How quick are you to judge? How long does it take you to create a story about someone after meeting them? I like to believe that I don’t struggle with judgmental thoughts or talk.
Occasionally, my wife says to me, “don’t be judgy.” Her statement comes after I make an awkward facial gesture or say something out of order in the presence of new company. Sometimes, I prematurely assume other people do not share my values about health, work, family, and faith.
If you're keeping tabs, you can add "occasionally judgy” to my list of flaws.
I grew up in a religious home with a preacher for a father and the first lady as a mother. In my father's sermons at the church and parenting roles with my mom at home, there was a lot of talk about right and wrong. The great fights between good, evil, bad, God, and Satan were observable everywhere.
Although I often failed, I always wanted to be and do good in the eyes of my parents, teachers, the girls I admired, and other adults in positions of power.
My childhood efforts to appear flawless groomed the skills to make quick, snap judgments about a person's intentions, ambitions, and morals. I invested a lot of energy in my appearance and developed an insatiable thirst for competition and comparisons. As you swallow that last sentence, please do not regurgitate your self-righteous ideas in my direction.
Pause for a minute and think about how the authority figures in your upbringing influence your decisions. Maybe a teacher, parent, or coach made the most significant impact on the perceptions of your potential.
Awareness of your inner child is the first step in creating measurable changes for the person you see in the mirror. The next and most difficult step involves recognizing your childhood experiences to move forward and improve the adult version of yourself.
Keep reading to see where this discussion of judgment, religion, and childhood takes you this week.
Do you listen to podcasts?
Last week, my sisters sent me a podcast episode of Snap Judgment. I routinely listened to the NPR show hosted by Glynn Washington on Saturday mornings when I lived in Chicago. Despite online access, living abroad and audiobooks replace Glynn’s regular presence in my life.
Because two of my sisters sent the link to me with the words, “this is deep,” I redownload the podcast app to my iPhone 7plus. Yes, my phone is old and in need of an upgrade soon. Feel free to sponsor a new phone purchase!
Back to the post...
I downloaded the podcast episode because of my sisters' comments and the need to listen to something different during my Saturday run. Music or guidance from the Nike Run Coaching app always provides the soundtracks for my endurance jogging excursions. Before leaving to run 14 miles across multiple terrains, including sand and pavement, I pressed the play button on my phone's screen.
The Snap Judgment episode, "The World Tomorrow from Love and Radio," explores the early years of host Glynn Washington inside a religious cult. He shares his introduction to religion and race through the lenses of a preacher and congregation of white supremacy supporters. Glynn is a black man.
His family was one of few families of color in a church led by Herbert W. Armstrong. According to Washington, Armstrong preached an apocalyptic rendition of Christianity that forbade interracial relationships and promoted beliefs of divine white superiority. From the episode, it wasn’t transparent how and why Glynn’s family joined the church.
The 49-minute playback did reveal how his childhood church informed his beliefs about God and romantic interests in white girls.
Glynn’s confessions made me think about the white girl I had a crush on in 4th grade. I wrote about the spring trip to Florida that shaped my early perspectives of race in my first book. My father didn’t preach messages against interracial dating. Unlike Glynn Washington, I learned about relationship taboos outside the church.
Exercise or go for a drive this weekend and listen to the Snap Judgment episode, “The World Tomorrow from Love and Radio.” I will not claim Glynn’s story is "deep." It barely touches the surface of a shallow world difficult to swim in and dive toward the depths of possibility.
The podcast episode is a solid artistic approach to sharing a disturbing story filled with religious lies, family violence, and racial tension.
Before listening to Glynn’s story, I assumed he grew up similar to me. While there are variances in our experiences as black men born in America, racial and gender stigmas are universal and often produce variances of self-hate.
After the episode, I thought more about how race, religion, sexuality, and childhood trauma impact the snap judgments I make about people.
Life is about growth. It involves learning from past experiences to create more informed present and future perspectives. Reflecting on your childhood and listening to informative and educational podcasts can plant the fertilizer necessary to sprout new ideas and behaviors.
Let’s do our best this weekend and after Sunday to avoid judgment.
We will never know the whole story behind any individual we meet. Our human limitations help us only to see partial truths. Subscribe to this blog for future posts about self-improvement.