I grew up in the South during an era when it was acceptable to judge people, to whisper harsh words about them to your friends. You could even pass as compassionate as you did it if you just added “bless her heart” to the end of your criticism. It felt like our duty. These people needed judging and we were just the people to do it.
What I failed to realize at the time was the effect this was having on me. I was right…that woman had no business singing a special at church, she couldn’t find the right note to save her life. But, with every one of these sentences that I passed I was piling weights and assumptions on my head. I found that going on stage to perform or writing or drawing was becoming more and more difficult. I started to believe that everyone that I performed for was the same as me, that they were measuring my imperfections and looking for opportunities to judge me.
Thankfully, later in my life I met some artists who were also gifted encouragers. I watched them take newbies under their wings and speak words of life, breathe hope into them. I was appalled at first because I could see with my keen judging eye that these young artists were not worth investing in. I was dead wrong. I started to understand the beauty of living a life free of judgement. It doesn’t only free us up from being uptight, unpleasant people. It also frees us up to perform and create with less fear.
When you become the encourager instead of the critic…you empower those you encourage and you free yourself. Like my momma and daddy always said, “look for the good in people and you’re sure to find it”.