“When I looked at people, within seconds, I would have them boxed, categorized, and put on a shelf. That’s how quickly I judged people.”
For twenty years, Kendra Von Esh lived without God. She lived without the sacraments, without a set of moral standards, and without remorse for her quick and misguided judgment of others. She based her ideas of others on appearances and for a long time, she only hung around people who looked like her, talked like her, and liked the things that she liked.
But God pulled her from her ways when she was 42 years old and she came to realize that much of her judgment was a projection of her own insecurities and faults. She was afraid that others would label her, so she labeled them first. She would preemptively strike at others to avoid getting hurt.
Kendra joined John Morales on Morning Air to discuss how we can all take a look at the way we judge others and find out why. With this new knowledge of ourselves, we can begin to counteract our survival instinct and embrace charity instead of insults.
Kendra began by reversing the way we think about this conversation. Instead of looking at our attacks on others, look at the attacks on you. Do you feel judged? In what ways? Are you criticized for your morals or your character? Is there merit to those criticisms? Or are you judged for shallow things like your looks, the amount of money you have, or your lack of material possessions? It’s no secret that being judged does not feel good. It can hurt and if it strikes the right chord, it can damage a person permanently. So, when we think about judging others, we should really examine our intentions.
When we do, we quickly reveal to ourselves whether this criticism comes from a place of love and care, or whether it’s coming from a place of insecurity and defensiveness. When we love someone, we make an effort to share with them their weaknesses and mistakes because we want them to be the best versions of themselves. We don’t nitpick. We encourage and we struggle with them to show that we’re supporters on their journey. Isn’t that what we would want?
When our criticisms come from a place of insecurity and defensiveness, we know it because we don’t care about the well-being of the other person. We don’t criticize their appearance because their disheveled look will make a bad impression at work. We criticize them because they look dirty and cheap and that “offends our sensibilities”.
Kendra admitted that even when she came back to the Church, she had to continually work through her defensiveness. When she began publicly speaking about her conversion and what God was doing in her life, she realized she was more concerned with what people thought of her than the message she was trying to convey.
“I was scared to death. I didn’t want people to judge me. I didn’t, especially, want the Catholic people to look at me and think, ‘Oh my gosh. What a sinful heathen you are.’”
But she had to learn to detach. That was her prayer to Our Lord. Lord, please help me detach from the world so that I can just live for the audience of One. Kendra said that it took her years to fully detach from that defensive worldview, but it was more than worth it. She was able to relay her story of God’s work in her life on a far more human level and show that it wasn’t about her. It was merely a testament to God’s power.
John asked Kendra what her biggest tip would be for those struggling to see their neighbors through God’s eyes and Kendra stripped it down to two things: The greatest commandment and the second greatest commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
When we live the greatest commandment through prayer, worship, and the adoration of God, we are essentially teaching ourselves to live the second greatest commandment as well. We will see God in each and every person around us. But just as living one makes the other possible, failing to live one makes the other impossible.
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