Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearance), but judge fairly and righteously (John 7:24).

I used to look at the world through a pair of “snapshot-colored” glasses, ones that misled me into believing what I saw has always been and forever will be.  In other words, I would tend to “judge” others and my situation based solely on what I perceived rather than seeking to appreciate the history behind it, reasons for it and the future which (potentially) lies ahead.

It can be equated to determining what you think about celebrities from the pictures you see on the pages of tabloids, a homeless person in the brief glimpse of one on a sidewalk, or your circumstance based upon a moment of time.

Over the years, I have discovered my existence not to be just one long continuous journey, but rather a number of segments, chapters or seasons within the span of my life which comprise my story.  Realizing and embracing this “concept” has allowed me to look at my situation more optimistically and accept others with more grace and mercy.

Each episode of our life is the resultant of decisions we make or have been made, and those who have impacted us during that time.  How we accept, respond to and work through those circumstances oftentimes determines whether we move on to a new season or remain where we are.  

I know of a couple of boys who were raised in a grade-school drop-out single mother home in inner city Detroit.  The mother wanted the best for her sons and worked several jobs in order to put a roof over their heads and food on the table; however she wasn’t capable of helping them more educationally than to just make them read a great deal.  One of the boys grew up with a fierce temper and was known to violently fight with classmates, even to the point of pulling a knife on a friend during an altercation.

A “snapshot” of this situation would lead many of us to write these boys off to the “system” and to conclude they will kill or be killed at some point in their young life since this seems to be an all too common occurrence in many inner city communities.

Recently, I had the honor of meeting Doctor Ben Carson, who is touted as one of the most renowned neurosurgeons in the world.  He is gifted with the ability to see the brain in a three dimensional way which has allowed him to make some amazing discoveries and execute miraculous operations throughout the world on young children and twins conjoined at the brain.

I, like many others in attendance that evening, was in awe of him and the delicate God-given instruments of his hands with which he performs hundreds of surgeries a year on children at Johns Hopkins University.

A “snapshot” of Doctor Carson would produce an image of a gifted surgeon, compassionate humanitarian and dedicated family man.  Many would probably surmise he grew up in a good home with educated parents and access to the best schools that groomed and afforded him the opportunity to be where he is today.

However, Doctor Carson did not grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth, he was that young boy who was raised in the slums of Detroit and attempted to stab his friend out of anger.  Miraculously, the blade of the knife broke off on his friend’s belt buckle and both were spared that day - his friend from a life-threatening wound and Ben Carson from possible murder charges.

Here are two seemingly totally different people living on two diverse paths separated by a number of years, yet one and the same.

A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it, but knowledge comes easily to those with understanding  (Proverbs 14:6).

My small and very selective movie collection is comprised mostly of real-life accounts of underappreciated, sometime under-privileged and usually underdog individuals who receive an opportunity to grow, is encouraged to succeed or allowed to flourish, films like Rudy, Hoosiers, Blind Side, Radio, October Sky, and A Little Prayer.

In most of these movies, one person took an interest in someone who may not have “had it all” on the outside, gave someone a second chance or allowed himself to learn something about the character of the other person.  In other words, they showed mercy and kindness to one another.  That is what we as Christians are commanded to do.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: Judge fairly and honestly, and show mercy and kindness to one another (Zechariah 7:9).

So encourage each other and build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Only God knows the beginning and the end of all things.  If we are to be more Christ-like, shouldn’t we seek to know more about someone before making a judgment and writing them off?  We may surprise ourselves at how we can be used (and receive back) when we invest our time into learning about someone, encouraging others and believing in the potential rather than settling on the given.

Paul Harvey, long-time radio broadcaster, used to discuss people and topics we may have heard something about except he would fill-in the blanks, the back-story, and the details we oftentimes never knew or sought on our own.  Most often than not, listeners would be amazed and entertained by the particulars he would share.  At the end of his illuminating message he would always conclude with, “…and that’s the rest of the story.”

Many of us would be well-served if we took the time to find out the history of the people we simply write-off, give up on, or judge so quickly.  We may learn to have more mercy for others and learn something about ourselves in the process.  Don’t draw a conclusion on yourself or others until you know the rest of the story.

It doesn’t matter so much where we or anyone else has come from, what matters is where we are heading.  With a little help, we can see the world differently and be a part of changing it and others for the good.

Doctor Carson’s amazing transformation can be found in his autobiography, Gifted Hands, which has also been made into a movie by the same title.

Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel.  An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback?  Send your comments and questions to cydmg@yahoo.com.

Publication date: October 18, 2012