A couple weeks ago the nation gathered around our TVs to enjoy one of our favorite pastimes — Super Bowl Sunday. If you’re like me, you sat with good friends enjoying a little football, good company and somewhere around a metric ton of 7-layer dip. It’s one of truly communal American experiences.
But before the game was even over, most of our culture had moved on to another favored national pastime — reactionary judgement.
It began with Eli Manning, who was seen in one of the suites at the stadium watching his older brother clinch his second title. While the rest of the room erupted, Eli looked subdued. And it took about 2.4 seconds for social media to erupt making judgements about why he didn’t look happier for his brother.
Look how jealous he looks. Can’t you be happy for your own brother? What’s wrong with you, man?!?
Once the game was over, we had already found another target. Cam Newton, the brash, energetic quarterback of the Panthers had to face the media minutes after the biggest professional disappointment of his life. He gave one-word answers. He appeared dejected and unhappy to be there. And the reaction was swift.
See, I knew this guy was a joke. He’s such a frontrunner. He’s immature and selfish. He won’t ever win because he’s all about himself.
I understand that the Bible doesn’t refer to judgment as a wholly bad enterprise. We are supposed to be discerning and make judgements at times. But I can’t get away from the irony of a culture that considers judging one another one of our only taboos while simultaneously judging one another constantly (particularly those in the public eye).
This is one of the reasons I love the lenten season. Yes, it can seem like a journey into the dark. We deprive ourselves and look our own sins squarely in the eye. This process is not easy and certainly not always enjoyable.
Yet when I take the time to truly consider my own shortcomings, to look hard at my own weakness and failures and temptations, I am much less likely to jump to quick judgements of others. Because I know that I am not much different. That you may not see the darkness in my heart, but it’s there.
Lent leads me towards more patience.
Lent leads me to greater understanding.
Lent leads me away from quick judgement.
Lent helps me lean more into mercy and goodwill.
And in a society so quick to make judgements of one another, this can be a much needed antidote.