you are acting like God would want you to act and remember God is your judge and He will reward you for that; just like God is their judge and He will judge them based of their actions. We can however, not accomplish this by our own human strength, we need the Spirit of the Lord working in us. Our response should be more in Prayer so that we are able to discern our response and ask the Lord to walk with us.
We can hold onto Jesus’s promise of peace.
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
We don’t have to carry that burden on our own.
Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Vengeance does not belong to us!
Leave your troubles with the Lord,
and he will defend you;
he never lets honest people be defeated.(Psalm 55:22) (GNT)
I know what it is like to wonder why Christians are judging you and then you start to wonder why God does not punish them for it. We forget that how God is going to punish them is not our concern, neither should you tell Him how to do it, we should trust Him with His job.
When we’re overwhelmed by the judgments of others, Christ offers us a safe space where we won’t be harshly judged, in His arms. We are able to enter a place of rest and forgiveness. What a Loving God!