“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
— Mother Teresa
We all pass judgement.
For every person we pass in the street, a judgement is rendered. The guy waiting at the bus stop. The lady getting her nails done in the salon. The bus driver with the big belly. The hunched old lady pushing a shop cart. The farmer on his tractor. Every person we see creates an image in our minds to which a label is attached, from which we pass judgement.
Yesterday, as I stood in the corner of a volleyball court, in the voluminous cavern of a vast athletic complex, I too passed judgement. As the volunteer line judge for a volleyball tournament, it was my job to pass judgement every time a ball landed near – or every time the foot of a server strayed too close – to those unforgiving red lines. But not only did I pass judgement on the lines, I passed judgement on the players.
I watched, with judging eyes, the players take the court as did everyone else. Parents, officials, coaches, players, and I all judged the best players from the worst. We judged the strong servers from the weak. We judged the tall from the short, the fast from the slow, the good from the bad. We all passed judgement.
But of all the players on the court, two stood out. One, whom I judged well. The other poorly.
One girl was on our team. Before the season started she had never picked up a volleyball. She was the youngest on the team. Skinny, and still a little awkward, she struggled. Her serves rarely made it over the net and her digs dug far too infrequently.
The other girl was on the opposing team. She was small with a ponch. She walked with her head hung low, exuding insecurity rather than confidence. When she served, her arm flailed. When she hit, the ball sailed.
Because the first girl was on our team, I knew how much progress she made this season. I watched her go from not being able to hit the ball to making a game-winning shot. It was easy for me to see her improvement.
The second girl was unfamiliar. I had never seen her before, but I had already passed judgement – short, slow, and soft. But when I heard the thunderous applause of the parents behind me when one of her serves landed in – I knew there was more at play. A gentleman explained that it was the first serve she made all season. In that instant, all my previous judgements were overturned. My verdict about a little girl, who stood on a court as well as in my courtroom, was wrong.
What I could see so clearly in the first girl but not the second was that most-human of desires. The desire to get better. To improve. I wasn’t there when the second girl picked up the ball for the first time. I wasn’t there for game after game where she failed. Seeing improvement is hard. It’s difficult to see change without investing time.
I suppose it would be easy to write that we shouldn’t pass judgement on one another. But that might be impossible. We’re going to pass judgement whether we will admit it or not. That’s not necessarily bad. It shouldn’t paralyze us, because in order to take action, we need to make certain assumptions.
But when we are judging, we’re spending our lives in a courtroom, analyzing the decisions and actions of others. We sit in judgement, when we could stand. We deliver verdicts, not results. When we’re in the courtroom, we’re not on the court.
Maybe it’s time for the court to recess for awhile.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Volunteer line judge for the final time this volleyball season. It was a privilege and an honor to be able to help these girls, and our coaches Kevin and Angie, these past couple of months.
Finally, congratulations to my daughters’ team for winning their final tournament yesterday. In my judgement, a job well done.