Last weekend I was at church with my family. As we filed one by one into the pew, my 2-year-old hit her head. Then the three-month-old started to cry. We, as usual, felt like a spectacle. The lady sitting directly in front of us looked back at me with a serious face. I felt humiliated. . . worse than that, I felt judged.
For the next ten or so minutes, I analyzed the look she gave me. I wondered why she thought she could judge me. Don’t I deserve to go to church with my family? Doesn’t she realize how hard it is to come to church with kids? Hasn’t she heard that whole “Let the children come to me quote”? Did she not read the little paper in the pew that talked about being welcoming to young families? These and more were the questions I wanted to ask her. I was angry and obviously feeling very defensive. I was not paying attention to church. I was annoyed at my children’s noise. I was fixated on that lady’s “mean look.”
At the sign of peace, the lady turned around and shook my hand. Smiling, she looked me in the eye and said, “You have a beautiful family.” After church, she repeated that my family was beautiful, and told me that her kids were spaced about the same as mine and that they were all grown up now. She said, “It’s hard but so worth it.” What comforting and thoughtful words!
I lowered my head. Shame on me. I felt terrible. I had taken that one “mean look”, misinterpreted it, and completely judged this sweet lady thinking that she had been judging me. I’m sure I have misjudged “looks” before and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I fear that there are times people have mistaken my “looks” as well. And of course the poor souls with “resting bitch face”–they are surely misjudged on a daily basis.
So often, we are self-conscious about ourselves and focused on what others are thinking about us, when they are likely not thinking about us at all. Maybe they are thinking about the weather, the latest Saints game, or what’s for dinner. Maybe they are thinking about me after all – perhaps worried that I’m judging them!
Rather than worrying about the thoughts and judgements of others, we all just need to go home, look in the mirror, channel our inner Stuart Smalley, and say “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit people like me!” Lesson learned–next time I guess I should just pay attention in church.