After a long day at the pain clinic, I dashed into my local pharmacy to pick up a prescription. Waiting in line, I heard a child crying in the distance. After a few minutes, the whining became louder, echoing throughout the store, and I silently commented, “Why on earth doesn’t the mother just take him out?” After receiving my meds, I quickly headed for the exit but remembered that I needed a few things. Back inside with items in hand, I found myself in the checkout line right behind the mom with the screaming child. Annoyed by this situation, probably due to my aching back, I grumbled internally. But then something happened – a transformation took place as I silently watched the young mom attempt to corral her little boy while loading items onto the counter. Immediately my good sense returned, and I tried to assist the mom in all possible ways from entertaining the child to loading bags into her car.
In a 2016 homily, Pope Francis said “Being judgmental is very ugly. Judgment belongs only to God, to Him alone!” In our busy lives, I think we all seek to follow our Holy Father’s advice, but all too easily we fall into patterns of negativity and judgement, beginning with our thoughts. The great Boston College professor and theologian Peter Kreeft said, “The very first step in either sin or holiness is always thought.” If our thoughts are negative, then our souls fall into sin more easily. This quote really struck me because how often do we think negative thoughts without even realizing it – too much, I think.
God invites us to so much more in this life. He made us to use our will to cultivate habits of great virtue, not negativity. This is not always easy, and it is not something we may *feel*, rather it is a choice we must make each day. When we give in to judgmental thoughts, we separate ourselves from the love of God which makes it impossible to thrive in our daily lives. God wants us to thrive! Love is always the better choice; not idle judgement and it begins each day with our thoughts.
As a little girl, my mom taught me to always consider the other person. “What is his/her life situation, can you imagine it?” she would say. In the encounter with the crying child, my mom would have offered something like, “Perhaps this mom just received some bad health news, and she didn’t have the energy to calm her child in the store. She just needed kindness and love that day, not judgmental stares from strangers.” My mom spent a lifetime cultivating the type of virtue which automatically yielded love every time. She always thought the best of a person or situation – she chose to think like this. In these busy days, as I age and change and attempt to make better life choices, I realize that her example is all I need.