rebelling against low expectations

You Don’t Know People’s Stories (So Stop Judging Them)


Over the past few weeks, God has been teaching me a particular lesson.

I can’t seem to escape it – I hear it on the radio, my pastor talked about it on Sunday, it’s in the books I’ve been reading, and it’s a continual resounding chorus inside my heart.

“Don’t judge others. Show God’s love to all you meet, because you don’t know their story.”

With this, came the realization of how often I do unknowingly judge the people I encounter every day. I say “unknowingly,” because I don’t usually take the time to learn who they really are, or what they’re going through. Instead, I slap a label on them based on the little I can see on the outside.

Let me explain.

If she’s quiet, that mean she’s rude.

If they cut in front of me in traffic, they’re a jerk.

If she’s always smiling and laughing, she’s shallow, and has a perfect life.

If he refuses to make eye contact, he’s hiding something.

If she wears low-cut shirts, short shorts, and dark makeup, she’s wild and no good.

But what if I knew their stories? Could hear their thoughts? Looked inside when they went home and let their guard down?

Instead, what if it was…

She’s quiet because it’s the anniversary of her dad’s death and she’s trying not to burst into tears.

They cut in front of me because they just heard their family member was in a car accident and they’re rushing to the emergency room.

She’s always smiling and laughing, but in reality it’s just a cover-up for the pain she goes through every day in her bad marriage.

He refuses to make eye contact because he suffers daily from PTSD and he’s afraid of letting me see the “real him.”

She wears low-cut shirts, short shorts and dark makeup, because she’s deeply insecure, has been wounded again and again, and no longer believes she’s worth anything more than the amount of skin she shows.

What if I knew all that?

How would I act? How would we all act? Would we be more gracious, kind, and loving? Less judgmental and harsh?

I love this quote by Mother Teresa. She says, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

Case in point—when we’re judging those around us, or making assumptions about them, our thoughts are occupied with those negative feelings, and we aren’t capable of truly seeing them and the pain they might carry.

Pain is hidden in unusual places. Everyone deals with it differently. Some go on as if nothing is wrong, while others let it drag them down and influence every part of their lives.

If you’ve ever witnessed a heart utterly broken and bleeding, seen the shadow behind a smile, heard pain even in laughter, then you know what I’m talking about.

It’s time to open our eyes. To trade our judgment for Christ’s love. To ask God to give us His eyes, so we can see the hurt, pain, and sorrow those around us carry. To begin to look at the world, not through our narrow-minded vision, but through Jesus’s much broader, eternal perspective.

If we did this, no longer would the girl who was rude be a source of irritation, but an opportunity to love.

No longer would the PTSD sufferer, or the jerk in traffic, make us suspicious or angry, but instead stir our hearts to lift them up in prayer.

No longer would our lives be self-focused, me-centered, or unfulfilling.

If we chose this radical lifestyle, we would be a living, breathing example of the power of Christ. An echo of the One who died for us. The heartbeat of Jesus’s love in action.

I challenge you— reach out past yourself and to the world around you.  Ask God to help you truly see the people you encounter today.

We may not know their stories. But God does. And it might not be a coincidence that you meet today.

The world is asking if anyone cares. Longing and crying out for a little bit of love and hope.

Today, will you show them the answer?

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  • Dear Sara and other readers/commenters,

    Great reminder! For anyone who has never seen it, watch the 3-minute video produced by Chick-fil-A as a training film, “Every Person Has A Story”. [].

    There are lots of YouTube postings of this. Very powerful message. We have to try every day to see people as real people — individuals who will always be in one of only two categories: either a brother or sister in Christ, or a potential soul to be won for Him. Who knows how the simplest acts of ours may be used to encourage someone else.

    • Amen! Wow, I’m blown away. That was an incredible video and exactly what I was trying to portray in the article. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing it! I love what you said, ” Individuals who will always be in one of only two categories: either a brother or sister in Christ, or a potential soul to be won for Him.” That is very powerful.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Bill. It means so much to me! 🙂 God bless!

  • Very good article! This is something that is very important to me, but I still find myself judging others way too much.

    It makes me think of this quote from A Tale of Two Cities:
    “I would ask you, dearest, to be very generous with him always, and very lenient on his faults when he is not by. I would ask you to believe that he has a heart he very, very seldom reveals, and that there are deep wounds in it. My dear, I have seen it bleeding.”
    “It is a painful reflection to me,”said Charles Darnay, quite astounded, “that I should have done him any wrong. I never thought this of him.”
    “My husband, it is so. I fear he is not to be reclaimed; there is scarcely a hope that anything in his character or fortunes is reparable now. But, I am sure that he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things.”
    – Charles Dickens

    Thank you writing this! This is something that all Christians need to realize.

    • Wow! I love that quote! So true! I really enjoy Charles Dickens, but I haven’t read “A Tale of Two Cities” yet. Maybe I should. 😉 Thank you for sharing!

      I know what you mean. It’s so important to me too…which is why I wrote the article, but it’s still so easy to get caught in “the judgment trap” We need to be constantly asking God to give us His perspective!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! 🙂

    • Haha! Oh that’s so kind of you! Thank you, Clayton! Though I will say, your article was really great too! Ever since I read it I’ve been thinking more about my media use. So, great job! 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading it! 🙂

      • 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! I am so glad you liked it and that it gave you something to think over! 🙂

  • Enjoyed this! Thank you for the reminder, Sara. I scare myself sometimes at how quickly my heart can be unloving or judgmental towards others. Having compassion is so crucial and the way you suggest doing that–seeing not just the outward appearance, but individual stories–is a wonderful way to do it! This reminds me of a time I overheard a lady talking to some other people in a store. Her nature seemed hard from what I could gather. There was a smattering of curse words in her speech. My first reaction was not compassion, but the Lord slowly softened my heart with His compassion for her. I felt Him urging me to give her my Bible that was tucked away in my bag. After wrestling fear of not knowing how she would react, His strength won over my weakness. I approached her and placed my Bible in her hands. She seemed very touched by it. At first she would not take it, but I tenderly urged that it was just for her, that God told me to give it to her. I’m thankful for love that flooded my heart that was not my own.

    • Oh wow. What a powerful and touching story, Moriah! So beautiful! That’s genuine love in action…so inspiring to me. Doing something like that is exactly what goes beyond my comfort zone, but hearing things like this encourages (and convicts!) me to not be afraid, but rather go in the power and love of our precious Savior! Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks for taking the time to read it! You have blessed me so much by your comments and sweet words! <3

    • Absolutely! That’s a great point. Thank you so much for reading it! It means so much to me! 🙂 God bless!

  • I loved your article. It is so easy to judge people without thinking. You are not the only
    one who struggles with this. Great Article

    • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Lydia! I’m so glad it blessed you, and also to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this! God bless! 🙂

    • Oh, thank you, Kelly! What a blessing it is to me to hear that! When I write, I pray that God would give me the words to say that others need to hear, so I’m excited that He used my small words to be an encouragement! <3

  • Wow. I am really convicted. Primarily because I am a person, I am an individual and not a service. And I hate when most (if not all) of the memories I have of someone are just them asking me for stuff, but what if they’re only asking me because no one else is willing to help?

    That change in perspective changes everything. It makes me feel much less angry and a lot more sad. It’s not like they want me to feel like they’re using me, I just may be the only person they can turn to. And with that, even in my self-sacrifice to help them, I still fall short of it doing it out of love because my heart isn’t right when it feels like a burden to help them, rather than an honour to know that they feel like they can count on me.

    So in that case, whether I help them or not, I’m just as bad as the person who didn’t. Only difference is that the one who walked away was brave enough to live out their lovelessness. And my willingness to help wasn’t because I was being Christlike and compassionate, it’s because I was being a coward.

    And while it’s not most of the time I feel like that. It’s happened enough for me to know that it needs to change. For me to know that I need Jesus.

    Thanks for writing. Much love, Collins.

    • Yes, in relationships and interactions with others, it’s all about perspective. Choosing (and asking God to give us) Christ’s perspective. And you are so right, we need Jesus! Desperately! I wrote this because I struggle too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and what you learned from it! It means so much to me! 🙂

By Sara Starkey
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →