Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is a deep sense of understanding that ignites compassion. Identification is a deeper level of empathy. I identify when I have been through the same experience.
I can have empathy for women who struggle with pornography addiction because I identify with them. I know exactly what it feels like to struggle. I also know exactly what it feels like to come face-to-face with someone who doesn’t have an ounce of empathy in her body.
Often on this site, I stress the importance of confessing this struggle to someone. Just as often, I receive e-mails from women scared to death of telling someone. How do I know who to tell? What if they don’t understand? What if they judge me?
Typically, a confession is met with grace. I’ve written about this over and over again how my own confession was met with grace and that grace freed me. But I’ve come face to face with my share of condemnation and disapproval (you would think that by confessing, I was agreeing that I also disprove of this activity- it’s not like I was bragging).
It’s something I’ve encountered recently on the Facebook page. A post on lust was shared by multiple people. One of the friends commented on the post, “You!? Struggle with lust? Surely not you.” They were not referring to me. They were referring to the Beggar’s Daughter user who shared it. I deleted it quickly (yes, I censor comments on Facebook and this site- if you can’t say something nice, you will not be saying anything at all).
The words cut even me, and I wondered how the woman felt. Had she seen them? Had this sparked some sort of conversation? What was she having to deal with now?
Then, days later, I was judged based on the type of church I attend.
I have a thick skin. I haven’t always had a thick skin. I’ve always been stubborn and opinionated, but I used to get really hurt when people didn’t approve of me, or when people were quick to judge and slow to listen. Now, I actually feel bad for them.
If they want to judge me without first getting to know me. If they want to form an opinion with none of the facts. If they want to miss out on grace, that’s their call, and I pray for them, I really do.
Obviously, for those still in the middle of an addiction, or stumbling down the road to healing, the emotions are too raw. The heart is too vulnerable. It’s too soon to have some great witty comeback. One blow of judgement is enough to knock you to your knees. I want to just try and offer some tips that can hopefully help you get back up.
1. The “Judgers” are fairly easy to spot.
That statement alone sounds judgmental, doesn’t it. It’s true though. Watch how they respond to other people. Are they a gossip? Do they enjoy ‘sharing’ other people’s struggles as ‘prayer requests?’ Do they demonstrate a heart of compassion? If there is a legitimate red flag, walk away. (Note: your paranoia does not constitute a red flag)
When I was first considering writing the book that is still not written, I was having a conversation with someone close to me. I grew up in a very conservative, fundamental, Baptist family. We’re talking women shalt not wear pants, KJV only, no drums in music. (I say that now, in my jeans, prepping for a presentation in ESV, while listening to Chris Tomlin).
There was this misunderstanding of grace. A woman in our old church had a child out of wedlock and had turned around and was serving the Lord. Instead of celebrating God’s grace, she was condemned for “flaunting her sin.”
I took issue with this approach. I pointed to Paul- murderer of the Church, turned writer of half our New Testament. “Well, that’s not the same thing.” Right! It’s not. One had sex outside of marriage; the other murdered people. I should say they aren’t.
Not saying all fundamentalists are judgmental, just saying that you can pick up on the attitude just by how these people live life.
2. People have a hard time accepting what they do not understand
If someone has never been drawn to pornography and lust, they honestly do not “get it.” For some people, instead of wanting to ‘get it’ they would rather ignore it. It’s shocking. It’s scandalous. It’s OK. I love what Daniel Weiss, president of The Brushfires Foundation, said in his interview in the documentary, “Shamed.”
“The final obstacle to true Christian community is the inability to be sinners together.”
Sometimes, people get distracted by the type of sin. We do that! We say, “Oh, my sin is unique. It is so big God couldn’t possibly love me.” When someone else has the same attitude, we call it judgment. What shall we call it when we have it toward ourselves? (just some food for thought)
3. God is your defense
Learning this message was such a huge relief for me. When people don’t understand. When they draw conclusions that you know are false, it’s best just not to argue. All that does is frustrate you, work up your heart and drive that blade in further. If they can’t chapter and verse it, walk away. Know where your heart is in this, and let God take care of the rest. It’s counter-intuitive, because we love to feel justified, but it is honestly not worth the effort. God is your defense. Pray for those who are quick to judge. They are missing out on so much of Jesus!
For Those Who Would Judge
For those of you who feel some overwhelming sense of distaste toward the women who need ministries like this, I want to encourage you to step back and spend some time with your Saviour, the Friend of Sinners. You do not understand the brokenness that leads to and comes from this struggle. If you aren’t willing to try and understand, then please, remain silent. Remember your call to be His hands and His feet and to take His message to a world in need of help. And remember, that the only people Jesus was quick to judge were the self-righteous.
May we all learn to be slow to speak, quick to listen and never to cast judgment.