Living Without Judgment
By NANCY PATRICK
Most people consider me a nice person. Lately, I’ve wondered if that description still aptly applies to me because I certainly don’t always have nice thoughts. Could I blame it on the social pressures with COVID during the past two years or my advancing age producing less patience than I used to have? For whatever reason, I do not like this attribute that has arisen in my personality.
I often find inspiration for my life in movies, television, and books. Not only do I enjoy plots of good stories, but I also love complicated, complex characters who seem plausible within the lives of their stories. I try to emulate some of these characters when I find myself being hypercritical and judgmental of those around me.
Back in the 1990s, I faithfully watched a television series entitled Touched by an Angel. Although young people today might describe it as sentimental, old-fashioned, and cheesy, I find the series as relevant today as I did thirty years ago.
The stories involve two angels, Tess and Monica, who come into people’s lives at various points of need. Tess, the senior angel, trains Monica and assists her in most of her assignments. Tess sometimes seems a little harsh whereas Monica is always sweet, caring, and eager to help the humans to whom God assigns her.
The recipients of the angels’ ministry have various issues in life: terminal illnesses, marital problems, hypocrisies, criminal pasts, moral dilemmas, and other relationship problems that plague them.
One episode involves Cassie, an unmarried teenage girl, who gives birth to a baby that she has already agreed to give up for adoption. The problem arises when Cassie holds her baby and decides she cannot give her up. She then abducts her own baby from the hospital nursery and runs away.
Unfortunately, the infant develops a serious, life-threatening condition while her mother hides with her. When Monica comes to Cassie, she comes with love and understanding for Cassie’s traumatic situation. Monica and Tess guide the girl back to her original decision to let this baby have a family who can care for her, love her, and provide for her in ways the mom never could.
Notably, Monica and Tess never chastise Cassie for her own decisions that led not only to her pregnancy but also to the danger in which she placed her baby. No judgment—just love.
Another episode, “Unexpected Snow,” brings together two women, Susana and Megan, who love the same man. Sadly for Megan, this man is Susana’s husband. Megan has no intention of giving up her affair, but Tess and Monica have news for her.
They bring up those old-fashioned concepts of sin, fidelity, and responsibility. They kindly but factually point out to Megan that just because she has fallen in love with this man does not mean she has the right to take him from another woman. The angels have the ability to tell people—without judging them—that their behavior displeases God because it is a sin.
Another episode, “There but for the Grace of God,” begins with Monica’s feeling rather proud of herself. As she shares her pride with Tess, she notices the homeless people along the sidewalks and in the alleys. When she sneers at Pete, a homeless man, she comments unlovingly that he must have done something wrong to end up on the street.
Tess quickly transforms Monica into a street person so she can learn the circumstances of some of the people she sees huddled in alleys and parks. A beautiful part of this story occurs when Monica, in hard-earned humility, kneels and washes Pete’s filthy, wounded feet.
These angels (as God’s representatives) clearly see and understand immorality, folly, greed, ambition, addiction, and hypocrisy, but they do not judge the people. They offer them God’s love and forgiveness while pointing out what must change. God doesn’t offer options; He mandates repentance.
Another television series I love, Call the Midwife, is a PBS masterpiece. The title may sound a little off-putting, but I became hooked after my first episode. The show begins in the early 1950s in London’s poor East End called Poplar.
The midwives, some nuns and some secular, live at Nonnatus House. The head of the house, Sister Julienne, is an amazing woman who has taught me much about compassion and love and how to separate behaviors from souls.
As the young nurses visit various patients in Poplar, they encounter many deplorable situations. Sister Julienne guides these women and teaches them the true meaning of nursing and ministry.
Despite dire living conditions, the young nurses learn to look beyond open sores, roach- infested flats, venereal diseases, incest, and abuse on every level to see the person behind the affliction.
Sister Julienne has the extraordinary gift to see reality, including sin, and still love without judging the “sinner.” Sister Julienne reminds me of Jesus when he told those ready to stone a woman that the one without sin must cast the first stone.
Call the Midwife covers at least a decade of post WWII life in London’s East End. Every circumstance imaginable arises in the stories: incest, adultery, sexuality, poverty, abortion, human trafficking, and discoveries in the medical field during the ‘60s. I seldom make it through an episode without crying. The series brings to light humanity’s essence.
As I enter a new year, I want to be more like the characters I have described. Rather than becoming angry or disgusted with people who do not measure up to my “standards,” I want to be like Monica, Tess, and Sister Julienne. I pray for Tess’ sense of tough love mingled with Monica’s and Sister Julienne’s sense of understanding and compassion. They saw people as God did. In 1 Samuel 16: 7, God told Samuel that people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing