Judge Not, or In Other Words, What I Learned When I Was Hanging From a Rock

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by Heather@Women in the Scriptures

My sister-in-law climbing and my husband on belay at the bottom

Awhile ago my husband and I broke out our rock climbing equipment and took my sister-in-law rock climbing up the canyon by our house. It had been several years since I’d been rock climbing and it felt so good to be back on the rocks. I love it. I am always amazed at how much “brain work” rock climbing requires. It really forces you to learn your body, unify your mind with your body and make hard choices quickly. Even though it looks physically hard it is really more of a mental game than it is a physical one. Rock climbing has taught me some important eternal lessons over the years and this day was no exception.

We were climbing a fairly difficult rock but it didn’t really look all that hard until I was the one actually climbing it. When I was belaying it seemed so obvious to me what route the climbers should take, where they should put their hands and feet, and how they should get out of hard situations. I found myself yelling advice to the climbers and wondering why they were having such a hard time. Yet as soon as I clipped in and approached the wall it was like I was facing a completely different rock than I’d been watching the others climb. It was a lot steeper, smoother, and higher than it had appeared from below.

I learned an important lesson when I watched my husband climb a portion of the rock that I had really, really struggled with. He did it very quickly and with little trouble. He found hand holds that I hadn’t even seen. I wondered why he seemed to be able to do it so much better than I had. I felt a little embarrassed that I had struggled so much.

The next time I climbed I followed the same route that he had taken and when I got to the hard part I asked him where the hand hold was that he had used. He pointed it out and I saw that it was at least four feet above my head. I don’t have the long arms and legs that my husband does  and I knew that even if I was to stretch my body to its limit there was no way I would EVER be able to reach the same spot he had so easily reached. I would have to find a different way to get up the route.

When I got down from the climb I realized that even though I was climbing the same rock, using the same rope, and taking the same route as the others — my climbs were totally different than theirs. My body was different, my flexibility was different, my experience was different, the connection between my mind and body was different, my fears were different, and my weaknesses were different. I saw that there was NO possible way that I could judge another’s performance based on my own experience — even though it seemed like it should be very similar. I realized that any coaching or advice I could give from the bottom would be really subjective and that I shouldn’t judge the choices they made or the route they went because I wasn’t the one climbing. They would make different choices than I did and would have a different experience than I did because — they were different from me.

I think I probably should have learned this lesson much earlier in my adult life; it would have saved me a lot of grief, but it has now been impressed upon my soul in a powerful way. I see now how impossible it is for me to make judgments about why people make the choices they do or why they are the way they are. I don’t have enough information. My own experience, even though it seems similar, is not enough to base the judgment on because I am a different person — a different soul — with different talents, abilities, and experiences. I think I now understand much better what President Thomas S. Monson said in his comments to the Relief Society,

“None of us is perfect. I know of no one who would profess to be so. And yet for some reason, despite our own imperfections, we have a tendency to point out those of others. We make judgments concerning their actions or inactions. There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize. Thus the commandment: “Judge not.”… Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging… charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient… It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.”

Judging is something I struggle with (don’t most of us?) and I hope that I will be able to apply the lesson God taught me that Fall day to my daily life. I’ve learned that I can do everything I can to help make sure other climbers are warned, safe, supported, loved and encouraged — if they ask for help I can give it — but I can’t judge their choices. I have my own climb to worry about.

About Heather@Women in the Scriptures

I am a scripture loving, baby snuggling, chicken raising, modern dancing, garden growing, home birthing, doula working, fast swimming, muffin loving, Mormon wife, mother, sister, and daughter.

3 Responses to Judge Not, or In Other Words, What I Learned When I Was Hanging From a Rock

  1. Lisa says:

    Great analogy! It is so hard to not judge when being the person looking from the outside we can see the wheres and whys of the mistakes. It is a completely different story when it’s your self. Things are sometimes not as clear. Love this…

  2. Paul says:

    This is such an awesome lesson / allegory. And I’m in awe of rock climbers — something my fear of heights will not allow me to do. 🙂 I so appreciate the perspective (pun intented) you provide through this essay.

    I think it’s also instructive for us to apply this lesson to ourselves when we may feel judged by another: we can honestly tell ourselves that we are ok and the other person simply doesn’t understand. We need not take offense, but just realize that we see our lives differently than others do. Quite empowering, actually.

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