So I really hate public restrooms. I hate that other people can hear me pee. I think that’s gross. I also think it’s gross to hear other people pee—or do other things. Some people can just do their business in a public restroom without any embarrassment at all, but I am definitely not one of them. There are two ladies restrooms on each floor of the building where most of my classes are: one of them has several stalls; the other has only one. Naturally, I tend to go to the one with only one stall, even if it’s further away, because there are fewer people and more privacy. But the other day, I realized the down side to having only one stall.
The smell accosted me as soon as I walked into the restroom. Obviously the blonde girl who walked out as I walked in had done her business in there. Ewww!!! So I had to hold my nose while I went in to empty my bladder. The smell was really intense! But I made it out alive, and as I was washing my hands, another girl walked in. Suddenly I was horrified to realize that she probably thought I had been the one to stink up the restroom so badly! What would she think of me?! Ok, I never said I was altogether rational. I’m just being honest here.
Later, as I jokingly relayed the story to a friend, her question caught me completely off guard: “Well, when you walk into a bathroom that smells, do you always assume that the person walking out did it?” I had to honestly tell her that yes, I suppose I did. And apparently, that was wrong. Because if the girl behind me assumed that I had done it, she’d have been wrong. Maybe it wasn’t the blonde girl after all.
As I pondered my friend’s surprisingly profound response, I began to wonder about what other things I might incorrectly judge a stranger. Yesterday at our football tailgate, for example, I drank water out of a red Solo cup and felt mildly conscious of the fact that an onlooker might assume I had an alcoholic beverage in it. I mean, that’s what I would generally assume of someone else in that situation. (For readers who may not know, Arkansas law requires that public drinking of alcohol be from an unlabeled cup. You can’t just carry your beer can on the street.)
You’ve probably heard the adage, “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” But in order to hate sin, don’t you first have to have judged that a behavior was sinful? Whereas I don’t think it’s ever okay to subscribe motives to other people’s behavior, I have written here before about the behavior of other people that I judged to be wrong (as well as some of my own behavior that I knew was wrong). In cases of those clearly, biblically defined sins, God has already judged and all we are doing is agreeing with the judgment; however, most cases aren’t so clearly cut. Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” While it may be ok—even wise sometimes—to discern that a specific behavior is wrong, remember that judging the person herself, or her motives, is always wrong.
As quick as we are to judge others, it’s ironic that we often lack the ability to judge ourselves. People often do and say sinful things without realizing it. I’m positive that I do, and I am positive that others do. And when someone points out that what I have done is sinful, I can become indignant. I honestly had no intention of sinning and I wasn’t aware of it when it happened. “But I never meant to…” may be a perfectly true way to begin your defense, but does it mean we are innocent? When the finger is pointing in our direction, we should earnestly evaluate whether or not it’s merited before we dismiss it as false accusation. Hopefully, the person pointing out the sin has only judged the behavior—and not the person or motives behind it.