Coming off of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, one of the greatest quotes of all time is still ringing in my ears….
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to hear those words echo down from the Lincoln Memorial out of the mouth of Martin Luther King Jr. The words are heartbreaking and beautiful and were a motivating call to a generation of people to commit themselves to justice. The imagery of the first half of the quote is so powerful and emotionally evocative, however, that I fear it has led us to ignore the second half.
No one should be judged by the color of their skin.
Or by the amount of money in their wallet.
Or by their religious affiliation.
Or by their political leanings.
Or by educational background.
But they are to be judged.
I know that phrase sounds insane and critical and heartless, but it’s actually a powerfully honest statement, and it’s part of the beauty and genius of the above quote by Dr. King.
We should be judged. I need to be judged. You need to be judged, and that judgment should be on the content of our character. A world that does not judge on the content of character breeds injustice. It willingly throws its people to the wolves.
In our haste to not judge people unfairly, we have thrown out judgment altogether, which is not only short-sighted, but incredibly dishonest. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second and admit it: we all judge.
If you are looking for a daycare for your precious two year old child that you love and care for dearly, you had better be a very critical (in the best way) judge. You would never just drop your child off anywhere that had a daycare sign in the window. You would judge. You would meet the staff. You would talk to other parents at the daycare. You would ask around and visit multiple places. In short, you would judge the daycare centers, and rightfully so.
We are all constantly judging, all the time. We judge the employees we are interviewing to hire, we judge the restaurants where we eat, and the hotels where we stay on vacation.
And that’s ok.
It’s more than ok, it’s critically important.
After all, if the restaurant where you are having dinner has left their chicken out on the counter for the past 8 hours, its ok to judge them for that and avoid the Chicken Caesar Salad, or better yet, just leave.
So, what areas are safe to judge? How do we judge honestly and in a healthy way?
We judge the content of character.
Judging the content of my character, where it is weak, and where it is strong is what allows me to develop my character more fully. Better character means a better life, better for me, better for my family, and better for the community and nation I live in. Dr. King knew that his children would be judged, he just hoped they would be judged on things that truly matter, things they could control. You may not have a lot of control over your skin color or financial standing, but every day we all have the opportunity to develop our character, and when we do our homes and nation are better off for it. So embrace patience, generosity, mercy, forgiveness, and courage, and partner with others who do the same. It’s not easy to build our character, and it doesn’t develop overnight, but years from now when you look back, you’ll be grateful for every minute that you chose invest.
Photo Courtesy of Death To Stock Photo