Sunday, November 8, 2009


I've been thinking about judgment a lot lately, about our rights to judge others and such. It makes me want to tell a story.

When I was in grade school, I got picked on a whole lot. I was tormented pretty mercilessly (grade school kids learn to torture long before they learn to be merciful, sadly) by what felt like every kid in the school for every reason they could find. I'm just starting to analyze and see how deeply these years have effected my personal growth as an adult and how much of that pain I still carry with me, but that's another post for another day.

What I want to convey first is how horrible this was to me as a child. I remember how much I hated everything about myself. I remember going shopping for clothes with my mom one day and crying in the dressing room because no matter what I tried on, I never looked cool enough. I remember the day after I got beat up on the playground by a kid begging my parents to not make me go back to school and face the ridicule of the moribund masses of my peers. There were lots of experiences like that. It was a hellish few years for me.

One of the kids who came after me the most was a little blond kid named Keith Baldwin. Keith was meaner to me than the rest which made me hate him the most. When he finally moved away my sixth grade year, I was completely relieved. "One less jerk to worry about," I thought. He moved to Jefferson City and I didn't hear a thing about him for a few years aside from the occasional line or two about how people missed him (which infuriated me) or about when people would go visit him. Then, one day in eighth grade, an email was circulated through my school. The teachers informed all of us that Keith and his little sister came home from school one day and the two of them were murdered by their mother. Their mother went insane and shot them to death and promptly turned the weapon on herself.

"Good," I thought. "One less jerk to worry about." When I thought that, it became apparent to me that I had some issues to work through.

Slowly, stories about how Keith's mom had literally tortured him leaked out. Friends would tell about how Keith's mom poured salt in Keith's eyes and stuff like that. It was demented. It took me years to think about it fully, but I began to realize that Keith probably didn't have the easiest time with life. He took that out on me. The older I get the more okay with it I am. As I think about it, most of the kids who made fun of me came from broken homes, single parent situations, abuse fathers, etc. Not that their actions against me are justified, but they're certainly more understandable and forgivable in that light.

The point is this, my friends: We're all products of our environments. Keith made fun of me because it's how he expressed his anguish. His friends followed suit. I'm a product of those actions too. Again, this doesn't make all of our actions acceptable or exempt us from responsibility, but it seems to lighten the load a bit.

I was talking to one of my friends about judgment in a Christian setting the other day while we were riding in the car. I ended up telling her my story about Keith and then asking her, "Was Keith a sinner? When Keith picked on me, can he be held responsible and judged for it?" You know, I don't know the answer to that question, but for me it illuminates something about the way a lot of us Christian people think and a lot about why people don't like us. We're quick to judge. We don't think a lot before we pass judgment. We don't realize that the evil deeds don't just crop up in this world. They're conditioned and created by other evil deeds. That makes me question a lot about what's traditionally thought of as "God's judgment," which inevitably is a euphemism for our judgment in God's name. I just want to put that out there. Maybe we'll all think a bit more before we pass judgment. Maybe we'll be a bit quicker to forgive next time.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Wow, powerfully put, Mark.

I could not agree more. It is very easy to find fault with people, but it is much more difficult to try to reason through their actions.

We want to categorize people as jerks or as inherently mean. It makes it simpler for us to cast those things that people have done that were cruel or unacceptable aside. It also makes it easier to demonize people or say that we "hate" people.

But you make a great point by saying that this does not justify meanness. Just because you had demons does not mean that you get to enact terror on people around you. But as you pointed out so well, it does make your actions understandable...

I would add more, but you said a lot of good stuff, so I will end with a kudos to your honesty...