I was talking with a friend the other day about an online post we had both seen from Jen Hatmaker. If you don’t know of Jen, she’s a Christian speaker, author, pod-caster and all around awesome person. To me, she is super relatable, and I love, love, love her. Ok, now that I’ve fan girled…her post related to a talk she’d given years ago to young men. The gist of the post that stuck with me was that looking back on yourself, say, 10 years ago, and judging that person is, in my words, comparing a baby’s ability to run with, oh, say Usain Bolt’s.
I Nowas intrigued with this idea and pondered it during coffee talk this morning with my friend. When we look back at ourselves, we do it with all the knowledge and experiences we have today. We didn’t have those back then. It’s impossible to look back and consider what we did from the same lens we had then. Choices, decisions, things we did…they were all with the smarts and experience we had at that time.
I’m not going to lie, I did some dumb things when I was young. For example, I was a young mom and did the best I could to raise my boys. But did I screw that up? Sure. Did I cause therapy? Likely. Could I have done better? Maybe. That’s the thing. Maybe. Given who I was at the time, I don’t know that I could have. If I went back in time and parented my kids with the knowledge I have as a 50-year-old woman…heck yeah I would have done things different. But as a 26-year-old? Faking it at best…along with plenty of other people.
So why is there such a recurring pattern of looking back on those early years from the middle of life and judging? For that matter, why do we look back and judge the other people in our lives? The same is true for them. They did the best they could with the tools they had. I say that, but I’ve heard that phrase before and in the back of my head heard nagging that it was a cop-out, a way to deflecting responsibility. It’s not. It’s the truth. To look back and say we would have done things differently? Well no duh. That’s why hindsight is 20/20. We have much greater insight into past events. But we’ll probably be doing the same thing in 10 or 20 years from now about our actions today.
I’m calling for a time out. We all need to stop and realize the damage it does to our own selves to look back judgmentally. You did the best you could. We weren’t waking up and wondering how we could screw stuff up. The truth is there was blind navigation of the road we were on. That’s life. That’s normal and it’s part of the journey. We can’t judge the beginning from the middle because we’re different people.
The same is true for our judgement on other people’s decisions. It’s super easy to cast stones at someone else. But we’re not them and we all have our own stuff. We didn’t have their childhood, their experiences, their joys and tragedies, we’re not sitting in their shoes. Instead, we could choose to simply be. Be with ourselves and with others.
Choose to experience life today. Not to judge it, but to experience it for what it is. Choose to be kind to yourself and to others. I know that my authentic self today was formed from all those past experiences and what I learned from them. Let’s choose to keep bravely forging ahead and leading with love, for you, for me, and for others. Loving who we are today and being kind and loving in our nostalgia, knowing that who we are today is a product of the road we’ve traveled.