I just read an awesome blog post from a friend (one Bruce Pearson of Garage Voice) that spurred me to think about judgment and love and how the two can co-exist.
It certainly doesn't seem loving at first glance to tell someone that what they are doing has you concerned because you believe it to be wrong. It gets even more sticky when you navigate the waters of 'what you are doing isn't wrong but how you are doing it is.' Because then...oh ho ho...then you are questioning someone's heart and motives and right there is scaaaaary territory.
Everyone has situations where they are faced with the question on whether or not to confront someone, be it a spouse, a friend, a family member. These are times where someone we love begins down a path that could harm them, you, or other people and we must choose between dealing with the consequences of speaking up or keeping quiet.
Many people kind of veer to one side or the other when it comes to these situations. There are the aggressive, kick in the crotch type of people who will just let someone have it. Then you have passive people who don't want to step on anyone's toes and tend to avoid confrontation. Somewhere hidden among those two are the passive-aggressive who use manipulation and mind games to try to get a result without having to really say anything directly.
I don't think that any of these choices really sit well with me. I've tried them all in my life, and like playing that balloon dart game at the fair, the results are hit and miss. Once in a while one of those method works, but I wind up feeling awful in the end, even if I get what I wanted out of it.
I've found that between kicking ass, playing mind games and avoidance there lives something more...something better.
It's not for the faint of heart...because personally, I don't think it's that hard to be a jerk, it's not that hard to avert your eyes and it's not that hard to drop hints and fish for reactions.
Wanna know what is hard?
Patience. Waiting. Spending time. Watching. Listening.
I'm not talking about being patient and waiting for the right moment to confront someone.
I'm talking about assessing two things: Your heart and theirs.
"Wait a minute? You mean I should reflect on myself before telling someone they need to stop doing something destructive?"
Yes. Yes I do.
Here's the thing...we all can be self serving, pig headed, idiotic jerks sometimes. We have our own motives, our own plans, our own agendas. So the idea is to make sure that none of that is affecting the conversation we may have with someone. Because if you're in it for yourself, to get what you want, you're in it for the wrong reasons.
Often, we are side beneficiaries to someone changing for the better. That's not always a bad thing. If your wife stops shopping so much and you benefit by getting the mortgage paid on time, great. However, if that is the foundation for you wanting her to change, you're heart is not necessarily in the right place. The foundation for wanting someone to change should be based on the fact that you have identified, through careful consideration, that a behavior or decision is rooted in something negative.
For example, with over spending, often people use the high of shopping to fill a void within themselves, as an over-eater would with food. The husband's concern should stem from this understanding. The mortgage being late is a symptom. The cause should be the focus or his heart is not in the right place for a loving discussion. He's judged her behavior wrong and in need of change. Instead of aggressively requiring change of her to get the result he wants he takes time to find the cause, which he then addresses.
He doesn't take away her freedom or give her a list of goals to reach, he helps her to address the root of her problem and then gives her time to process. When she's ready, he helps her create a plan to address what she agrees needs to change. She sees what needs to change because she has been loved accurately.
If her husband had gone with what perhaps was his knee jerk reaction of either aggressiveness, passiveness or passive-aggressiveness would it have been effective? Perhaps, but probably not, and at the very least not in a healthy way. Would it have been loving? He may have thought so. Isn't it loving to care about their finances? Isn't it loving to save their credit score? Isn't it loving to trust his wife and just suck it up and pay the late fee if shopping makes her happy?
It may be love in a very partial way, but it would have been love that was inaccurately administered to her in her time of need and would not have fostered healthy change.
If love truly is your aim, ask yourself if you are loving accurately, for this moment, for this person or these people, right now.
I am constantly surprised at my answer and how often I catch myself dolling out inaccurate love because of my own simple folly.
Proverbs 15 says: A soft answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
Sometimes no matter what you do you will earn someone's wrath. They may perceive that you have loved inaccurately because have no right to speak, or have no authority to speak or many other reasons. In those moments we can only walk away and hope that at some point you may have the chance to love accurately in a way they can accept.
In all things, let us love.