Kathy Looper Christian Counseling

Kathy Looper Christian Counseling

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Dealing with Judgment

Growing up in church, I was often on the receiving end of being judged by others.   I’d like to think things are different now compared to what they where when I was a teenager. However, in my adult life, it has been no different.  I have grown accustomed to being judged by others. but it doesn’t have the same affect on me as an adult that it had on me as a teenager because I have changed the way I respond to judgment.  Lately though, I have noticed other’s who are the judger’s and those who are on the receiving end.  I found that judgment in the church is still very present but the church is not the only place judgment takes place.  It takes place on our jobs, in our relationships and even with our children.  I have come to believe it is a part of the every day life of most humans.  One has to be very diligent and mindful to abstain from the temptation of judging others. 

Judgment, is defined as “an opinion or a conclusion.”  For purposes of this column, I think judgment is best defined as one who comes to a conclusion about another.  So what does that mean exactly?  Conclusion means the end of a thing, so when we come to a conclusion about someone, based on how they look, what they wear, what they say or what mistakes they have made, we are summing up their whole existence by what we are judging them on.  It is sort of like stereo typing people but worse and that is unfortunate.  Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.  I grew up in a church that believed women should not wear make-up or cut their hair.  As a young girl, I wanted to be pretty and I didn’t feel pretty so I would cut my hair in an effort to make myself more attractive and I would dabble in make-up, just enough that maybe no one would notice I was wearing any.  As a result of these actions and others, I was judged as a “sinner” and worse, someone that “didn’t love God enough to obey the rules.”  If you are a sinner then that meant you where not going to heaven.  This had a profound effect on my life for many years because my heart did love the lord and my intention was not disobedience, my heart was looking for acceptance and that need led to my actions.    The thing is, judgment is saying, “I am right and you are wrong.  I am better then you because I don’t do what you do.”  It places superiority on the person making the judgment while placing fault on the person being judge.  In this way, it is different from stereotyping.  Stereotyping can be negative, and when it is, it stems from fear.  Stereotyping can also be positive in that sometimes we seek to understand a person’s culture, beliefs or actions by way of observing their overall look.  Does that make sense?

I chose to write about this topic because I believe there is something we can learn from this subject.  Judgment requires assumption.  When judgment is present, we assume the person knew better and chose to “do it anyway” or we assume “he/she thinks he/she is so smart” or “the Bible say’s that and  you are wrong!”  All those assumptions are predicated on the person having a bad motive.  But I have found that for the most part, people try to do the best they can.  Their motive is coming from a pure and honest place.  That doesn’t mean that mistakes don’t happen but it does mean they where not done in malice.  What if, people just don’t know any better in their heart?  What if people are broken and hurting and they try to do the right thing but their own insecurities and fear get in the way?  Should those people be judged or should those people be helped by those of us who have walked in their shoes?

There is a tenent in the recovery programs that says “Take what you want and leave the rest.” I had learned that saying when I went through Alanon many years ago, and it was an extremely valuable tool for my self-help tool belt.  It taught me that I may not agree with everything being said in the walls of an Alanon meeting, but I could take the things that applied to my life or circumstances and leave behind that which did not apply.  This approach prevented judgment in that it allowed for each person to find their own path with the understanding that we are all on different paths but seeking the same result.  When I went back to church after many years of not going, I found this same principle applied there as well.  Over the years, I have traveled a lot and been to many churches to hear many preachers.  I do not agree with everything preachers say, but I accept them for who they are and where they are on their journey and I do not take offense when a preacher says something that I disagree with.  I think to myself, either I have more to learn or he has more to learn, but I try really hard to accept them where they are without judgment.   How many times have we formed an opinion about someone else, only to find out that once we get to know them, they are nothing like what we thought they would be?

The point I am trying to make is, what if instead of assuming the worst about a person in any given situation, we can say to ourselves, maybe they just haven’t learned what I have learned yet, and God bless them as they continue their pursuit! Isn’t that approach more compassionate and empathetic? Doesn’t it leave room for change.  As Christians, we must first always remember that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and for those who do not subscribe to a religious based belief, isn’t kindness toward one another a better way to live? Judgment is not based in love, but it is based in pride.  I think we all forget from time to time what it took for each of us to become the people we are today.  We all struggle, we all make mistakes, we all have regrets so lets try to remember where we came from and show kindness to those who are still struggling.  As we go about this holiday season and let us practice the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Eternity~ The fate that awaits us all

It began in the spring of 2012.  As my husband and I crawled into bed, shared conversation about the day and grab our books that we where each reading, the quiet torment of death played through the thoughts of my mind.  Night after night and day after day these thoughts persisted.   Incredibly afraid to put voice to my thoughts and fears, I didn’t tell my husband and tried to pretend they didn’t exist. I prayed about it, I asked God to remove the fear from me and I rationalized through all the reasons why this prevailing thought was absurd.  After several months, I learned how to ignore the fear and fall sleep. In early 2014, I began to think about writing my obituary.  When this thought of writing my obituary came to me, I found it peculiar and wondered why I was suddenly thinking about such a morbid task.  I didn’t feel fear as I had in 2012, what I began to feel was a bit of acceptance.  I did not write my obituary, I let the moment pass and wondered again where this thought was coming from. 

Tonight, as I sit at home and write this column, I can say with a strange kind of peace and acceptance that I am in fact, dying.

When these intuitions on mine began to present themselves in 2012, I was completing my undergraduate degree in Psychology and getting ready to start graduate school.  Graduation has come and gone and I am now working in my field as a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern, which means I can practice therapy under a licensed clinician while accumulating the hours needed to become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist or LMFT for short.  After receiving my registration number with the Board of Behavioral Sciences, I was so anxious to begin working!  I applied for many jobs without much luck. One day, a LMFT acquaintance that I had met recommended that I look into the hospice field and do some of my licensure hours in grief counseling.   I had a visceral reaction to that idea.  I have been loosing friends and loved ones to death since I was in the 7th grade and dealing with death on a daily basis in my professional life was the last thing I wanted to do.  So I continued to apply and interview for jobs but having no luck.  Then in an abrupt and unexpected moment, my father-in-law was discharged from Stanford Medical Center after a routine visit that led to a hospital stay, and admitted to Gentiva Hospice.   I didn’t know the first thing about hospice or how it worked, all I knew was that those are the people that get called when a person is sick and the doctors can no longer help.    My father-in-law passed away just 6 hours after arriving home from the hospital.  A few weeks after we laid him to rest, I reconsidered the idea of grief counseling and applied for a position with Gentiva Hospice.  The fact that I was working in a field that deals with death on a daily basis was not lost on me and given my own intuition over the past few years I found myself asking God what it was he was trying to tell me.   What was even more worrisome to me was that I had been feeling a very strong pull to get involved with the Suicide Prevention Task Force.  I have had an interest in that organization for many years.  I have lost two friends and several acquaintances to suicide.  When I made the call to become a volunteer, I was told the organization needed the most help for the LOSS team.  LOSS is an acronym that stands for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors and the LOSS team volunteers respond to the scene with the coroner’s office in the event that a suicide occurs.   Without hesitation I joined the team, coming to terms that there must be a reason I have been called into this particular area of work.  As they say in the recovery world, “acceptance is the key” and I was certainly finding that to be true for me.

I am several months into my work now and have worked with many patients and families as they receive the dreaded news of a terminal illness and experience the transition of life and loosing a loved one.  It is often a very sad and also a very rewarding experience.
I live with the belief that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and he delights in his way” (Psalms 37:23).  In the book of Job, the bible also says “For HIS eyes are on the ways of man and he sees all his steps” (Job 34:21) so I continued to pondered and wonder out loud to God why he has me working around death.  One thing that I am aware of on a conscious level daily is how certain death is and how in the face of death, the cares of daily life don’t seem to hold that much importance.  I am grateful for this awareness.

Tonight as I reflect, the puzzle pieces I have been collecting since 2012 are beginning to fit together in picture form I can see what it is meant to reveal.  I am dying and I have a keen awareness of the time I have left, or the lack there of.  I cannot shake this awareness and I am becoming more and more at peace with it every day.  It is a blessing actually.  Knowing I am dying allows me to live more intentional than ever before.  It has enlarged my capacity to love, to forgive and to show kindness (although I struggle with this when driving).  I am 100% the epitome of human failure.  My ability to expression those virtues have been left many scars on those I have loved throughout my life and I have made many mistakes that I cannot undo, but…my capacity for love, forgiveness and kindness is enlarging with this new-found knowledge and for that, I am grateful.  However, the thing that I have noticed the most since coming to terms with my inevitable demise is the unexplainable realization of how insignificant I am in the presence of the Almighty God.  Words cannot convey the power and majesty of God as I feel him in this space of my life.  I think perhaps only the people facing death have any kind of glimpse of this reverent and holy God for the certainty of eternity is more present than ever.   Perhaps the best illustration I could use to describe how I feel is about the enormity of God is the one found in Job beginning at Chapter 38 when God himself spoke to Job out of a whirlwind.  I have found myself reading and re-reading that passage and others in the bible over the past few months.

Doctors cannot give the terminally ill patients an exact date of their death, nor do I have a date for my own, one thing is sure, death is a certain outcome and I have come to see it as a blessing.  I have a limited amount of time on this earth and I don’t know how much time I have.  Knowing this inspires me to live on purpose with purpose.  I need to share my life with others and tell as many people as I can about the love of God, his goodness and his kindness.  I want to scream from the mountaintop that any other message about God is a lie! God is not cruel, he isn’t responsible for the atrocities of this world- there is an opposing power to God’s love for humanity and that opposing power is evil.   Whatever time I have left on this earth, I want to spend it helping people understand that eternity is real.  Our souls will live in eternity after our body dies.  I consider it a gift to know my time is limited and I pray I never forget that.  I heard someone say just the other day that we are all just one breath away from eternity I know it sounds cliché but what if you knew you where dying?  What would you do different?  Who would you forgive?  Who would you love more?  How would you spend your time?  Would you keep silent on issues you wished you had spoken up about?  Would you pursue the desires in your heart that you have repressed?  Truth is still truth whether we believe it or not!  The Bible is the inspired word of God and one day we will all stand before our maker and give an account of our life.  I know this is a hard subject to face, but my prayer is that after reading this article, you will take a few moments to slow down, consider how you spend your time and if you are inclined, ask God to help you understand his purpose for your life.  You where created for a reason, don’t you want to fulfill your purpose?  

Kathy Looper, MA MFTi

Kathy Looper, MA MFTi
Marriage & Family Therapist