Friday, July 8, 2011

Make the Call

For some reason, this was a tough one to write.  Not sure why- but here goes anyway.

While out on my jog yesterday morning I found a wallet on the ground.  I looked in the wallet to find a way to get a hold of the owner.  There was a drivers license with a PO Box. The picture on the drivers' license was one of a tough-looking, non-smiling twenty something muscled-up guy.  I also found a library card and a registration card for a sexual deviancy in-patient program.  Up to that point, I was ready and willing to find the person and return the wallet personally, but after I found the registration card,  I questioned whether it was it the best decision? He could be a sexual offender or he could be an employee there. I didn't want to judge him. But...... after a lot of thought, I decided I needed to go a different route. My dad ended up taking the lost wallet to the local police station. 

We are told never to judge people.  That's not our job.  We cannot possibly know all there is to know about a person to come up with a completely accurate assessment of their worth. So, did I judge this man without ever meeting him, based on a blank registration card?  Some might say yes, but I disagree. I did not judge him, I made a judgement call regarding the situation.

What is the difference?  I did not deem this man a bad man, who is condemned to a life of crime and deviancy.  I simply looked at the situation - not the man himself- and decided it was not safe. 

If I am walking down the street and I turn into a dark alley and see a large man dressed in black holding a knife, will I continue on because I am taught I should not judge others? No way!  I make a judgement call, and run for my life. If there is a grizzled hitchhiker by the side of the road holding duct tap and a rope, do I still pull over and give him a ride? I'd say a hearty NO to that one, too.

These seem like no-brainers, but about the situations where it is not so easy to differentiate between judging and making a judgment call?  What about the homeless man on the street holding a sign for money, or the stranger who asks for a few bucks to spare as you walk through the mall.  

What about the situations that hit closer to home? An acquaintance who makes you feel uncomfortable asks for a ride home. A coworker who has a reputation for being back-stabbing wants to team up with you on a project. A flaky family member wants to borrow a large amount of money. Where do we draw the line between judging someone, and making a judgement call?  

When you judge someone you place a value on their person as a whole  (she is a good person, he is bad person) and you attached a label to them (i.e. loser, greedy, materialistic, lazy, shallow, etc).  When you judge someone you take it upon yourself to be the expert on this persons past, present and future, and their ability to contribute to the world we share. 

When making a judgment call, you look at the situation. The focus isn't the other person, but how your interaction with them will affect you.   You look at a snapshot of the person (dark clothes, knife in hand) and how things appear at the moment (dark ally, all alone)  and decide what kind of potential impact their presence will have in your life.

Judging is focused on the person.  A judgement call is focused the situation and it's affect in your life.

Here I make a confession that only a handful of people have ever heard.  (Mom, Dad, I hope you are sitting down.) When I was around 19 years old I picked up a hitchhiker.  He was a young man, not much older than me. He was clean-cut and harmless looking.   It was late at night and his friends left him without a ride home.  We talked as I drove.  He seemed nice enough.  In fact, he was very nice- and very cute. We stopped at a park on the side of the road and swung on the swings in the moonlight while we continued to talk. (When people ask what is the dumbest thing I've ever done, this is what I think of, but never share!)

After about 20- minutes he stopped swinging and looked at me.  His face was long and grim.  He said something I have never forgotten.  "Picking me up was a stupid thing to do.  You are too trusting." He said. "You don't know me. I could be crazy.  I could really hurt you."

I froze on the swing and said a prayer in my heart.

He continued,  "But, I'm not crazy, and I won't hurt you. But the next guy could."

He then made me promise to never, EVER, pick up another hitchhiker again- even if they looked harmless.  He told me to leave him there in the park and go home.  I did just that.

Afterwards I was very shaken and embarrassed.  I still am 20 years later as I think of all the the what-ifs. I thought I was being a good Samaritan. I thought that God would protect me since I was trying to do the right thing by giving him a ride.  I do believe I was protected but not because I had good intentions, but because I needed to learn a powerful lesson. I am grateful for the protection and the lesson.

He was first hitchhiker I had ever picked up, and the last.  I have often felt bad as I drive by hitchhikers. Many have looked harmless, even kind.  But, the experience so long ago has been etched in my mind forever. I cannot imagine putting myself in that position ever again. This is where it is important to understand the difference between judging a person and making a judgment call.  I am not judging the hitchhikers by my choice to not pick them up.  I am making a judgement call. 

Should you judge people? No.

Can you say no to someone without judging them? Yes.

Would saying no to certain people be a good judgment call? Yes.

Should we feel badly about saying no? No. (Although I still do sometimes- but that's a post for another time)

It can be difficult, especially for us women, to say no when someone needs help. We want to rescue the stray dogs, feed the poor, take troubled peopled under our wings.  We don't want to judge others, so we open our hearts, our homes, our wallets and our lives to even the most unsavory characters. We want to save the world.

But, often times those that we try to help hurt us.  We put ourselves in dangerous situations for the sake of being kind.  We don't want say no.  We end up being taken advantage of and wondering if this is our reward for trying to do good.

God has given us hearts that want to help and serve. But He has also given us minds to analyze the situation and decide if extending that help will be detrimental to us and the ones we love.  It is our responsibility, and our right, to make judgement calls for ourselves and our family. He trusts you to make the choices that are best for you and the ones you love.

Making the right call isnt't always easy.  It might hurt or offend others.  It might even make them mad. But, I know one thing, I never want to feel like I did that dark night 20 years ago.  I made a terrible judgement call, all in the name of doing good.  I could have paid dearly for it. I am grateful the He saw fit to let it be a lesson taught, rather than a trauma to overcome.

Turn to God in faith. He can bless you with clarity and courage to make the judgment calls that are best for you in your life. Doling out righteous judgment is His job.  Making good judgement calls is yours. It's up to you.  You make the call.

No comments:

Post a Comment