Before my youngest son was born I spent a month in the hospital on bed rest. I filled a few of the long hours by watching a big International dog show on the TV above my bed. Before the week-long event was over I had learned quite a bit about the judging process in these competitions. In order to win Best in Breed a dog has to conform to a clearly defined set of standards. Best in Class judging, that includes a variety of similar breeds, has slightly looser guidelines and Best in Show is, by the judges own admission, mostly subjective and a matter of personal taste.
The Bible admonishes us to “judge not, lest (we) be judged”, but women are notorious for judging ourselves.
Too often we are judging ourselves on the wrong standards.
My mother was very critical of her own looks and after retiring became a near-recluse from shame in her appearance. This was not because she had some embarrassing disfigurement. Anyone who met her would agree that she was a neat, well-groomed woman and attractive for her age. But my mother looked into the mirror and compared herself to younger women and even to her own younger self. The first time she noticed that her upper arms were losing their youthful firmness she banished short sleeves from her wardrobe. Even though she looked younger than her years and could easily have earned a blue ribbon when judged against her “breed” of women of her own age, she was testing her looks against all the younger classifications, as well. If confronted, she would have denied that she aspired to the “Best in Show” cup, but that was the standard she was using, and it made her dissatisfied with herself.
This is an extreme example, but many of us are guilty of this same sort of issue. We compare ourselves to the women in magazines and TV or with earlier versions of ourselves.
I have a precious friend who is returning to work next week after a long maternity leave. She is in her mid-thirties with two babies under two years of age. Her coworkers tend to be a fashion-conscious group and she is making herself almost sick with fear of being judged because her work wardrobe no longer fits.
Before she was blessed with her two beautiful daughters she was in the single working women breed, and met all the standards with ease. She has now moved into the class of working mothers of young children. She is one of the best mothers I have ever known: kind, giving, loving and still beautiful in all ways…only her waist has thickened, as sometimes happens with this breed. When judged against the standards of her current status, she shines as a winner.
It is sometimes difficult for us to let go as we move from one stage of life to another. Modern culture’s love affair with youth doesn’t help, but life is meant to include growth and growth changes us. How sad to observe one who fails to grow into each new stage of life and who clings, for whatever reason, to earlier ideas and patterns even though the body has clearly moved on.
We may look back fondly on our childhood and youth, thanking God for all the blessings and joy experienced in the past, but then focus forward again giving thanks for the blessings and challenges of the present and future.
When a party is over, we don’t want to spoil the good time by kicking and screaming like a toddler, refusing to leave. We thank our host with a big smile and go on our way remembering the fun we had and looking forward to the good times ahead.
We must always be careful not to compare apples and oranges. If you must judge yourself in comparison to another, be absolutely certain that the one you hold up as your standard is at exactly the same stage of life as you and has had the same life experiences, the same innate gifts and challenges, the same hopes and dreams….or you are comparing apples and oranges and the comparison is unjust.
We are not to judge but we do need to have standards. As Christians we need to judge ourselves against the standards we are taught, the standards of our class, as it were. We all want to be best in that class. But in all else, when you are tempted to judge yourself or another, be certain you are using the correct standards, or leave the judgement to God.