Some time ago I wrote a blog titled Release Judgment—Find Peace. That blog dealt with how making snap judgments about circumstances that occur in our lives is a useless exercise—since we don’t have enough insight into the future to truly form a long-term opinion. We also spend needless energy in the process. Sometimes we find out that what we thought was negative might turn out to be positive, instead. In other cases, there are lessons we are supposed to learn from the event which can only come in hindsight.
This blog offers another side of the judgment issue. It deals with how it is equally silly to render sweeping judgments about another person or that person’s life. That life might appear to be screwed up, but its soul is on a journey which we can never know or understand. That’s the reason the messages in the SOULS OF LEGENDS SPEAK series is so valuable. Not only do we become acquainted with icons we may have never known about but in all cases, we are allowed to peek into the various souls of people we thought we knew—only to find the soulful truth is never what we assumed.
Ulysses S. Grant sets the stage for our enlightenment with part of a message he shared. In the complete message he covers his scandalous drinking (with humor) but the more important part is shared below. Grant is the one who unintentionally gave me the title for this blog.
“I suppose I merely came to talk about judgment, not war, not leadership or battles. Judgment is monumentally stupid since one’s perspective on earth [at best] is 20/20, in retrospect and if against others—it’s always slanted against the person being judged—so it’s more like 20/1, distorted and prejudged by some standard of the day.
“Over here, it’s 100/100 where we can see a life in its entirety—the feelings, the intent, the behavior, the growth, and the love that passes through from the glorious to common man (including ourselves). [One’s life is] too complex—always—to judge.”
Remembering Grant’s admonition, I wanted to offer an alternative to people who decide they want to make a firm judgment about a person, based solely on media coverage or popular opinion. Remember how everybody was proven wrong with the snap judgments about these individuals? 1) The Covington Catholic Kids and Nick Sandmann, who was not only found perfectly innocent after watching the entire video but subsequently has won lawsuits against NBC Universal and the Washington Post ($250M) and has pending suits against ABC, CBS, New York Times and others. 2) Jussie Smollet, who was the purported victim and then was proven—in a court of law— to be a fraud. 3) Richard Jewell, who was accused of bombing the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta only to have actually been the hero at that event. His life was ruined in the process. There are others too numerous to list here.
Yes, we’re too quick to cast firm judgments without leaving a little wiggle room for the rest of the information to come in or for enough time to pass so we gain an accurate perspective. Generally speaking, we never truly know everything it takes to truly judge another.
With that said, I thought I’d introduce a polarizing figure whose name everyone might know. What was Margaret Sanger’s real intent when she formed Planned Parenthood? How was she influenced? Did she veer too far from her original mission? Did she have any soulful regrets? Questions impossible to know unless we are Margaret Sanger, looking back.
There are those who idolize Sanger's efforts and those who consider her a demon. I had a soft bias for decades but because we can never really know the whole story, I left the door open. Well, Margaret Sanger walked through that opening and explained. Her message is so fascinating, I’ll be dedicating a complete blog to her very soon. I will share this part of her message now since she reinforces my point about the value of softening the judgments we render upon others.
“I’m not sure anyone else would speak to a potential bias with you but I also would not have come to speak had I not known how fair, open, and nonjudgmental you are. You may have a flash opinion, but you leave it floating there without an anchor to drop it into one camp or another. You wait. God Bless you, my friend.
“I want you to know my soul and know me better. So, here I am.”
Margaret Sanger continued with a message that, indeed, bared her soul, so to speak. So, watch for that blog.
Mata Hari was another name whose image lasted long after she was gone. Mata Hari became the quintessential spy. She was labelled a spy, convicted by the courts and in the height of World War I, when everything in Europe was heightened by intrigue and the drive to defeat Nazi Germany, once she was was given that label—there was no longer any doubt in the minds of the judge or the jury. She was eventually executed by a firing squad in France.
Her entire message will appear in Volume 2 of SOULS OF LEGENDS SPEAK, early next year, in which she explains how people can be led to believe something totally wrong, because of a contrived image. Although Mata Hari was a glamorous exotic dancer who attracted the attention of both German and French soldiers, in reality she was nothing more than an exotic dancer and prostitute with pretty costumes. Once the mystique was created, that was it. She explained it this way.
“What I did wasn’t a glamorous life. Any young woman working in a strip club, with or without a pimp but someone who perhaps receives nice gifts of money from one of the men she lets “visit” her body is exactly the same as I was; but she is living in America. She also doesn’t have as much money as I seemed to have for my costumes. Splash high quality on anything and one’s status instantly elevates.
“I came to give one simple message. Everyone is the same, regardless of the PR effort surrounding them is contrived or accidental. Everyone has the same struggles, faces the same painful life experiences and struggles with their inner self throughout life ……"
But the larger point Mata Hari wanted to make was this one.
“We are all questioning, we are all naïve to the real path God has for us and we are all ignorant—dreadfully ignorant about each other—which is why you are a gift, Sandy, teaching others not to judge. Your book SOULS OF LEGENDS SPEAK, sure illustrates that point. Reading the deepest thoughts of some of the icons who come to you gives a person pause, doesn’t it? ‘They weren’t what I expected at all!!!’ There—point made."
Another soul everyone judged quickly was the 33-year old cult leader and self-proclaimed profit, David Koresh., who headed the Branch Dividians, a self-directed offshoot of the General Association of Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists. You might remember how Janet Reno, then the Attorney General under President Bill Clinton ordered a law enforcement siege on their compound in Waco Texas in 1993, which became known as the Waco massacre. Seventy-six people died—including twenty-three children.
Everyone knew David Koresh was evil and there didn’t seem to be any redeeming reason for his life. He was an accused child-molester, sex offender and to most people, unredeemable. His message shows, again, we aren’t always correct when we render absolute judgment about anyone or anything! I am including much of Koresh’s message.
“I now have a chance to explain who I was and what happened prior to that horrible day in Waco. I was not an evil man and was not possessed by the devil, as some people believe. I suffered from mental illness that was never formally diagnosed. I truly believed I was anointed by God, was his chosen messenger and was there to save others. Simply put, I was deranged and delusional.
“I am so deeply sorry for the many deaths I caused and have lived, over and over, feeling the pain and fear many of my followers felt, yet there wasn’t as much as you think. When people truly believe in something, the fear dissolves and it is replaced with steadfast resolution. Many died with courage and a belief that they were doing God’s will.
“I was charismatic, but I was seriously flawed. I was very believable when I spoke and had the power to persuade, especially the weak and vulnerable; those were primarily my followers. The children that I fathered, I honestly believed were given the seed of God to begin their lives and were divinely originated. My followers believed that, too.
“When people are isolated, cut off from the world and led by either many voices or one very charismatic voice, they become programmed—so to speak. That is what I did to my people, unwittingly, and in my delusional state actually believed they followed me out of love for me and for the God I represented.”
Surprisingly there was a lesson to be learned from deeper study into this tragic event. I know the media or pundits didn’t give us the benefit of enough additional perspective so that every day Americans could learn a meaningful lesson. Of course, I'm not sure those presenting the news or commentary at the time would have even recognized more than a flash of the truth in what really happened. That's why hindsight is so critical. Sadly, once a news story has passed, the masses lose interest so it's no longer discussed.
“All lives have a purpose, Sandy. And my purpose was to illustrate the danger of believing God would never isolate us from one another, profess death and destruction and use fear to motivate His followers. I was to be a glaring example of what not to follow! Perhaps that worked for some and perhaps it helped fuel the knowledge of how dangerous cults can be, why families should always try to rescue their family members from such groups and why those within cults of any kind—once they have an inkling that something might be off—should run, run, run.
“Spread the word that we are near and that it is foolish to judge since we have no idea the purpose for a person to be living the life they are. I don’t say that to gain favor for myself or forgiveness but to make life on earth more understanding for humans still living their lives”.
The takeaway cannot be lost because it’s profound. God would never isolate us from one another, profess death and destruction or to use fear to motivate His followers. A great lesson for parents, religious leaders and everyone who influences others.
In summary: we all should be slower to judge and quicker to learn.