Lest I Be Judged

“God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be.”  -Brennan Manning

Please, judge me. I invite your judgment. I really do. By all means, look at all the terrible things I’ve done, things to which I have publicly admitted, and judge me. Your judgments, your suppositions, your assumptions – I welcome them all. Please, by all means, pass all the judgment on me you can possibly muster-up. Furthermore (and I’m not kidding about this), I invite you to voice those very judgments to me, to my face, without concern for retribution, grudges,  or anger. I want to hear it all. I want to be judged.

I’ve seen numerous tattoos on people who seemingly seek to put forth this “I’m a badass” image, with tattoos that say “Only God Can Judge Me.” And while this idealistic concept may be true on some levels, I find its authenticity to be suspect. People who seem to project this particular concept with their body art, attire, or affect tend to be the kinds of individuals searching for a viable and irrefutable excuse to live a life devoid of morality – the very antithesis of what God would approve – then throw it into the face of society by claiming that the only individual who can judge their immoral behavior is God. And while this is quite accurate, using this logic to justify contemporaneous immoralities is merely kicking the can down the road. And I can’t help but think that this mindset is just a slap to God’s face, abusing His gift of Grace and taking His love for granted.

This is why I invite the unveiled judgments of my peers. I want to know what my peers think – family, friends, etc. And granted, I don’t expect anyone to actually do this – to actually tell me exactly what they think, no holding back – but I feel that it’s important for that opportunity to be out there. And I have a very specific reason for this.

The one redeeming quality of the human capacity to judge others is the extensive ability during these times of judgment to be thoroughly observant. Essentially, we look harder at people when we are searching for their faults – it’s just human nature. Thus, I want to know those faults, as seen through the eyes of my peers. And here’s why: If I know the faults that are seen by others, it will lead me to know the faults I must fix within myself. I want to live a life worth living – a positive, productive, peaceful life – because I spent too many years living the life of a horrid and horrific human being. But sometimes, looking into the mirror isn’t enough.

Do my family and friends really understand how much I’ve changed in recent years? Honestly, I suspect not. A few people do, but most don’t care enough see beyond the prejudiced assumptions they’ve held since seeing my mugshot on television.

People like to judge that way – people enjoy those feelings. Those feelings bring forth subtle sensations of superiority. And if there’s one thing we Americans love, it’s feeling superior. And when we throw morality into our superiority, we feel like our judgments are above reproach; because, obviously, we’re judging on moral grounds. And morals are concrete, right?

This is why the contentious contemporary climate of politics is filled with vitriol: People are confusing moral stances with political stances. The common assumption is that “Democrat” is synonymous with “Liberal” and “Republican” is synonymous with “Conservative.” No. No, no, no, no! Here’s the difference: Democrat and Republican are political stances: Liberal and Conservative are moral stances. Thus, it is entirely feasible to be a Liberal Republican (like Mitt Romney) or a Conservative Democrat (like me). Granted, I call myself a Liberal because it pretty well sums-up how I interact with other people (i.e. I don’t care if people are gay; abortion is a low-priority issue for me), but I personally hold Conservative values (I personally believe that homosexuality is sinful; I am personally pro-life). Therefore, just because a political ideology and a moral stance happen to often coincide does not mean they must.

I am confident in two things now: my life as I live it now, and my beliefs as I believe them now. And because of this, I am fine with being judged. I’m fine with this, because it affords me the opportunity to prove that I no longer fit into the boxes in which I’ve been placed by my behaviors, my reputation, my betrayals, and my crimes. As I’ve written before, I am – right now – the best possible version of myself. This is not to say that I no longer struggle – I do. But the finality of those struggles are now ending in triumphs rather than failures, thanks to some very supportive (and sometimes forcefully tough-loving) people in my life.

Sometimes I feel like Dante, who in The Divine Comedy, was forced to trudge through the deepest depths of Hell and climb the long mountain of Purgatory in order to reach the peace of Paradise. And while life right now isn’t exactly Heaven, it is certainly a far cry from the self-imposed Inferno of my past.

That’s the cool thing about God. The best parts of Heaven can come after the worst parts of Hell, and He’s not afraid to remind you that He’s there, He was always there, and He never left. We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.  Show me a truly wise man, and I’ll show you a man who has failed many times. Just ask Nicholas Cage how many times Thomas Edison failed at creating the incandescent light bulb.

So go ahead – judge me. Judge me by my failures. Judge me straight to my face. Voice your judgments to me without hesitation. Don’t sugarcoat your observations of my many failures. Because for every failure of mine that someone can point-out, I can present an equally powerful lesson that I cherish as a result of that failure.

Nothing that I’ve been through – nothing I’ve put myself through – nothing I’ve put my loved one through – has been worthless or wasted. Everything has meaning – everything has a lesson – experience has been a very powerful teacher. And if that experience – that teacher – has taught some people to exit my life and never return, then so be it. But I invite them to judge me as well.

I’m not one of those “Don’t judge me until you’re perfect” people, I simply think a person should have as much comprehensive information as possible before reaching a conclusion. And I think that many people would find me in agreement with their harsh judgments of who I was six (plus) years ago. But as I’ve written in the past, that man is gone – dead – and the man who remains is older, wiser, and better than ever before.

So please, judge me. But just be certain of one thing: Judge the man who lives now, today, this very minute, this very second, writing this very sentence, and the man who moves forward from here. Because in all reality, if you’re judging me by the man I used to be, you’re judging a man who no longer exists. You’re judging no one.

So I humbly invite you, judge me.