The Secret Pain that No One Sees
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5
When interviewing a patient in addiction medicine, we often will ask about Childhood Traumatic Events (CTEs) as there is a correlation between CTEs and addiction. Causality is difficult to prove, but the theory is, that traumatic events as a child negatively impacts an individual’s decision making and ability to cope in such a way that puts him or her at much higher risk for substance abuse later in life. When asking about these events, it’s eye opening to learn the horrors that others have experienced as children.
It’s often easy for me to be critical of the poor decision making of those with whom I’m working. There are those who just make one terrible decision after another. How stupid can you be? What’s wrong with you? It’s easy to be judgmental. Then, when I ask about CTEs, I hear about how that individual was physically and sexually abused as a child. When I take time to listen, I discover the neglect, fear, and drugs that he or she was exposed to as a child. As I grew up in a loving, stable environment, it’s difficult for me to understand that it’s even possible that a child can be locked in a closet and starved for days at a time.
When I take time to listen to these stories, my judgmentalism suddenly evaporates. In learning of the scars that patient bears, I begin to understand a little of why they do what they do. This, I think, is the tone of what Paul said in today’s passage. In it, he warned against judging others. He said that only God knows everything about a person and that it is only he who sees all the deep secrets of the heart.
We often compare the decision making of others to our own. When someone struggles with something we think is stupid, we judge. You’re an idiot. We have our own struggles though and we cannot know everything that others are going through. If we take the time to ask and listen though, we may learn compassion instead of judgment.
Understanding the past doesn’t excuse destructive behavior of course. We’re all still responsible for our own actions. Compassion doesn’t mean we ignore or dismiss evil and it doesn’t mean we tolerate hurtful behavior. It just makes it possible for us to love others instead of judging them.