Picture three boys in a store like Wal-mart. They appear unsupervised and they are playing rough with each other. The poke and push and one of them grabs a foam rope and throws it around the neck of one of the other boys. He acts for a couple of seconds like he is choking the other boy. They push each other away and grab at each other in one of the aisles.
You see this scene unfold. Now, what conclusions can you draw? What judgement would you make about those boys and their family?
I tell you this story because it happened to me. My boys were rough housing around the back of the store while I stepped into the restroom. A lady worker saw them and yelled at them. She then got another worker to help keep an eye on them. Together they followed the boys through the store and out the door.
Her judgement appeared to be that these boys were teenage hooligans. Probably from broken homes. They had no respect for themselves or others. High risk of breaking something or stealing something. She saw the boys and quickly made a judgement about their character. I watched most of it unfold with curiosity seeing what would transpire between my boys and her. Eventually my boys stopped and waved at her nicely as they exited and she charged to the door in anger. Her judgement on these boys was clear.
Now – Let me give you the whole story. Me and my three oldest boys went to Indiana to spend time with my parents and help do some project for them since my dad had his stroke. We traveled on Monday and just did some visiting and planning. Tuesday we helped my dad clean his boat, pack it and get all his gear ready. We eventually took mom and dad fishing and got them out to do something they could not do on their own. On Wed. we woke up to help my sweet 80-year-old parents do a long list of chores. The boys worked in the garden, mowed, spread mulch and a few other miscellaneous things. It was starting to sprinkle a little rain and we ran to town to buy them some groceries and stopped at a store called Big R to get some tomato plants. A couple of their plants had died and needed replacing. These boys stood outside in the cold helping me get the plants and load them up. Finally, I said I needed to go to the bathroom. They followed me in to warm up and started rough housing.
The reality. These were three Christian boys who were helping their grandparents out for three days. They were being supervised and knew right from wrong. Plus, I know they would never actually hurt their brother – or anyone else for that matter.
I watched this and thought about her snap judgment of my boys.
Then I thought about my snap judgement of her. I assume she was a bitter, lonely old lady who hated her job and desperately needed Jesus. Was I right? I will never know for sure, but I bet I am not.
The truth is that all of us make quick judgments about people we do not know. Unfortunately, many times we are very wrong. The girl with the dyed hair, they guy with the tattoos, the lady with the rowdy kids, the older man with the scooter and a host of others may not be who I think they are. Be careful about judging anyone, but especially be careful about character judgments. People are not always as they appear.