Am I jealous of your ignorance
Because I wish that I were too?
Do I call your innocence, stupidity
Because I can’t do what you can do?
Why do I judge
When I know that I don’t like it?
Is it because I know I’m you
But I have no way to fight it?
Did I create a “heaven”,
To prove that I’m better?
Is it because I think I am now,
And I just want to be forever?
Well if “God” is always right,
If I try to judge I know I’ll fail
So if I refuse to admit this
That’s what will keep me in this “hell”.
I wrote the poem above when I was on a flight from Baltimore to Orlando. There was a family coming on the plane who had never flown before. Out of nervousness, the mother kept apologizing for her family and confessing this fact as they loudly found their way to their seats. They were the last people to be seated on the plane and essentially the rest of us were waiting on them. My former wife and I were headed to the Sunshine state to spend some time at the Disney parks and go on a cruise. I assumed that this other family was headed to Disney as well. Needless to say their children were very excited and it only made sense. However, despite the plane having several families on-board presumably headed to the same destination, it seemed that many people were judging this other family.
From my seat I could hear the surrounding passengers mumbling such things as, “find your seat already” and “it’s not that hard”. Even my wife was a little bothered and probably embarrassed. You see this family who had never flown and was having a very hard time were African-American like us. Now to some people reading this you might think that their ethnicity doesn’t matter, but you’d be wrong. With a lot of Black people, we tend to take it personally and feel embarrassed if other Black people are doing something that draws public scrutiny. I could go into the psychological reasons for it, but I will just make it simple and say that in a world that runs largely on first impressions and stereotypes, there is a frequent and underlying fear that what other people do will reflect back on us if we can be identified with those people. We fear that whatever judgment someone makes about the offenders will be generally projected onto us.
I have found that this tendency is most prevalent in cultures with a dominant sense of collectivism but it happens with all people who see themselves as directly connected with others in some way such as family, teams, political party, nationality, etc. It is the whole idea of being guilty by association. I remember being a child and when the news announced a serious crime my family would be praying that the criminal was not Black. Largely it was because we didn’t want to hear the bad news of another one of us being accused of a crime, but as I learned soon enough, it was also because we didn’t want whatever crime that was committed to reflect on us; further exacerbating the already existing and deliberate tendency of the larger society to view us in a negative light. At first I couldn’t understand why my family felt that way until I noticed that if the criminal was Black, the newscasters would always state that fact, but if they were White, they would never mention it in their descriptions.
I thought about this as I watched the faces of the people on the plane. Being the sensitive type, I allowed myself to feel as much as I could trying to get a sense of what was going on with not only the family trying to find their seat, but also with the other annoyed passengers, and my own inner person. I tried to turn up my compassion and to think more about what the people were experiencing than my own judgments about how I thought people should be. As I watched the family struggling to get in their seats and find a place for their carry-ons, I thought about what it might feel like to already be nervous about flying for the first time as adults not to mention having excited children tagging along. I imagined that they probably were feeling very anxious and likely it was this anxiety that influenced their decision to wait until everyone else was on the plane before boarding. Having never been on a plane before, they would not have known the carry-on situation and therefore did not anticipate having to try and find a place for their stuff because passengers who boarded earlier took their once empty bin. Add to this that they were on display as all of the other seated passengers annoyingly waited for them to get their seats, and I could only imagine that this whole situation was torture for them. Consequently, the wife was subtly pleading for compassion by constantly revealing their inexperience while the husband seemed to be pulling an Adam with a face that said, “this was all her idea.”
As for my wife and the annoyed passengers, I already mentioned part of what I felt was getting to her and some of the other Black passengers who barely looked at the family. There were some passengers who could care less and were just settling in for the flight and then there were those who were projecting their frustration on the family as if they were doing something to them on purpose. At first my mind wanted to make it a racial thing. I wondered if the family was White if they would have been less annoyed. And I think the answer for some of them would have been yes. Is it personal? Sometimes yes, but more often it is no. People just tend to have greater affinity for those who they seem to have more in common with. It is like a programming. They don’t even know they do it half the time it is so ingrained. And then there are the people who are just people who are easily annoyed–which in the Metro-DC area is not uncommon. There are a lot of people who live their daily lives in a rush. Anything that seems to make getting to where they want to be take longer is subject to the wrath. It could have easily been a snow storm and they would be angry with nature. Everything outside of themselves is an equal opportunity annoyer (made up word). These stressed out people probably need a vacation more than anyone. But it is probably likely that they if they were going to Disney, they were going to try and conquer it and ultimately leave their vacation more tired than they were when they arrived. I’d say that they were as good of candidates as anyone for Jesus’ insight to “forgive them for they know not what they do”. And then there leaves me.
I tend to be one of those people who is initially intolerant of intolerant people. I judge people who judge people and condemn those who condemn others. In reality, this is probably the worse kind of judge because those of us who have this tendency have the luxury of what people call righteous indignation. We can convince ourselves that we have the “might of right”. Usually we can point to religious texts like the one below to demonstrate why our point of view is the more accurate one. Consider Matthew 7:1-6 which admonishes people for judging others. It would be easy for me to point to this scripture when attacking someone I see of guilty of judging others unfairly. Used incorrectly, I could do a lot of harm with this scripture. Much like the away those who are adamantly against abortion can justify killing a doctor who performs abortions, using the “thou shalt not kill” defense, I could come to someone who is judging and say to them, “you are a no good dirty rotten judger of people and I hope that you get what is coming to you because you are just wrong because the Bible says don’t judge.” And when I did, I am sure that I would have a lot of people supporting me who also have pent up judgments about themselves and the world around them that they are just waiting to project onto someone else so that they can get the nasty feeling of self-condemnation off of them. But here’s the thing. That’s now passages like the one below are meant to work.
As the second stanza of the poem asks:
Why do I judge
When I know that I don’t like it?
Is it because I know I’m you
But I have no way to fight it?
Passages like Matthew 7 are spoken to and from a place of Oneness. When Jesus speaks to the disciples and others about why we should not judge, he does not do so only from a position outside of us, but from a place within us as well. He is speaking from the all encompassing reality that we all know and that we all are. Paul touches on this awareness when he says in Romans 1:20,”For since the creation of the world His [God’s] invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” While I will not unpack the full breadth of this passage right now, I will point to the obvious implication made here that all of Creation knows the fullness of its Source. We are not separate from Source–from God and consequently from one another. Therefore, we have no excuse for living as if the opposite is true. As the Christ, Jesus lives this reality of Wholeness eternally and speaks to us from this place. Thus, when he makes assertions like the one you are about to read, it comes from that place. And from this place his judgments are true, because their only intention is to remind us of who we truly are. For as it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Now, in this Light read the passage below:
7 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
This poem Judge attempts to convey the essence of this passage–that the judgments we project onto others naturally returns upon us precisely because, in Oneness, those others are in fact us. When Christ through Jesus, advises us not to judge, it is because he knows that it is of little effect in transforming our collective consciousness. Our judgments do not transduce the dark energy of ego resistance into the vibrant all-creative energy of realized potential as we deceive ourselves into believing it will (if you would like this sentence unpacked contact me). Only consciousness can do this. This is what Jesus is telling us in verse 3-5 above. What we often find when we release judgment for consciousness is that once we remove the plank from our own eye, we will discover that there never was a speck in our brother or sister’s eye in the first place. All we were seeing was our own projected planks out in the world. However, if after removing the plank from our own eye, we still see a speck in another’s, our conscious Love for them will show us how it can be removed for the benefit of the All.
Rather than unpack the rest of the poem which mentions heaven and hell in the context of being the ultimate in the human struggle with judgment, I will leave you with this expression I found on the bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, “For we’re all One or none! Listen children, Eternal Father Eternally One! We’re All One or none! Exceptions eternally? NONE.” As it pertains to this poem, Heaven is acceptance God’s reality and hell is it’s denial. When we deny God’s reality to others we deny it to ourselves. “What we bind on earth we bind in heaven. What we release on earth, we release in heaven.” Such is the Way of One.