So how do you know the difference between someone disagreeing with you or judging you?
The conversation between a client and I took an interesting turn and I posed that question. There was a time when I wasn’t sure how to do one without the other, nor could I have explained the difference. As my client sat considering the question I began thinking about many life situations God allowed me to experience during the past 15 years or so, and how, as they interesected with scripture, they began to reshape my view of disagreement.
In my younger years disagreement was uncomfortable to me, to put it mildly. Often it felt painful, as I tended to feel a loss of closeness during disagreement if it occurred in relationships I treasured, or if it presented itself in surface relationships I felt defensive as though someone disagreeing with me was a threat to my security. I was nothing if not right and good, and by God, I was willing to fight to prove it. Except, not directly. Directly I was compliant and avoidant, so most of the fighting took place in my mind and attitude of judgement. Looking back, I realize one reason I felt loss of connection is I projected my own sense of judgement onto others when they disagreed with me. I generally divided opinions in three categories: right, wrong or better. The truth is I took most issues and assigned a moral value to them. Made them issues of right and wrong instead of different. I lived in the shoulds.
There are no shoulds unless Jesus says it.
Before I ever gave birth to my sweet bookend baby girl, I held many opinions about the evils of over medicated and over diagnosed ADHD in children. These were based mainly on other peoples highly voiced and strongly held opinions. But nevertheless, I truly felt most people had not done right or best if they were giving their kids medication. Then I had my girl. From the time she was three I could see she struggled to focus, and at five could not complete a three step direction. Her room was a constant whirlwind. She could never find anything and was totally overwhelmed by choices, especially if there was a time pressure, like ordering at a drive through. So, I began to research options and search for help. Through many conversations with family, her teachers, other parents of kids with ADHD and her pediatrician, we finally made a decision based on what we believe is best for her. Through that process I came to see that while there were those whom I disagreed with in their approach, I was not better because of mine. We were just different. There were so many different ways to handle this one issue, and different methods seemed to work better for some kids than others.
In the end, the difference between disagreement and judgement comes down to the presence of humility and the death of pride. Most issues are not even matters of right and wrong, but apples and oranges. And even when issues are black and white, humility reminds me that if I believe you are wrong based on what God teaches in His word, I am not better than you- simply more clear in that moment of truth. I am just as capable and frequently guilty of believing lies also, and equally in need of gracious and loving friends who can disagree without judging me.