It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe.
I was in a situation recently where I wasn’t leading at a camp but simply observing from the outside…..
It was a camp for troubled kids and their behaviour was very disturbing at times. This is not unusual, as I have been directing camps like this for over ten years now. What surprised me was my internal reaction to what I was observing.
For the first time in a while I found myself looking through a different lens. What surprised me was my Personal reaction when I was looking from the outside where there was no emotional attachment. I was surprised how judgmental I was at times and how I lacked empathy. I found myself getting frustrated, impatient and actually at times lacked compassion when I watched certain children’s behaviour and the way they treated the adults and other children. Not that I think bullying and disrespect should be tolerated, but I was quite surprised what it stirred up in me. I can imagine if I had been working in the camp and got to know the kids and leaders personally that my feelings would have been different. I know this because I really don’t have those emotions in the camp I run each year in July. I didn’t realise that it is only when I am integrally involved and get to know and love the kids, how much more compassion and patience I have with them.
It is so easy to make assumptions, to think you know better and even to make judgements when you sit on the sidelines and observe. And it is not something I am very proud of. But I realised how differently everything is seen when you are in thick of it, emotionally invested and willing to take a responsible role in the running of such an event, which means taking responsibility for what is happening, both good and bad. In all my years of working with children and people, I do know that “There is always a reason why we behave the way we do.” I teach all the time the importance of looking beyond the misbehaviour for the cry for help and yet I so easily broke my own rules as I piously sat on the sidelines, trying to control my emotions of frustration and judgement.
Then I wondered how many other times in life could this be true? We may watch other parents and make assumptions. We can see or read something about other churches or ministries and make judgements. We even observe other people’s choices and behaviour at times and, without knowing the full story, it is so easy to watch from a distance and “throw stones” as the saying goes. I wonder how aware we are that we are doing it!
I love living and doing life in an “Intergenerational Faith Community.” Living and doing life within our faith community has bonded us all in special ways and with that special bond comes a love and grace to know each other, the good and the bad and ugly, and still to choose to walk together, as we desire to grow more and more like Him. I understand that others standing on the outside may see it differently. I have often wondered why more people don’t want to join this kind of community. Yet, I understand why many find this threatening and choose to sit on the sidelines, possibly just attend a service on a Sunday, not get too close to many. But I wonder if that makes it too easy to find themselves like me, making judgements from the sidelines. It is easier to do, after all. It does not require any sacrifice or cost to me personally to live in such a way. I often hear people say to me: “I am a Christian, but I am not connected to any Church.” I get it. I understand it, but without trying to be judgemental, I don’t believe it is God’s design or the model we see from Jesus when He walked this earth.
As the saying goes, “if you could walk a mile in my shoes…” I wonder how differently we would live if we could really understand and empathise with others. I was challenged by this as I realised how easy it was to simply sit back, watch and commentate from the sidelines. But actually, Jesus calls us to walk closely with others, to jump in boots and all and walk more than a mile in other peoples’ shoes. It is only when we do that that we have the right to make a difference, an opportunity to truly help and as we do we can’t help but be transformed in the process.