This school year two of my children are taking a chemistry class. In the class they are learning about the scientific method. Last week my son found a dead bird on the front porch. He claimed that the cat killed it. My wife and I asked him how he knew it was the cat. He said because cats kill birds. While that is true, we asked him if there were other possibilities that might could be the cause of the birds`s death. After thinking about it for a few seconds, he began to name other ways that the bird might have died. My wife and I tried to help him see that his first judgment about the birds`s death might be right, but also could be completely wrong. We asked him how he might could go about applying the scientific method to his bird theory.
The scientific method is rather simple. First, you have a problem or question. Rather than trying to answer the question immediately, you make observations and do background research. The third step is formulating a hypothesis, or and educated guess as to what you think is the solution or answer. Fourth, you test the hypothesis (experiment). Lastly, you analyze the data and draw your conclusion from the information you gathered in the experiment. After doing all this, then you can have a better idea as to whether your hypothesis is true or false, and if you need to change your original hypothesis.
When it comes to personal relationships, especially when dealing with conflicts, I find that I, as well as many others, operate very similar to the way my son did with the bird. We come to quick and decisive conclusions without ever thinking if there could be any other reasonable explanation. In other words, we like to act as judges and not as scientists. When we see someone acting a certain way, whether it is being overly joyful, depressed, sorrowful, enthusiastic, loud, quiet, angry, or non-engaging, we seem to think we know exactly why they are that way. If someone is rude or mean to us, we conclude very quickly that they do not like us. We see someone on welfare and assume that they are lazy. We see someone arrive late for church or work and we realize that they are not very disicplined. These are the kinds of conlcusions we often make without ever thinking that there could be other circumstances we are unaware of that are contributing factors to their behavior. It seems to never cross our minds that we might in fact be wrong. I say “we” because I know I do this as well.
Why do we do this? I might not be able to give all the answers to this question, but I think my thoughts are something to think about. I believe there are several reasons that we often judge rather than investigate when it comes to personal relationships. It is simply easier. To act like a scientist rather than a judge when it comes to personal relationships means that we have to work to find out the truth. Judging from a distance is just simply easier to do. No questions to ask. No personal contact required. A person simply acts, then we give the diagnosis. Being superfical is just simply easier to do.
Another reason that I think we do this is that we are afraid. Afraid of the person? Not realy. I am talking more about being afraid of commitment. If we seek to find the real answer to someone’s difficulties, it might mean having to actually help them get through it. It might take our time, energy, and maybe money. It would knock us off our routine, change our plans, and refocus our goals. In other words, we are afraid of getting our hands dirty. It is like when my kids first wanted to have chickens in order to begin a little egg business, but they did not want to clean the poop out of the chicken pen. We like the thought of helping people, but in the end we are afraid of what it might cost us. Bottem line: We do not love them enough to engage in their world. We love our routine, plans, and goals more than we do people. Often we get upset at them for not joining our world and supporting our plans, so that we can achieve our goals. Their attitude is not fitting our desire for their life.
A third reason I think we like to judge versus developing deep presonal relationships is that we like to feel like we know what is really going on. Whether or not our judgments are true, we love believing that they are right. We love it so much that we then go and tell our friends about what we know. Many in the church are guilty of this. Their excuse is that God has given them the gift of discernment. They think this because on one occasion at sometime in the past they were right about something, and now they think they are always right about everything. I know this happens. How do I know? I have been guilty of it, and I am saddened by that fact.
A fourth reason we stand at a distance from people is due to the fact we have been hurt by others in the past and we are protecting ourselves from any future wounds. There are at least four major problems with living with this kind of thinking. One, no matter how much you try to protect your self from being hurt, it will happen anyway. Sounds harsh, but it is true. Welcome to living in a sinful world with sinful people. Either you will have to learn how to live in a world like this, or you will stay secluded and superfical, and only wound yourself. Second, it is arrogant for one to think that their wounds are deeper than others, and that they cannot forgive because it simply hurts too much. Everyone has has been hurt by others. Jesus was wounded deeply on the cross, and He did that for us (Isaiah 53). He did not seclude Himself from people, but engaged a sinful and selfish people in order to bring healing and salvation. The third problem with this kind of thinking is that it assumes that God’s will that every believer be a commited member of His family (the church) does not apply to them. It assumes that they can simply float around and still be obedient to God’s will that we are to serve others in His name. Lastly, it denies the truth that God can and does use the wounds of others in our lives to refine us, prune us, and teach us about Him and His love for us. So to disengage from others out of fear of being hurt again denies our access to God’s maturing work in our lives. So what the heart of every believer wants (to be close to God) is rejected by the refusal to be close to others.
So, what do we do? What needs to change? It is our hearts that needs to change. While sometimes our judgments may be right on, we must acknowledge that often they are not. We need God’s grace to help us see our self-centeredness. We need Him to to a great work in us. But this takes us willing to see our shortfall of His will (our sin). This takes us willing to be humble enough to confess our sins to Him. This means wanting Him to be our Lord & Master rather than trying to trust in ourselves. This means wanting His name to be glorified over all things. More than wanting your own judgments to be right. This means submitting to Him, loving Him, and obeying Him because we see Him to be amazingly glorious. What it really takes is total abandonment to the Lord Jesus. That is the only place where we can be safe from our worst enemy: our self.
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.