Changing My Heart

Image by Axel Naud, via Flickr

Lately, it seems that everything–in the news, in my Facebook feed, and in my small corner of the world—has been nudging me in a single direction, a simple phrase that whispers in the back of my head:

Stop judging.

I asked my spiritual director last week, “How can I interact with the world without judging? How can I recognize the brokenness all around me without passing judgment on it?”

She said: You can’t.

Making sound judgments is part of human life. We have to make decisions at every turn, from the routes we take on the way to the gym to the way we deal with ethical dilemmas at work and in the family. To abdicate that responsibility is to turn our back on our conscience.

But there’s a difference between recognizing that things are not as they should be, and getting angry with people for their participation in what’s broken in the world. Even if I never say anything about it outside the confines of my family—or even if I only ever say it in my head—the anger, and more importantly the accompanying self-righteousness, is where judgment goes wrong.

I’ve known for a long time I needed to work on this. But it really crystallized for me last week when I took to task those who get upset about the mythological “war on Christmas.” I told them to quit looking for things to get angry about. And then I thought, Kate, you’re talking to yourself.

Nor was that the first time. The week before that I took on foul language, and how it is a deliberate pursuit of negativity. I thought, Huh. You do that too, Kate.

These last two weeks, I’ve realized it’s time for me to learn not to take everything that is wrong with the world so personally. In many ways, I’ve been groomed to it; activism and fiercely-held opinions run deep in my family. But I’m finding that in my own heart it’s a short distance between being grieved by what grieves the heart of God and simply getting angry and dwelling in negativity. For my own spiritual and emotional health, and for that of my soul, it is time for me to make that distance bigger. To take a step back and recognize that everyone’s choices are their own business and their own responsibility, and that my anger and self-righteousness change nothing except my own heart—and that the change in my heart takes me farther from serenity, peace, and holiness—not closer.

Change my heart, this time.