There’s been a lot of talk lately about fasting and giving up something during this season of Lent. My good friend, Kathy Lonsinger, who runs the wonderful online ministry A Gentle Answer, recently posed a suggestion for all of us. She asked that we fast from gossip and quick judgmental condemnation, loosely veiled behind a smile and calling it a prayer request.
We are part of a culture that prides itself on being righteous–or right with God. But in our quest for righteousness, we sometimes become a little too self righteous. We can sometimes unfairly judge others who we know very little about, based on one or two things that we SEE or HEAR.
As the mother of a special needs child, I can tell you that unfair judgements have followed me for the last ten years. In the early years I was labeled a bad mom, because I didn’t discipline my son who outwardly appeared to be rude and simply out of control. He wouldn’t verbally respond to adults, even adults in our own family. They’d ask, “How old are you?” or “What school do you go to?” His usual response was to repeat their question back to them and not answer. Adults found that sarcastic. Many times he’d simply walk away when an adult was speaking to him, as though he was ignoring them all together. How rude!! He’d run around like a Tasmanian Devil, getting into everything…touching everything… and I’d generally be right behind him, apologizing as I put things back in place.
My son has a diagnosis which explains all of these behaviors. We have never led with his diagnosis, because it shouldn’t define him. But I felt my ears burning at each and every family event. Either my husband and I were being chastised for not sparing the rod, or for hovering over him too much, not allowing him to be a normal kid.
No one took the time to actually ask if they could help us. We couldn’t win! In their eyes and through their words we were guilty of being bad parents and doing everything wrong.
Matthew 7:3-5 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Have you ever passed a quick judgement on a sister or brother in Christ, without knowing the whole story? Even after what I’ve just written about my own son, I too have passed quick judgements on others whose story I know very little about. We stay at home moms may do this when we speak negatively about those moms who choose to work outside the home and who are, “putting career ahead of parenting”. Working moms may loosely judge our “lack of ambition” and “self denial that will one day come back to hurt us”.
There is real danger in the gossip we spread about others. The kicker is when we Christians talk about others’ actions or words, and then pretend it’s not really gossip, because we end with, ” we should pray for them…”
Nope, it’s still gossip.
Romans 16:17-18 “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”
During this season of reflection, maybe we can ALL do what Kathy suggested: fast from idle gossip and quick judgement. Watch our loose tongues. Take our thoughts captive. Take a deeper look at what the Bible says to us about treating others with kindness and love. Perhaps actually step forward and OFFER HELP to someone who seems to be struggling, instead of rolling our eyes, shaking our head or texting a friend with the words, “You won’t believe what I just heard / saw…”
Lisa Strnad is an independent contractor in Christian media as a writer, marketing consultant, and public relations specialist. She speaks to Christian women’s groups on the issues of motherhood, home schooling and raising a child with special needs. Lisa and her family make their home in Nashville.