Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

 Is there a right way to do it?

lava drinker
Image courtesy of flickr and edited by the author

You have to give it to the magistrates.

We think how difficult it must be to exact a ruling that may change peoples’ lives forever. But is it the judgement or the act itself that really changes history?

The fact is, oftentimes it’s both.

I arrived at AA one evening to a guest speaker on the stand.
It was the thirtieth anniversary of the night he had killed his best-friend by being drunk behind the wheel at eighteen-years-old.

He recounted the incident with glossy eyes yet unwavering resolve.
Later I would find out it was because he speaks on a weekly basis in schools, at luncheons, in military academies, and at recovery meetings across the country.

His name will remain anonymous due to the AA creed, but a quick google search will turn up tons of similar stories that have led young offenders to a life of public speaking.
They all do it for the same reason; because they may save a single life.
Some call it atonement.

The teen was standing on the witness stand in front of both his and the mourning parents of the friend whose life he had brought to an early end.
His parents really lost it when the judge said that their son would be spending the next fifty years behind bars.

But, the story doesn’t end there.
Before dropping the gavel in a final ruling, the judge felt the emotion in the courtroom and the weight of such a terrible, though possibly just ruling.
With gavel in hand he asked the parents of the victim to stand.

“I’m about to cast a ruling that will effect this young man’s future and the future of those he loves. It is your family that has incurred the greatest loss in this tragedy and I’m giving you a chance to pardon or condemn him in your own words,” said the judge.

The father and mother looked at each other, having already discussed their wishes for the boy in private and said through shaking voices,

“We don’t want him to waste his life in a cell. We just want him to live with what he has done.”

The judge, in turn, revoked his license, placed him on many years of probation, and assigned community service. The parents of his friend essentially saving his life.

But it wasn’t long before the pain of what he’d done led the kid right back to drinking. And only after a handful of close calls did he finally find the courage to walk into an AA meeting and finally face the traumatic consequences of his initial wrong-doing.

People are their own most critical judges.

A good judge knows this and uses the shortcomings that individuals face as grounds for proper coaching.

Is there a right way to judge? I don’t know.
But I know the wrong was is by taking a picture of someone’s past and nailing it to the wall so that you only ever think of them as that moment.
People have potential. It lies in both their fortunes and misfortunes.

Coachable moments only have the right effect if the offender can see how their actions have affected everyone involved.
A smart person will open up their ears and listen to those coaches.
Someone not as smart, or simply more stubborn, might take years to admit that they ever wronged anyone.
But the truth finally comes to the surface and must be dealt with.
It will happen internally or externally, and it is the most important reason that our kids attend church.

We’re pre-coaching them and encouraging them to be forgiving to themselves, but to watch out for the worst form of judgements in their own actions, which is when you paint a picture of another person, whether on-line or in public, and stick it on the wall for everyone to throw darts at.

It is easy today to say things that hurt others, when all you can see is the screen in front of you, and not the face of who it is you’re speaking with.

Even when you’re standing face-to-face with someone, you can never tell if they are smiling within, or just waiting for their own personal space to cry it out.

Internal dialogue can be so deafening. It is just as loud as external dialogue and has the ability to keep our attention twice as long.
It comes with all the inflections and cadence as those we confer with on a daily basis.

For that reason alone, it is important to realize that your voice as a coach and parent, oftentimes becomes the internal voice of your children.
Then they age, and though their internal voice sounds more like their own, the sarcastic commentary, the demeaning words, and the judgemental undertones will remain the same.
Sometimes forever becoming ingrained in their characters.

When I was in my late teenage years, I was a bit of a careless adolescent.
It makes me wonder where my kids get it from…

Anyhow, I had a friend who looked up to me that attended the same martial arts class. We hung out all the time. Practiced our martial arts; did stupid things like all adolescents do.
Or do they? I’m still not sure.
My wife tells me all the time that just because I did stupid things, it doesn’t mean every kid does.
I’m starting to think she’s right.

I had an attitude back then that I was invincible or something.
I was always getting angry and acting macho if someone poked at my ego. Eventually, I got into a minor accident while under the influence and had to spend a few weekends in jail.

The incident caused strain on my friend and I’s relationship and he flew home to live with his family.
I spent the next few years walking or jogging to work and at sometimes living under a tree, in a park close by my job.

About five years later, I had moved closer to my family and got a new job, my license back, started an on-line business, and had a relationship with one of my co-workers.
I had learned my lesson and had turned out to be a pretty happy and understanding person. Being homeless and having to struggle to survive because of your shortcomings can really help you squash your ego.
Maybe that’s why things were turning around!

Around the same time, I had started talking to my friend again on-line and it wasn’t long before we decided that if he moved in with me, we could really get the martial arts business going well.

To my dismay, when he arrived, he had adopted the same ‘I don’t care’ attitude that I had been all about those many years ago.

We never worked on the business, spent most of our time in trouble, messed up my relationship with my girlfriend, and finally I just paid for his flight home again.

I couldn’t understand why he would act like I used to. Didn’t he see how much trouble it had gotten me into?

That’s the thing. Everyone is on a different part of the great timeline of learning in life.
Being a leader (a good coach) is in realizing that, though we ourselves might have the strength to get ourselves out of a certain rut, others may not have that strength yet.
To set a bad example, is to endanger losing a loved one to the abyss of struggle. And if that person is not prepared to deal with such struggles, you may look back and see a lot of your friends that dared to do the same thing you were doing, but never got out of the rut.

Forgiving yourself and correcting your path is one thing. Forgiving yourself for altering another’s path is harder.

Sadghuru once said that there was a guru who used to walk the roads of India, passing by bars and restaurants, smiling happily each time he ran into friends.

He eventually gained a following like Forest Gump during his run across America campaign.

Each time him and his entourage would stop at a passing pub, the people laughing and drinking would recognize the famous guru and ask him to join them in the libations.
Always the guru would politely refuse, yet join in with some celebrated dancing before moving on.

Finally, one day, a patron of one of the pubs asked the guru’s entourage why he never joined them in drinking.

“Is he afraid to drink? Is he scared that we will drink him under the table”

This continued for some days until the guru grew tired of the same badgering from his followers.
Then at the very next bar the guru took a gallon of bourbon and drank it straight down with not the slightest ill effect before walking on.

His followers took it as a sign that they were permitted to drink from now on. Each time they passed the pubs, many would get inebriated and some would not be able to follow.

He would advise them against this drinking habit and they would always say,

“But guru, you drank a gallon of bourbon with your people just last week.”

Eventually the guru grew tired of hearing this excuse.

On the third day, at the very next town they approached, the guru went to the blacksmith’s shop.
After exchanging formalities with his friend, he reached out and grabbed the smelter from the forge and turned up the bowl, swallowing the whole red-hot contents of molten iron to no ill-effect before moving on.

His followers just watched on in wonder.

Needless to say, no one began drinking molten lava!

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Jay Horne is an author and publisher out of Bradenton, Florida. He is a husband and father of four.
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