A little while ago, my husband called me on his way home from church and told me that a good friend would be stopping by as he made his way through town. We live right off an Interstate highway in the middle of Missouri, so it’s very easy for people to just pass through. My husband was really excited, almost giddy, that his good buddy would be coming by, as he doesn’t always have a lot of opportunities to just hang out with his closest friends. I, however, was less than enthused–not at seeing our friend–he’s great. But the boys’ school things were scattered across my office, the TV console was dusty, there was dog hair everywhere, and the kitchen counter was piled with a weird assortment of old newspapers, holiday mailers, Halloween candy, dog medicine, a tin of dominoes, and, I kid you not, a couple of glow bracelets. And that doesn’t even take into account the boys’ areas. All I can say to that particular domain of the house is, teenage boys are gross.
So, to say I was enthused about an unexpected guest would be a stretch. All I really felt at the moment my husband called was a huge heaping spoonful of not good enough. And that prickly pear sensation grew within me as I realized that very soon, I was going to be judged.
Do you know that prickly pear sensation of imminent judgement approaching? It’s like when the cartoon character standing on the sidewalk looks up and sees a grand piano falling from a sixth story window right above him. He knows he’s doomed, but all he can do is stand and watch. The thought that someone is going to judge me sends my amygdala into overdrive (the brain’s emotional processing center) and makes me what to hunker down under the covers, defeated by my own insecurity and wallowing in a wave of self-pity. You would think, as someone who works with a team of editors, I would have gotten beyond that by now.
As a woman, I think I’m not alone in my irrational fear of being judged. History has not been kind to us in that department. I remember a highly intelligent and successful woman telling me once that I fear people judging me because they are. Like, that’s just the way of life for women. But I wonder…is that really true? Or are we all so caught up in our own insecurities that we see perceived threat around every office mixer/bathroom stall/PTA meeting/Zoom conference?
But regardless of whether the judgement is real or perceived, the fact remains that we can get a little to a lot nutty over it, and miss out on some God-orchestrated blessings. While I was frantically running around the living room folding blankets, digging random socks from the couch cushions, organizing counter junk into piles, I felt God telling me to chill out. Our friend was not going to judge my housekeeping abilities, and if I kept stressing about it I was going to completely miss the joy of spending time in fellowship with a friend–which, as we all know, is a true blessing. I remembered the above Scripture, from Galatians, in which Paul exhorts believers not to seek after human approval, but to seek the approval of God.
I think it’s safe to say that most of the things I worry about being judged over matter zero to God. I mean, can you imagine asking God if your jeans make your muffin-top stick out too much? I think the response would be, “Get over yourself and clothe those in need.” The same with the house. While I worry about what people might think about being covered in blankets of dog hair, God is more interested in the billions of people on Earth living in poverty with no blanket of anything to cover them. Getting stressed over being judged is self-centered, and God calls us as disciples to be Christ-centered. Jesus didn’t judge those whom everyone else judged, and he didn’t particularly care that he was being judged by those he called hypocrites, snakes, and whitewashed tombs.
When I let fear of judgement influence my decisions, I’m likely trying to please others and not God. I’m also likely completely missing something God has placed before me, be it a blessing or a task. It’s not that we shouldn’t care what people think–Paul exhorts the early Christians to always try and present Christ in a positive light to others–it’s just that we should care about what God thinks more. We are God’s representatives; therefore, our concerns should be whatever God’s concerns are. And if we’re focused on God’s concerns, there will be neither time nor space for fears of judgement.
Instead of worrying about a semi-messy house, I give thanks for shelter and the people who share the mess with me (and cause most of it, boys!). Instead of worrying about how people are going to judge my appearance when I lead worship at church, I give thanks for the opportunity to share my love of God with others. Instead of worrying that the bus driver thinks I spend my day eating bon bons and sipping chardonnay because I’m still in my robe when he gets to our neighborhood, I give thanks that God has opened career doors for me so that I can use the skills he gave me to make a living from my home office. And instead of worrying that all of the other moms at PTA meetings think my kids are weirdos, I give thanks for the precious gift of my children, who are really weirdos.
In the end, I can’t change how people perceive me. But I can change my response to that. And I can ask God to show me the way.
Blessings and Peace,