"the Lord doesn't see things the way you see them. people judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
-1 Samuel 16:7
one of my fondest memories i have with my stepdad is of our daddy-daughter dinners at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Don Pablo's, when i was a teenager. it wasn't something we did often, it wasn't a big deal, and yet the one-on-one time with him was incredibly special to me. over chips and salsa and cheesy enchiladas we laughed, talked serious, talked nonsense, and solved all the world's problems.
but my favorite part was before we even ordered our food. typically, there was a wait for a table, so we would go up to the restaurant's second story and sit in the balcony that overlooked the entire dining room. there, my stepdad and i would make up backstories and conversations of the people down below. and it was hilarious. if it was a man and woman at a table, we would create an elaborate make-believe story to their relationship and do ultra-dramatic voice-overs of their ridiculous conversation. it was like watching a silent movie and making up the words. it was a lighthearted and silly thing we did together.
there are other ways people give strangers backstories every day that are not so lighthearted or fun or kind. not all backstory-givers are coming from a place of joy and love. and that is where judgement, false assumptions, discrimination, comparison, and bitterness take root.
what is, for instance, the common backstory we give to the homeless man on the street corner with his cardboard sign? he made bad choices in life. or he's just going to use my money to buy alcohol. or he's uneducated and lazy.
what about the backstory we give to a grumpy cashier at the grocery store? she's so unfriendly she's obviously in the wrong profession. or the young waiter in the diner who seems to be in a fog and looks like he hasn't slept in 3 days? he's a stoner, probably high right now.
sometimes we do it subconsciously when we hear the voice of someone with a particular geographic or regional accent. or if someone is wearing a certain brand of clothing. or if they let their kids wear a particular costume on Halloween. or if their toddler is being unruly. or if they post a picture on Facebook.
backstory. judgement. preconceived notions. assumptions.
yikes. it happens so fast- we see something or hear something and almost immediately give them a label and a story. these every day backstories we assign to strangers happens in our heads but effects our hearts. it's internal criticism of others with the purpose of making ourselves feel better. it hardens our hearts to people and makes us prideful. it prevents us from being able to offer genuine grace and love, as we are called to do.
"love each other as brothers and sisters. be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude."
-1 Peter 3:8
we don't know what people are dealing with, where they've been, what's on their mind, or what burdens they carry. maybe it's nothing and that's just the way God designed them!? it isn't fair of us to guess or assume things about people, good or bad. the backstories we give people - even the seemingly "nice" ones - are basically false accusations.
"why do you pass judgment on your brother? or you, why do you despise your brother? we will all stand before the judgment seat of God"
think about a friend in your life. remember when you first met her? did you give her a backstory before you knew her? isn't it ridiculous to think of what you thought of her now that you know her so well?
i personally believe everyone i come into contact with is a divine appointment from God, and not by mistake or coincidence. and my interaction with them - even if it's just a smile - is an opportunity to show the love of Christ. Hebrews 13:2 encourages us to show hospitality even to strangers who could be angels sent from the Lord. what if we walked around thinking of everyone as angels on assignment? that isn't a backstory- that's a biblical reminder to love one another.
we're not sitting in a balcony above everyone else, watching their lives and seeing the big picture. we get snapshots and in between moments. so how about instead of a backstory, we give people grace, mercy, and love?
here's what i'm saying: you don't know their backstory. leave it alone. stop overthinking other people's lives. let's just call it what it is- it's judgement, and it's not nice. mind your own business.
this has been on my heart lately and i'm challenged to stop giving people backstories. let's be intentional about not thinking we know all. yes, everyone has a backstory. but it's not my business (or yours) to know it, guess it, or assume it. my business is to love like Jesus. that's it.
"make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody"