My editor recently requested a backstory on a character in a part of my soon to be released book. It was a good suggestion on her part and the additional info I added would be sure help a reader understand the character better.
I started thinking about how differently we would view people if we knew their backstory. How might we react if we understood a little bit about what another person had faced? Had survived? Had lost?
So many times we judge a person by their actions. They act arrogantly therefore they must be arrogant through and through without an ounce of humility in them. They appear aloof so they obviously must not care. They seem so negative, always expecting the worst and need an attitude adjustment.
Oh, we are so quick to draw our conclusions and the truth is, no matter how convinced we are that we have a person all figured out, we don’t really because we don’t have the backstory.
That parent that seems impatient with their teen may have just bailed her out of jail the night before, but you wouldn’t know that. That surly looking older gentleman may have recently lost his wife of many years, but you wouldn’t be aware. That rude young man may be considering suicide. That demanding customer may be on the verge of bankruptcy. That crying child may have autism or sensory issues and his mom who appears to be ignoring the behavior may be doing so as a part of his therapy and encouraging coping skills.
I could go on and on, you get the drift. You know what I mean. And this brings me to the real lesson here for us all. Don’t judge people. You don’t know their hearts. You don’t know their backstory.
This is why God is the only just judge. He knows what they did, all the sordid details. He knows how they acted, what they said, what they chose, where they went. He knows exactly. He is after all omniscient. He not only knows about present behavior, He knows the backstory completely, every tiny detail. He knows their heart. He has the right to judge because He understands.
Recently someone I love made some terrible choices. I was shocked and ashamed after all, it was shocking and shameful. I was scared for them because I knew there would be consequences. I was sad because the choices led them to a place they never intended to go. I was tempted, oh so tempted to judge them. After all, the evidence was clear, there was no doubt of what they had done.
Then I was reminded, thankfully, that I didn’t know the backstory. I didn’t know all the details although I knew this person well. I didn’t know their heart, their intentions, their pain, their hurt that led them to the choices they made.
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not talking about excuses. Excuses are dangerous. Excuses say I can’t be held accountable. Excuses say the bad behavior has a right to continue. Excuses allow a free ride past consequences, or so it may seem.
No, I’m not talking about making excuses. I’m not talking about them or their actions, choices and behavior at all. I’m talking about us, you and me, and how we respond to those who have stumbled. Maybe they have fallen flat on their face. Maybe they’ve wallowed in the pig pen and stink to high heaven. Maybe they’re so ashamed that they’re incapable of saying so. I don’t know. I don’t know the entire backstory.
Here’s what I do know. We are not to judge each other and there’s a good reason why. So, although I was sorely tempted to judge this person, here is what I said. “I don’t know why you’ve done this but I know this isn’t who you really are and I’ll be praying for you.” And I meant it.