By Melanie Rigney
I’m the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter. I laugh and tell people who ask why I didn’t have children that that line of hyper-responsible, hypervigilant women had to end. But it’s not totally a joke.
“And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” ~John 12:47
Regardless of your birth order, you may have some of that gene. You know, the one that tells you there’s one right way to fold towels and sheets, to drive, to wrap a present, to dress… and woe be onto those who don’t go along with it. I am your sister, even if we don’t share DNA. (My now ex-husband’s favorite nickname for me was “Super Cop of the World.”) The secret behind all that private and sometimes not-so-private condemnation is that when your expectations are that exacting, you, those you love, and the world at large are never going to live up to them.
What’s the point in even trying? If we can’t live up to our own standards, how could we possibly meet His?
And that is the lesson I take from today’s Gospel reading. Jesus came to save us. Through His death and resurrection, we are offered the hope of eternal life.
The more challenging part of the reading for me is that He doesn’t condemn those who choose not to follow His words. Imagine that! It takes away any power we’ve given ourselves to condemn. That means no snarky comment about the person with twenty items in the clearly marked ten-items-or-fewer lane at the grocery store; no silent seething about the parent who doesn’t take the crying toddler out of the sanctuary during Mass; and no telling our daughter’s best friend she’s too young to wear black all the time.
Jesus sets the perfect example: love and welcome and accept people as He does. Offer the invitation to the Word, and leave the judging to the Father on the Last Day. Until then, do what Jesus did: provide gentle correction when the Spirit directs, and distance yourself from those who would threaten your salvation without condemning them. Strive to behave in a way that your nickname might be something like “Super Accepter of the World.”
Where should you leave the judging to God?
About the author:
Melanie Rigney attempts to grow in acceptance each day, and finds help in reading and writing about our beloved saints. Her latest book is Radical Saints: 21 Saints for the 21st Century (Franciscan Media). She lives in Arlington, VA. Check her out at www.melanierigney.com.
Melanie, reading this this morning was like a hit over the head – like it was written for me. Also an oldest daughter, with my own oldest daughter, I struggle with all you describe. Thank you for your words – they have arrived with perfect timing to help me process and do some ‘weeding’ this spring. God bless!
Guilty as charged. This morning I counted the number of garbage cans left out past the deadline, judging each one. I did come to the realization that there was a pandemic going on and maybe I should cut people some slack but I judged first. I came home and read this. I promise to do better Lord.
Hey women! Bless you!!! Why is it I am betting, Kathy and Cheryl, that like me, you are the very hardest on yourselves? Peace and joy, Melanie
Wow, I needed this! Sometimes it’s hard to hear/read, but what we need. Thanks for your meaningful insight. Funny thing is I’m the youngest of 7, so . I think I get it from my mom. She is the oldest daughter.
Oh my goodness, I could have written that, except that it wouldn’t have been near as well put! Thank you so much for your honesty and for sharing something that I wrestle with everyday. I know if I keep plugging away, by the grace of God I will become more holy and God like as we are called… Hugs and blessings from Huntsville, Alabama, Chris
More sisters! Yea!!! Will pray for each of you tonight! Peace, Melanie
I’m the oldest daughter, too. Always want to help my siblings find the correct way (my way, of course!) Trying to be a better person. They aren’t listening anyway. Great blog, Melanie!
Ah, Melanie, it’s always a pleasure to read you. As a fellow oldest daughter (and oldest child – a double responsibility), I’ve also had to come to terms with the fact that some folks just insist on doing things the wrong way. My response, when it’s not “Bless Your Heart,” is: “Jesus loves you, anyway.” Maybe I’m not quite there, eh?
Thanks, Debbie and Erin! Blessings!
Eldest daughter of eldest daughter here. During early attempts to shake the “I’m always right” habit, I called myself The Bureau of Standards. But, as you beautifully write, God has other standards. When I remember to enjoy other’s differences more, I enjoy life more.
I had a first born Father, first born Mother, and an older sister. I ended up with a few first born characteristics just because of the first born(s) in my life. I have the habit of judging others. I am trying to think why someone may do things differently than me. When someone is driving too fast, I try to think that maybe they have a sick child, mother or something is very wrong for them right now. My frequent prayer especially during lent, but works anytime is: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
The Jesus prayer is one of my favorites, Jenny. And Rose, cracking up about the Bureau of Standards! Peace, Melanie