We are so quick to judge. Sometimes we are a harsh judge of ourselves but, more often than not, our gaze is turned outward as we choose to judge others instead. We try to offer up explanations as to why they (whoever they are) aren’t good enough or successful enough or worthy enough – using ourselves as the measuring stick. We can all admit instances where we’ve done this in the past.
For example, I used to serve as a room host at Franciscan so that prospective students could spend a night in my dorm room and get a taste of residence hall life. When I got my first-ever room-hosting assignment, you better believe that I wanted to know who this girl was so I looked her up on Facebook. What I found (a post that supported beliefs that contradict the Catholic faith) shaped my whole view of this student’s impending visit and I began to dread her arrival and also anticipate her departure from campus. I clearly thought that I was better than her since I upheld Catholic teaching and I also struggled to see how she would fit in on this holy hill if she did not embrace this particular teaching. That weekend ended up being one of the most notably fun weekends of the entire school year and, after this girl left, I broke down in tears. You see, I recognized the harm that was done in having judged someone. This moment has since stuck with me and will continue to be remembered for the rest of my life.
I share that example because of the “after effect,” that sorrow and remorse I felt in my heart for realizing that I was wrong in having judged that girl. Not to say that I am perfect – I am still human and, therefore, I still struggle with the desire to judge others – but this experience has helped me to stop and think about the consequences of my thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, though, I think that many people have never experienced the “after effects” of their judgments and, overall, I believe this tendency of ours to judge has led to a lot of trouble in our current culture. Society has become conditioned to judge based on skin color, tone of voice, gender, and many other things when it is not our place to judge anyone, ever, at all. We still need to learn to see each other as made in God’s image and likeness, to see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, first and foremost.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to look inwardly, to not see the splinter in another’s eye but to actually (finally) notice the wooden beam sticking out of our own eye. In my case, the splinter was this girl’s stance on a particular Church teaching but the wooden beam in my eye is how I looked at her because of that teaching and the judgments I formed in my own heart. It may be a challenge but I would encourage you to start identifying the wooden beams in your life and work hard to remove them. True change cannot happen without interior work, a conversion of our own heart.
Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.