Recently a friend of mine told me that before she knew me, she thought I was “too crunchy” to befriend.

“Me? Crunchy?” I said to her. “I wear shoes and deodorant and don’t use Tom’s toothpaste.”

“But you drink kombucha, right?”

She had me there.

But who wouldn’t?! It’s carbonated, full of probiotics, and is naturally caffeinated. Sure it smells like vinegar and looks like you’re growing a jellyfish instead of a drink (which I realize are two good reasons right there not to drink it), but to me it’s like a Beverage Super Star. So why judge it, then?

Are we afraid of having our nostrils and taste buds challenged? Are we unwilling to try something new because we’re sure we’ll hate it anyway? Because how can we really know unless we slug one back?

We can’t.

Now, of course this topic is safe when discussing something that doesn’t have feelings (although if you’ve ever seen a SCOBY multiply, you might think otherwise), but what about people….do we like to be judged based on what we “seem” to be? Of course not.

I’m so much more than my preference for kombucha and organic food and reusable bags. Do these things fit a certain stereotype? Sure! But do they comprise everything that I think and am? Not even close.

My friend commented on this recently, too, by saying how sorry she was for having judged me before talking to me. I told her that was okay…as long as she tried some of my kombucha.

She politely declined.

You get my point. All day, everyday, we are faced with the opportunity to make snap judgments about other people based on their tattoos, skin color, parenting choices, marital statuses, or Facebook posts. We see someone praying before they eat their potato boats at Applebee’s and think, Wow…I would NEVER pray in public…..let alone EAT potato boats.  

We hear about free-range parenting, homeschooling, or some other label-of-parenting and judge it without knowing much about it. We don’t think we’re doing this, but the minute someone challenges our belief system, out comes the assumption-brigade.

Now, just because we’re inclined to do this, does it make it right? Of course not! And this is why following Jesus can help–he offers us a better way:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others” (Matthew 7:1-2).

How true this is! But how do we hold true to our beliefs, then, while also being open to new ones? Simple. We cross that awkward and inconvenient divide of “difference” by communicating. (Just read John 4 for some inspiration!)

Like the other day…

There I was, sitting at the park and completely ignoring my kids (and probably getting judged for doing so), when I noticed a mom handing her kindergartener a pacifier. You guys, the judgments slipped all over my mind like an oily hog. But then I caught myself and decided to ask her a couple of questions instead.

“How old is your son?” I said, thinking that was a pretty safe place to start, but what she responded with surprised me.

“I know, I know…” she said, as if she could read my mind about the pacifier. “I shouldn’t be giving it to him…but I just can’t take it away either…”

She trailed off into a sea of memories, and friends, the silence was just so awkward I wanted to hide in a giant oversized sweater! I kept thinking, Should I get out of here and go find my kids? (probably should have done that anyway) or do I press on into this awkward conversation? Thankfully, I chose the latter.

“Why can’t you take it away?” I asked her.

“Well,” she paused again, “I just left a 10-year relationship that was, well…abusive. So that pacifier is the only thing he’s got right now to bring him comfort.”

BAM. All of my nasty, slippery little judgments got disqualified (so I quickly gulped ‘em down with my kombucha. For real.)

We talked for a little bit longer, but by the end of our conversation I was able to tell her that she was a great mom and that it didn’t matter if he sucked on that pacifier until he was 16. She was keeping him safe.

Sometimes crossing the divide does that, right? It teaches us about other people, but it also teaches us a whole lot about ourselves.

So I encourage you today to do the same–find someone you would normally not interact with and ask him or her a question. Ask where they’re from or why they’re doing “that thing” you find strange. You just might discover that the person is not so “strange” or “crunchy” or ______ after all. You might even discover that there’s more to them than what they’re drinking, even if that beverage IS kombucha.

Because, after all, isn’t there more to all of us?