Wanted: Friends Who Judge

“I don’t want to be judged, I just want to be unconditionally loved”
“No one wants a judge, everyone wants a friend”
“Don’t judge me!”

It is universally accepted that true friends don’t judge. They simply love, accept and support you.

In my early 20’s I was a young single women in the new South Africa. I loved the adventure and possibility of living and working in this nation. I was just beginning to form friendships in a diverse community of people. One weekend at the office, only myself and one other lady were there. We were trying to get ahead on work. New students were arriving that week. We discussed tasks and ideas back and forth. We were as different as night and day and so often would not see eye to eye. As the day wore on, I was getting more and more frustrated at her lack of seeing things my way. Eventually I got so angry I went quiet and ominously brooded around the office, physically present but ignoring her in all other ways. I would show her!

Suddenly, I could hear her chair spin around and her strong voice break the silence. “Lindsey, are you going to talk about this or do you plan to give me the silent treatment all day. I don’t like tantrums.”

I was shocked. She was direct almost to the point of rudeness. I stumbled over my words. Feebly I attempted to sort things out… I don’t really remember how it resolved.

Two months later someone asked me, “Lindsey, who do you hang out with? Who do you consider your friends here in South Africa?” To my surprise, this lady’s name immediately came out of my mouth.

I had other friends who I hung out with more, had more in common with. But this women spoke truth to me. Truth that often offended me. Sometimes it wasn’t truth, it was just her opinion and she would apologise later. Sometimes it came out a bit rude. But, she kept speaking. Of all the people I was around, I knew this one was a friend. She was a friend who was willing to wound me. She was a friend who judged.

But “friend” and “judge” are not supposed to go together. What I think we really mean is that “friend” and “condemn” don’t go together. But, judge?

In a sense, to judge is simply an act of determining right and wrong. It is distinguishing from one thing and another. It is coming to conclusions and testing whether there is truth in it. A judge is a person who is mandated to speak truth no matter what. I want friends who judge.

Today, I think our friendships lack depth because we not only expect but often say outright, “Don’t judge me, I just want you to support and accept me”.

I don’t want my friends to do that. I want them to speak truth to me. I ask them to. With grace, mercy and love… yes, yes, yes. But love cannot be love if it is forbidden from speaking truth. Love cannot be love if truth-speaking is considered an act of aggression and condemnation.

Scripture says it well, “Speak the truth in love” and “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than kisses from an enemy”. Paul says that Christian friendship actually does judge (1 Cor 5:9-13).

This is the type of friends I want and need. I need this when I am careening towards a cliff. I don’t want my friends to say, “Lindsey, I sure love and accept you no matter what!”. I want them to grab that wheel and say, “Lindsey, what you are doing leads to death instead of life. You are driving towards brokenness instead of wholeness.”

And my friends have done this. Sometimes it was well received by me. Other times… well it took me a while to come around. But their willingness to say something that could offend me communicated a deep love. Sometimes their timing wasn’t perfect. Sometimes they way it came out was not perfect. But they spoke truth in love. They said it without condemnation.

Truly, friends do not condemn. Condemnation is when we use truth as a weapon to harm. Condemnation says, if you don’t measure up I won’t love you. That’s not friendship.

Friends should speak truth (judge) because their heart for us is life, wholeness and joy. Truth-speaking says, I love you even with your imperfections, I have them too. We won’t pretend they aren’t there. Often what we call judgement can actually be speaking truth as an act of safety and grace, even if it stings in the moment.

Do you have people who will “speak the truth in love” even if it wounds?
If not how could you invite that in to your life?

Photo Credit: Radcliffe Dacanay

Anger, healing and swearing at God.

It was a beautiful summer day in Seattle and I had just finished an early morning shift at a coffee shop (4:30 a.m start time!). I was walking up the path to my apartment, thinking about nothing in particular except for perhaps a nap. Suddenly, I felt a stark and very direct question enter in to my mind. It was not a whisper from God. More like a shouted, “Hey, wake up, I’ve got a question for you!” sort of moment.

“What do you really think of ________?”.

I’m leaving out a name at the end of that sentence. It’s not important. What is important is this was someone who had hurt me. Hurt me more deeply than I thought possible. Hurt me in ways that I would still be dealing with many, many years later. But, I was being a good Christian about it. Quickly worded forgiveness, turning the other cheek, responding with “I’m ok, you’re ok” niceties.

But then this moment, with this question, came along.

I wasn’t thinking about this person or that situation so my guard was down. God knew that it would be. Before I could remember my normal script of “I forgive and release him! I pray God’s best for him!” an answer welled up within me and exploded into my heart and mind.

“He’s a f*&$#ing a$%hole!!!!!”

The magnitude of the anger startled and scared me. Up until that moment I had never entertained even a hint of that sentiment towards him. Everything was nicely packaged and under control. My ability to keep things under control can be a real curse I’ve come to learn.

I went up into my apartment and sat on my couch and just stared. What had just happened? Why had I just turned in to an angry woman with the mouth of a sailor?

And so on that summer day and in that way, my journey toward healing finally began. And it started with anger.

Anger is a funny thing. We know anger can be “righteous” or “unrighteous”. We interpret righteous anger as anger that is socially acceptable. Anger where we keep our voices down, say, “I’m really angry and I mean it!”, pray a prayer and then quickly move on.

A few months after my sailor outbursts I studied the book of Nahum in the Bible. Nahum can be a confusing book but one thing is not confusing, God is really, really angry.

Historically, one nation was viciously abusing Israel. God looked at his daughter, and could not just sit, watching the abuse. He could not calmly say, “Well, that’s just not nice. Come on everybody, let’s get along!”. No, his fatherly love demanded anger.

With that picture, I finally understood that God cared, he wept, he grieved. I understood that He is angered when his people are hurt, abused, betrayed and broken. God’s anger validates that the wound truly exists and that it truly is painful.

Anger is one of the most healing emotions because anger says, “This is not ok, I am not ok.”

What happened to me is soul crushing and the reason why is… I am more valuable than that.

The absence of anger is the choice to remain unaffected by sin.

The absence of anger is to agree that the wound and the wounded are of no significance. Not worthy of getting all worked up over.

The presence of anger is the acknowledgment of the depth of the wound and the deep value of the one wounded.

I have many, many students who deal with deep wounds from their parents. They all try so hard to not be angry, the very thing they should feel. For years they seek to “honour their father and mother”. By honour they mean, deny the hurt and remain unaffected by it.

When I tell them it is ok to be angry many instantly just begin weeping. They are acknowledging for the first time that their father or mother hurt them. Acknowledging their own deep wounds and thereby confirming that were not treated in accordance with their true value.

It is so painful to watch as they sob deeply but I know how healing it is to acknowledge their own value for the first time in their lives. They are finally absorbing the truth. Righteous anger screams out, “I was not treated in accordance to my value!!”

As I watched the angry racial events in Missouri and across America unfold, all I could think is, “I’ve felt that. I’ve felt exactly that”. I haven’t experienced the same thing as African-Americans have, but I know the anger that bursts out of it’s walls, suddenly, screaming with hot emotion, “I’m. Worth. More!!”

Many of us sit for years, pain after pain piling up until one final pain touches on them all and God loudly speaks that question, “How do you really feel about_______?”

If we obsess over answering with the right tone of voice and carefully chosen words, we miss the point entirely. If I focused on my swearing and boiling anger I’ve missed the point entirely. If we obsess on the few acts of violent protest in Missouri we’ve missed the point entirely.

Anger acknowledges value. Anger acknowledges worth. Anger sometimes comes rushing forth for healing to come pouring in.

Are there areas in your life that you’ve never allowed yourself to be angry over?

What value, freedom and healing are you then missing?

Photo Credit: Andrew McCluskey

In Praise of Brokenness

The past felt hard but the worst was yet to come. Thank God I was oblivious to this fact. In the exact middle, between hurt and more hurt, I ventured off to a 9-month, intensive, Biblical Studies program.

I wanted the learning for my future career in ministry but needed it for my own personal survival. In the wilderness of Montana I worked hard, day-in and day-out. Most days were between 8-9 hours with my nose in the Bible. Many days it was more.

The learning was mentally exhilarating. Emotionally, though, something new was digging in to me.

praise-of-brokennessI remember the day clearly. In an effort to break up the monotony, a group of students decided to go to a local coffee shop to study. We all spread out to our own tables, ordered our bottomless coffee and began to pound away at the work to be done. The book of Romans was our current task. This is no small feat to grasp if you are familiar with the Bible. I remember the exact table and the uncomfortable wooden chair I was sitting in. While classmates around me were doing a theological CrossFit routine in their minds… I was reading the same phrase over and over and over.

“so death spread to all”
“so death spread to all”
“so death spread to all”

Then, the tears just came. They welled up and cascaded down, one after another. I wept… and wept and wept. My head dropped, I didn’t want anyone to see my face. My closest friend could hear me.

With confusion, “Lindsey, what is wrong?”

There was no reason for me to suddenly burst in to tears, especially for a committed non-cryer like me.

“Oh don’t worry, I’ll be ok” I replied.

The tears were now morphing with the snot. I was a mess and clearly not ok. That was my exact thought.

“I am not ok… not on any level.”

I wasn’t just talking about the past. I was not just fearing the future. After 16 years of following Jesus… at that moment, at that coffee shop, for the first time in my life I came to terms with my own brokenness and the brokenness of this world.

The Bible gave me permission to admit the stark reality. I had tasted, lived and dwelled with death more intimately than I wanted to admit.

I was not a good person who messed up a little bit. I was not someone who made mere mistakes. I was not a girl in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was deeply, deeply broken. Loved, valued… broken.

Jesus didn’t come to rescue mistakers. He died to give life to dead people. And I was one of those dead people… I knew it deeper than I ever had.

But the tears were not tears of condemnation. They were tears of collapse. Tears of a deep, deep sorrow. Sorrow at my hurt, sorrow at my own ineptitude to fix this mess. Sorrow at the pain around me. Tears of surrender and thus tears of pure joy.

I’ve never know such joy and gratitude mixed with such sorrow. I now new the meaning of the phrase, “such sweet sorrow.”

In the past I was looking for a Jesus who fixed mistakes. That day I realised I had a Jesus who made dead people come alive.

So I leaned in. I was tired and I pressed in to it. I was broken and I leaned in. I was hopeless and I pushed right in to the middle of it. I longed for a land I didn’t know or couldn’t name and I dwelled right there, looking for the unknown shore.

Not because I’m a masochist. I leaned in because God doesn’t pat mistakers on the back. God makes dead people come alive. As long as I minimise my brokenness; I minimise my hope, rescue and life.

For the past 14 years, I’ve been leaning in. It’s there I find Jesus. Jesus doesn’t look for self-help experts. He looks for inept, broken, dead people. American business experts suggest women “lean in” to success and greater achievements. The Gospel dares us to lean in to our failures and pain. It is there that we find something completely unexpected.

When I’m tempted to run away or minimise. I lean in.
When I fear for my children’s future. I lean in.
When I hurt others. I lean in.
When others wound me. I lean in.
When I face other’s brokenness. I lean in.
When I’m ashamed of my failures. I lean in.

The harder I lean, the more quickly I feel the embrace of the Father.

And so death spread to all. The lie is that the story ends there.

Where death increased, grace abounded all the more. This is where the story ends.

This is in praise of brokenness. In that land, God makes dead people come alive.

I shouldn’t have said that.

I was tired.
My husband was travelling overseas.
Both my young boys were adjusting to the start of the school year.
I had an incredible amount of stress I was dealing with.
I was carrying hurt.

In the midst of this I was sitting in the front row of our local Civic Hall. About to get on stage to speak to a few hundred people, all I could feel was the swirling thoughts of all I was dealing with.

I did speak that night and it went ok. It wasn’t a disaster… in the eyes of most people. But, 9 months later I was still dealing with my sense of failure.

Why?

Because I was a people pleaser and was insecure? No. (Well, yes, but not the main issue that night.)
Because people threw rotten fruit at me and booed me off stage? No… thankfully!
Because people criticised what I had to say? A full 8 people came and felt to point out that I wasn’t my normal self when speaking. Although hard to hear, it wasn’t the main thing.

The main thing was this: I shared out of my hurt instead of my healing.

This was a deep lesson that I learned that whole year: there are different rules for hurt people and healed people.

Eugene Peterson powerfully said, “We are travelling in the light toward God who is rich in mercy and strong to save. It is Christ, not culture, that defines our lives. It is the help we experience, not the hazards we risk that shape our days.”

The journey of a whole person is moving from being shaped by our pain and wounding to being shaped by our healing and healer.

In this journey I must be very careful to know where I am along the path so as not to cause more wounding and hurt to myself and those around me.

Hurt and Healed people do three things differently because of where they stand.

Whom We Trust:
When we are actively working through our pain we need to be very careful that we walk with very trustworthy people. Our pain is precious, if we give it to people that do not treat it as such… we will only experience more pain. The slightest wrong response can prick us but it will feel like a mortal wound.

When we have experienced healing we are not in nearly as much danger. I have so much pain in my past, the kind that makes people respond with “scary eyes” (as I call them). You know the kind; their eyes get very wide, they look both shocked and horrified, you can see them trying to plan an escape route out of the conversation.

I am in a place of healing with so much of my past. Sometimes I entrust my story to someone who can’t handle it. They make a comment that is so insensitive that it defies reality. Because I have moved into healing it does not devastate me nor make me feel deeply wounded. I have grace for people who turn out to be untrustworthy (or just too immature to know what to say).

When We Share:
Timing makes a difference in our journey of being shaped by our wound to being shaped by our healer. I shouldn’t have gotten on stage that night. I shouldn’t have shared publicly about things which I myself hadn’t fully dealt with.

After that night a wise women came to me and said, “How are you doing? You looked so vulnerable that night. My heart went out to you.” She discerned that I was in a season of my life where I should not have gotten on stage and shared such vulnerable things.

In the Church it can be very common to encourage people to share publicly. But, if you haven’t experienced Christ as your healer, a public “testimony” could end up feeling more like a public shaming, violation or humiliation. It has nothing to do with how the group responded and more to do with the internal pain being worked through.

Even in a smaller group, I find I need to be careful to discern if the timing is right. Perhaps a group of friends is gathering to just have some laughs and fun. If you open up about something painful and they simply move on to conversing about the latest movie they saw… you will be left feeling vulnerable, exposed and unvalued.

How We Help:
Healed people can help. Wounded people can just further wound. It is not about intention as much as reality of our situations.

When we are healed it is because we have encountered our Healer. This is what we have to pass on to others, a revelation of Jesus.

When we are moving from being shaped by pain to being shaped by our Healer we should be extremely cautious about “trying to help others with my own experience”. One wounded person helping another wounded person so often does more damage.

From my experience, when someone is primarily defined by their healing and healer… they have a wise caution about jumping in to help other wounded people. They know that only Jesus initiates, shapes and enpowers this journey. My presence doesn’t necessarily help the process.

That night as I stood on stage I broke all three principals. I trusted a crowd of people I didn’t know (wrong people), shared my pain publicly and in a hard season (wrong timing) and tried to help them when I myself had not fully received help.

I found a wise friend that helped my identify all three. I cried quite a bit about the situation. I learned something that will only safeguard me in the future.

What about you?
In your life circumstances are you more shaped by your pain and wounding or your healing and healer?
How does this shape these three areas of your life?