“I’m just saying.”
“This is mean to say, but…”
“Don’t judge me.”
“I don’t want to say this, but it has to be said.”
Usually these phrases are said or heard right before something controversial is uttered. The hope is that the subject or intent of what the speaker says won’t be held against her. It’s a hall pass for saying something out of character, or against a more attractive impression we’d like to make.
The trouble is that hall passes are not outside the boundaries of right and wrong. And impressions are hard to smooth out if we’ve made a particularly deep one.
I’m a speak-before-I-think-er. I’ve put my foot in my mouth so many times you’d think I like the taste. My mouth takes off before my mind catches up, and by the time it does, I’ve said something ugly or stupid or weird or unnecessary. I took to writing my thoughts to give me a cushion between thinking and bad impression-making, but in the age of social media and right-now communication, what you get with me is either a dropped conversation while I practically sit on my hands to keep the words from springing forth, or a lively conversation where I make a fool of myself over and over onscreen. I’m so witty and insightful, I think, and tappity-tap, out comes a quick sentence or two. Later, I read what I said. Did I really say that? Oh, gosh. I hope people don’t think I’m awful. It’s better not to see people’s faces from the safety of my desk, but I can imagine the eye rolls.
“Just sayin’” was meant for people like me.
But what is right and wrong? The world is confusing. What’s right for me is different than what’s right for you, and what’s right for our country is different from what’s right for other nations. We can’t assume that everyone has the same beliefs, traditions, cultural awareness, or anything similar to us, really. The world is growing smaller, and within it there are millions of ways of doing, thinking, and saying, each right for that person or group. Tolerate others and accept their ways is the message we receive.
Because everyone is right these days, we feel free to say and do what we want, and those who think we are wrong are wrong themselves. So we qualify our actions and words and lightly admonish others to regard us less harshly. Who are you to judge me, anyway?
I’m so thankful for my faith right now. In this world, at this time, where everything is in shades of gray and nothing is one or the other, I’m grateful that right and wrong are clear to me. That “love God” and “love others as you love yourself” are the only two things I need to know for sure.
My words and thoughts filter through these instructions. The gray areas lie in how I act to show these two things. Even my mistakes – the times when I clearly see I was wrong, my inappropriate words or behaviors – can be redeemed by forgiveness. I can work on earth to smooth the deep grooves I’ve made that mar my character by asking for forgiveness and admitting my mistakes, and I can spend time with God to do the same.
I’m wrong a lot of the time. No amount of pleading for no judgments or “just sayin’” qualifiers will change it. I’ve made irreparable bad impressions, have turned off people by things I have said and done. Some things I’ve said shouldn’t be tolerated, and I should be judged for them, because I was wrong.
But I have the hope of redemption, which goes far beyond tolerance. It goes beyond someone pretending not to judge me for my wrongly uttered words. Jesus’ sacrifice washes me clean from my sins when I ask for forgiveness. Walking the path of righteousness ensures me a place in heaven. It makes my life not easier, but better. Less confusing. I do far less wondering and worrying about what to say and do than I used to. I still stumble, but less than before.
So judge me if you’d like. Judge me against God’s measuring stick if you’re up to the task. It won’t make a difference to me, because ultimately he has the last say about what’s right and wrong. For that, I’m thankful.