Recently a friend of mine told me that before she knew me she thought I was “too crunchy” to befriend.
“Me? Crunchy?” I said to her. “I wear shoes and deodorant and don’t use Tom’s toothpaste.”
“But you drink kombucha, right?”
She had me there.
But who wouldn’t?! It’s carbonated, full of probiotics, and is naturally caffeinated. Sure it smells like vinegar and looks like you’re growing a jellyfish instead of a drink (which I realize are two good reasons not to drink it), but to me it’s like a Beverage Super Star!
PLUS you can shorten it to “booch”, which means it should be offered to all people everywhere so everyone has the chance to say “booch me”. Come ON somebody!
So why do we judge it then?
Is it because we’re afraid of having our nostrils and taste buds challenged? Are we unwilling to try something new because we’re “so sure“ we’ll hate it anyway? Because how can we really know unless we slug one back?
Now, of course this topic is safe when addressed to something that doesn’t have feelings (although if you’ve ever seen a SCOBY multiply you might think otherwise – gross right?!)
But what about people….do we like to be judged based on what we “seem” to be?
Of course not.
I know that for me, I am so much more than my preference for kombucha and organic foods and reusable bags. Do these things fit a certain stereotype? Sure. But do they comprise everything that I think and am? Nope.
My friend commented on this recently too, saying how sorry she was for having judged me before talking to me. I told her that was okay, of course, as long as she tried some of my kombucha.
She politely declined.
You get my point. All day everyday we are faced with the opportunity to make snap judgments about other people based on their tattoos, skin color, parenting choices, marital statuses, or Facebook posts. We see someone praying before they eat their potato boats at Applebee’s and think, Wow…I would NEVER pray in public…..let alone EAT potato boats. Gross!
We hear about free-range parenting, homeschool-parenting, or some other label-of-parenting that’s different than ours and we judge. We don’t think we do this, but the minute someone challenges our belief system, out comes the assumption-brigade.
Now, just because we’re inclined to do this, does it make it right?? Of course not!
How do we override this tendency then? How do we hold true to our beliefs while also being open to new ones?
Simple. We cross that awkward and inconvenient divide of “difference” by communicating. (Just read John chapter 4 for some inspiration!).
Like the other day…
There I was, sitting at the park completely ignoring my kids (and probably getting judged for doing so), when I noticed a mom handing her kindergartener a pacifier. You guys, the judgments slipped all over my mind like an oily hog – yuck! But then I caught myself doing this so I decided to ask her a couple of questions instead.
“How old is your son?” I said, thinking that was a pretty safe place to start, but what she said back surprised me:
“I know I know…” (as if she could read my mind) “I shouldn’t be giving it to him, but I just can’t take it away from him either………”
She trailed off into a sea of memories; and friends, the silence was just so awkward I wanted to hide in this giant oversized sweater! (Will someone please knit this for me?! ha!)
I kept thinking, Should I get outta here and go find my kids? (prolly shoulda done that anyway), Or do I press onward into this awkward conversation? Thankfully, I chose the latter…
“Why can’t you take it away?” I asked her.
“Well,” she paused…again, “I just left a 10 year relationship that was, well……abusive……so that pacifier is the only thing he’s got right now to bring him comfort.”
BAM. All of my nasty, slippery little judgments just got disqualified,
(so I quickly gulped em all down with my kombucha).
We talked for a little bit longer, but by the end of our conversation I was able to tell her what a great mom she was and that it didn’t matter if he sucked on that pacifier until he was dating. She was keeping him safe.
Sometimes crossing “the divide” does that, right? It teaches us about other people, but it also teaches us a lot about ourselves.
So I encourage you to do that today — find someone you would normally not interact with and ask her a question. Ask her where she’s from or why she’s doing “that thing” you find different (in your best Mary Poppins voice, of course).
You just might find that she’s not so “strange” or “crunchy” or ______ after all. OR you might find that she’s exactly what you thought she’d be like but that you don’t care! Either way, I know you’ll discover that there’s more to her than what’s at the bottom of her “kombucha bottle”. Because after all, isn’t there more to all of us?