We have all made snap judgments of persons by the way they look. I am often initially influenced by others’ dress, hygeine, tattoos, piercings, I notice the way they behave or interact, be they bossy, cranky, or inappropriate. After spending some time with them, I later discover they live our values of caring, love, and gratitude. As part of my morning prayer time with God, I am reading a wonderful book titled Boundless Compassion by Joyce Rupp. Today Joyce talked about “walking a mile in another person’s shoes,” so that we can look upon their heart rather than judge their outward appearance and/or behaviour.
Shifting from judgment to compassion is not easy. I tend to call the process acceptance: letting others just be themselves. After years of working at it, I am becoming better at seeing the person within, rather than their outward appearance. At times, fear can still overwhelm me when I meet with a tall, assertive man whose size or color feels intimidating. When it comes to behaviour, I am still at the self-talk step. At least my first response to a person’s sharp tongue is no longer hurt or anger. Instead, I feel surprise. At that point I choose to imagine reasons for their behaviour, my first step in looking on their heart.
Today’s reading from Boundless Compassion reminded me of the importance of continuing on my journey into acceptance. As I focused on Joyce Rupp’s words. I felt affirmed in my progress so far and challenged for the journey ahead. She reminded me that I did not want to lapse back into self-righteousness, just because I was better at ignoring the outward appearance. In fact, my goal is not to ignore, but to accept the person as I encounter them. This will give me the courage and the freedom to search out the story behind the tattoos or the crustiness. Those stories will lead me to the person’s heart. And there I know I will discover God’s presence.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Give a gift of faith as well as fun for Christmas this year. Check out Janet Stobie’s books for children and adults at www.janetstobie.com