“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” —Luke 6:36-37
Professor and social scientist Brené Brown points out that studies show 85%-90% of the almost two million prisoners in the United States have had terrible exposure to violence and maltreatment in their past. When she interviewed Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey about their 2021 book What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, Dr. Perry said, “I want to give them the diagnosis of ‘what-do-you-expect?’ disorder. What do you expect if you neglect a kid and you beat them and you humiliate them and you sexually abuse them, and now they’re having trouble…? What do you expect? Why pathologize something that is a completely predictable outcome from a horrific background? And so I think it’s so important that rather than judging somebody in these pejorative ways…we take the time to get to know… why they’re acting the way they are.”
That interview, and the book it’s based on, rocked my world. How often have I judged others solely from what I see of them externally or based on something they’ve done? How often does our society judge people or blame them for their broken relationships, addictions, inability to climb out of poverty, homelessness, and even mental illness? Why do we not first wonder what has happened to them that has led them to their current behavior or life situation?
What Happened to You? challenges us to remember that Jesus didn’t only teach against judging others (because we’ll never know what they’ve been through), but that we have to go further and be merciful, striving to be as merciful as God.
For Action: Whom do you feel judgment toward? What can you do proactively this week to show them mercy?
To Pray: All-merciful God, free me of my judgments of others. May my heart grow in compassion and mercy, especially for those I don’t understand.