The ad for a national fitness center franchise promised that for $10 a month I could enter a judgment-free zone. It gave the hours where I could escape the judgmental world around me to enter a place where no one judges my looks.
Does that mean that from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays (18 hours a day) and another 16 hours on Friday and 12 hours on Saturday and on Sunday, I can go there unafraid of anyone looking at me with a critical eye?
If so, that adds up to 130 hours a week I would be accepted just as I am without any stares or negative comments from those around me. I wonder how it would feel to fearlessly do what I really need to do without any comparing glances and raised eyebrows.
Need for affirmation
My reaction to the ad says a lot about our culture. We judge each other by our outer appearance. So our need for affirmation counteracts our need to do what is healthy. Our self-consciousness overrides our need to humble ourselves enough to get fit, regardless of the intimidation of the sleek and strong working out next to us.
I can visualize how the fantasy of a judgment-free zone could apply to other times and places in our week. A judgment-free hour at the family dinner table with no negative talk certainly would be refreshing. Or a coffee break at work where no one disparages the face or form of his or her boss, employee or co-worker. No gossip about who needs to go on a diet, update their wardrobe or get a makeover.
We could designate one Sunday a month as “Judgment-Free Sunday” in our parishes. After Mass, we could enjoy donuts together free from concern about anyone’s shape, size or wardrobe. As Christians, we could take it so far as to stop judging each other’s children, singing or piety. We could all just accept one another as brothers and sisters in the Lord made in different expressions of his image.
Not judging one another is a wonderful gift to receive and a generous one to give. Take a moment and consider what area of your life you would you like to live judgment-free. What hour today can you give the gift of acceptance to someone near you?
(© 2012, revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)