One of the odd things about language is how certain words start out one way and end up another and do so in a fairly short period of time. How and why that happens fascinates me and I want to talk about one such word this month. The word for the month is “judge”, or “judgmental”.
When I was young, no-one made a big deal about this word at all. Yet today one of the worst things you can say about someone is that he or she is judgmental. How did this become such an inappropriate phrase anyway and is it really all that bad?
I think Christmas is the perfect time to think about this because if there’s a holiday that most people need to use some judgement about, its Christmas. Why do I say that?
Because Christmas possesses all the usual holiday ingredients like parties, travel, family, stress, celebrating in various ways like drinking, etc. But then it adds another, and of course that’s the giving of gifts. Then on top of all that is this fuzzy-headed belief that everyone should be merry and jolly just because it’s Christmas time regardless of whatever is happening in your life.
Far too often this results in some pretty bad outcomes. Outcomes that could have been avoided if we’d just used some good old-fashioned judgment. Let me give you a few real life examples.
Just about everyone knows that most Americans will gain weight during the holiday season. In the past we’ve heard it’s from seven to ten pounds! Newer studies say it’s probably only one pound. But that’s a big deal because most people never lose that pound. Over the years that’s gonna add up big time!
How about spending? I know quite a few people who deliberately go into debt at Christmas so that they can buy their kids everything they want. When asked about the wisdom of this somewhat dubious plan, they say they didn’t have much for Christmas growing up and want to make sure their kids don’t “suffer” that way. So they spend the next four to six months paying off their credit cards and thanks to the exorbitant interests rates end up spending about another 50 percent! Ouch!
I’ll let you fill in the blank on drinking and partying since I’m a stick-in-the-mud and don’t do many parties. I’ve been called a “party-pooper” most of my life and am proud to be one. (In case you don’t know, that means I don’t like parties, not that I become incontinent when I’m forced to attend one!)
All of these problems, and many more besides, could be solved if only the people involved would use a little old-fashioned judgment. Yep that’s right, if you want to have a healthy and happy holiday season this year you need to be more judgmental!
Please note this judgment should be aimed squarely and solely at yourself. We need to use good judgment about how we celebrate, what and how much we eat or drink and especially how much we spend during this time of year. Is burying your kids under a pile of expensive gifts really good for them? Really?
And then there’s the need for some good judgment (critical thinking) about our whole approach to the holidays. Is it wise to assume that I ought to be happy just because it’s Christmas time? Is there any logic or reasonableness in that? I don’t think so.
Even if there was, the road to happiness isn’t going to be found by piling up more and more impossible expectations on ourselves. Just telling yourself to be happy because it’s a certain date on the calendar will almost surely end up just making you more miserable.
So, this year, why not use the brain God gave you and really think things through? Look over what you do and how you do it and use some solid judgment about whether you ought to make some changes or not. Being judgmental about these things can produce some real healthy fruit in our lives if we’ll just take the time and find the courage to do so.
It’s not easy to take a good hard look at myself, but it’s always worth it. You should see what I have to look at the in the mirror every morning! Well, maybe not. Anyway grab your own mirror, find your courage and objectivity, and make some sound judgments about yourself. Not only will you be glad you did, but a whole lot of other people will probably be happy as well.
In the meantime, don’t forget that old Christmas song that went something like this:
Have yourself a judgmental little Christmas… now.
Or something like that.
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Louie Marsh is pastor of Christ’s Church on the River on the Parker Strip. Visit his website HERE.