She is funny, stylish, artistic and wise.
She loves to travel, dance, create, cook, garden and getting together with friends.
She is an entrepreneur, a teacher, a dancer, a singer, a high achiever.
She’s been hurt, betrayed and wounded. She’s failed miserably, loved hard and overcome triumphantly.
She laughs, forgives and cries. She’s made mistakes, bad choices and wise decisions.
She has regret, remorse, beautiful memories and cherished moments.
Who is she?
“She” represents my closest friends.
How do I know who “she” is? Because I asked.
It’s hard to admit but there was a time when I formed my opinion of people based on the opinions of others.
I unfairly and unwisely judged and criticized without knowing the whole “story” behind the woman taking others’ assessment of her as the final word.
Every woman has a story, a long history of experiences, adventures, highs, lows, dreams and desires that make up who she is.
We label a woman who may be different than us as “odd” or having “issues” without ever bothering to hear from her the whole story.
Instead, she is criticized, judged, misunderstood and excluded.
Instead of getting her story, she gets placed under a social microscope with her past being dissected, her choices, financial status, weight, looks and life being scrutinized.
Several years ago I was introduced to a woman through mutual acquaintances.
As this woman walked away the whispers began.
She was supposedly “strange” “weird” “different” “maybe crazy” and more.
I would like to say I tossed their labels to the wind, found out her story then formed my own opinion but I didn’t.
I regret it deeply but God taught me a life-changing lesson through it.
One morning in my quiet time He reminded me “Do not judge or you too will be judged,” (Matt 7:1)
I don’t know about you but I hate being judged and yet I was doing just that and my heavenly dad called me out. He’s such a good father that way.
As children our parents told us “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it” and it is still applicable today.
If we dislike being judged, ostracized, excluded, labeled, looked down on, criticized or mistreated then we can no longer do the same to others.
In John 8 a certain woman was caught in adultery and faced imminent death.
Nowhere do we read that others first stopped to get her story before pronouncing judgment on her.
They labeled then condemned her. Case closed.
No one asked her why?
No one asked her what past experiences made her now believe she was only worthy of being someone’s second choice, his side dish, his stolen moments, his secret when she was worth so much more.
Did anyone tell her she was deserving of being a man’s wife, his world, his joy, his everything, to be loved and praised publicly and openly?
Let me be clear.
Learning a woman’s past first doesn’t mean we condone or excuse her present day choices especially when they are destructive but knowing her backstory helps us to understand who she is today more clearly.
We aren’t dismissing or justifying but armed with the knowledge found in her story we can extend some much needed grace, understanding and encouragement of a better way.
There is always a why behind every woman’s thoughts, actions, words, emotions, desires and decisions.
That why is buried within our experiences, some good some bad.
Many of those moments now have women labeling each other “non-trusting,” “insecure” or having “issues” though no one really knows why because no one is asking.
If a woman doesn’t want to share her story we are to respect that but also refrain from making or spreading any assumptions about her.
To understand each other we can no longer hastily condemn each other based on public opinion, half-truths, outright lies, rumors, gossip or misinformation.
What if we made it our mission to “decide not to decide” about others until we first hear their story?
Oh, and that woman I was introduced to earlier that others had labeled “weird.”
I invited her to lunch one day and discovered she’s one of the most beautiful souls I have yet to meet.
She is kind, gentle, creative, sensitive and caring. She is brave, daring and multi-talented, loyal and inspiring.
Her incredible story contains mountain tops and valleys, adventures, failures, mistakes, tragedies, successes and heartache and I have benefitted tremendously from knowing it.