Have you ever had a hard time deciding if something was good or bad? Right or Wrong? Black or White?
We all have this moral compass inside that governs us and helps us process and sort the “good” from the “bad.” We know it’s “good” to eat our vegetables and it’s “bad” to eat junk food. We know it’s “good” to share and it’s “bad” to be selfish. It’s “good” to get our sleep and to exercise – It’s “bad” to stay up late and be a couch potato. Good equals right and bad equals wrong, right? And for the most part, we all try to do the “right” things and avoid the “wrong” things. We add up our good choices and minus the bad ones and hopefully we get a sum total that gives us a sense of being a moral and overall “good” person, don’t we?
I remember when my first marriage failed. I got a divorce – a “bad” thing. There were people who evaluated the equation of my life and summed me up as a total failure. They added up my “bad” actions, (leaving out the unknown variable) and slapped it on my forehead – “total person = bad.”
Now – sidebar here – let me say that I 100% believe when a husband and a wife divorce it’s heartbreaking and terrible. I’m not condoning it in any way. But what I’m saying is to label a person as “bad” or “wrong” based on actions alone is not using good math skills. You aren’t getting a true total.
When it comes to others, many of us are quick to evaluate, judge and tally. We tuck other’s actions into mental files of black or white, good or bad, right or wrong. We are quick to minus golden points for behaviors or choices we deem as “bad” or “wrong.” We also lavish and gush points to those we admire and look up to. With them, we barely skim through the math and hurriedly praise and esteem them with “good total” labels. Those with “bad” behaviors, we’ll keep a critical eye on – being quick to slash away points until finally assigning a tally total of “bad.”
The funny thing about evaluating others this way is it’s not correct math and you will always get untrue result. Just like the algebra I learned in school (which I hated every minute of) there’s always an unknown variable that needs to be determined in order to solve the problem correctly and get a true answer. We can’t just do the math and leave the variable out. We would never pass an algebra class with math skills like that.
So why do we do that with people? We try to add up (or subtract from) others lives and make summations when there’s no possible way to do that without all the factors. Here’s the truth and may be a news flash to some… Life isn’t just black and white. We are always missing part of the equation. The gray variable.
Life is a blend of black, white and some gray… and if you try to add them all together – you’ll just get more gray. More confusion.
And what happens when the situation isn’t black or white? What happens when it’s gray? How does that fit into our math equation?
This is especially true when it comes to judging others. My grandpa used to say, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” He understood the gray variable. My grandpa was really good at life algebra. 🙂
When we’re at crossroads in life and which way to go looks gray to us, we don’t need to get confused or panic. We can choose to see gray as the God Variable. It’s the perfect time for us to practice our faith and the best time to offer grace to others. We don’t know it all, and that’s okay. The point is we need to know that we don’t know everything, but we do know the One who does. And we can leave the black and white judging to Him alone.
When it comes to others, I’m throwing out the old black and white math – and going with new math. I’m living my life trying to practice the grace of gray towards others – reminding myself that I don’t have all the parts of the equation…even though I might be tempted to think otherwise.
And when the gray appears in my own life… I want to be quick to turn to the only One who knows the variable.
I’d really like to get an A in algebra this time around. That will be a real miracle!