Hold Space, Not Judgment

Judgment. It’s an easy trap and we all fall in to it at some point, or many points, in our lives. We look at what someone else is doing and based on our experiences, we judge them as not doing the right thing. We compare our experiences with their actions and we make declarations like, “I would never do…” or “I’ve faced that and I didn’t…”. There is a massive flaw in this kind of comparison, besides the simple fact the comparison is flawed, and that is we believe we are comparing apples to apples when in reality, we are comparing apples to oranges. Alike in that we are human. Not alike in that we have completely different sets of experiences and DNA.

Women who faced abortion and chose not to have one, look at women who faced abortion and chose to have one, and they say things like, “I’ve been there and I chose life, why didn’t you?” The truth is that the only similarity is you faced the same decision point, but each person went into that decision point with a different set of variables at play and so no, you didn’t have a shared experience, at best you had a similar decision point. And then, as if that singular judgment isn’t bad enough, words like, “I’m not judging you…” or “I’m not trying to hurt your feelings…” come out and they add insult to injury because at the core of the judgment is the desire to have someone be right and someone be wrong and that, in and of itself, brings about pain.

(I use the example of abortion not to focus on that issue in particular but because right now it’s a hot topic across the United States and it’s where I see so much judgment and venom.)

The simple Truth (yes, I know I capitalized “T” because for me, this is a universal truth), you have no idea what came into play when a person made a particular decision even when you have had to make the same decision. All of your DNA, all of your childhood, all of your trauma, all of your joy, all of the millions of moments you have experienced layered on top of your chemical makeup came together and produced your decision and that decision is absolutely specific to you. While we may make the same decision, we are making it for different reasons and we may not even understand those differences. We have to get to the place where we stop thinking we understand exactly what someone else is going through because in the end, we really don’t and when we try to get that close to identifying with someone, we run the risk of judging them. I always go back to a favorite phrase, “same same, but different”.

Compassion is how we live in a space of “same same, but different” and allow for others to choose differently from us without judging their actions. Jesus, clearly one who operated out of and through compassion His entire life, made a bold statement about Himself and us and it’s one we need to use as a compass. In John 8:15 He says, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.” Mic drop! Jesus, heaven made flesh and come to earth, Son of the living God, one-third of the Trinity, certainly had the right to judge considering who He was and yet, He opts for compassion and a non-judgemental approach. If Jesus didn’t feel like judging people was His role, then how can we?

Now, the immediate pushback is, “I wasn’t judging, I said that clearly. I was just expressing my opion.” Guess what folks, no one really needs one more piece of unsolicited opinion or advice. We’re full! Overflowing even with opinions and advice. And yes, of course you have the right to express your opinion (look, I’m doing it here myself!) but the words being chosen are hard, cutting and unkind. If you are a follower of Jesus, you don’t get to use language that harms people. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are commanded to use a language of unconditional love. A language that says to the person facing a tough decision “let me hold space for you to share your feelings and I promise, I won’t tell you my story unless you ask me.” Holding space is where we have the largest amount if impact.

Holding space for someone is scary, can we just be honest about that? If I hold space for you, allow you to open up and spill out your mess, then I’m going to have to get messy with you and that’s terrifying. I’m going to have to hear things I maybe don’t like and hold my reactions. I’m going to have to make the moment all about you and not about me. I’m going to have to listen to understand and not listen to reply. Holding space is one of the hardest, most loving gifts you can give someone and the cost is great. And, the cost to not hold space for someone is greater.

Live a life of compassion, holding space and not judging, where people feel valued and honored. You will find yourself growing and changing and God will use you in ways you never imagined.




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