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Confession of an Ex-Judgment-Slinger

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My gun recoiled with each explosion of flame and thunder. In the following silence, pungent smoke filled the still air. Twirling the gun back into my holster, I turned and walked away from my bullet-riddled victim. Another notch in my gun.

I've fought countless gun battles like that, but I've never been charged with murder. I've never actually killed anyone. My gun is different. Judgmentalism is my gun. Criticisms are my bullets--slugs deadlier than lead.

People who crossed my gun sight I judged, criticized, labeled, categorized, pigeon-holed, sentenced, condemned. My criteria were their looks, possessions, hobbies, jokes, values, beliefs, politics, or whatever else I didn't like.

My victims usually never knew what hit them. I rarely verbalized my criticisms to them. Sometimes I told others about my judgments, but usually I kept them to myself. Nevertheless, even if only mental violence occurred, my judgmental thoughts affected my attitude and actions toward others.

So who made me God with infinite insight capable of making all these value judgments? Who gave me the license to carry my gun? I did. No gun control exists for such a weapon.

I'm not the only gunslinger around, either. Others carry more notches than I do. Bullets fly in even the most sacred places. Gun smoke and bloody pews fill many church sanctuaries. Even now I hear the sound of distant gunfire.

When my guns blazed I felt like a hero, wearing a white hat, defending Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Gun smoke, however, stains white into gray.

Now I see I was not perpetually virtuous. Now I see my victims were often innocent (or at least not wearing black hats). Now I've gone clean. I don't carry a gun anymore.

What causes a gunslinger to hang up his guns? No matter how fast to the draw a gunslinger is, eventually he meets someone faster, or he gets ambushed, or his conscience eventually gets the best of him.

I've been outgunned. I've been ambushed. I've been haunted by the ghosts of my victims.

I've felt the same critical slugs tear into my heart that I once pumped into others. Some of the things that I once judged others for have happened to me. Poetic justice, frontier style, is harsh. As one wise drifter of yesteryear said, "Judge not, that you be not judged."

My gun now hangs on the wall. Sometimes the urge becomes too great, and I put the belt on to stalk another victim. But the urge comes less frequently now.

My gun hangs on the wall, but I haven't thrown it away. Guns are not evil in themselves. In frontier days guns were necessary to hunt food for the table. They became ill-used, however, when pointed at other human beings.

I currently try very hard to be open-minded and not judge other people. The danger of becoming too open-minded, however, is that your brains can fall out. That is the reason I haven't thrown out my gun. I still need it. I still need it to discern good and evil. Whenever I'm tempted to do something wrong, discernment says, "Don't!" Whenever I must make a choice, discernment is what decides.

When do I need to strap on my gun? When do I let it hang on the wall? In other words, what is the difference between discernment and judgment? I discern my own actions and values. I judge those of others. Discernment pulls the campfire log out of my own eye. Judgment points out the prairie dust specks in another's eye. Discernment is necessary, and judgment is not. To know when one becomes the other--that in itself takes discernment.

So here ends the confession of an ex-judgment-slinger. Now how about you? Is your gun hanging on the wall, or are you still putting notches in it?

Copyright 1993 Mark D. Stucky.
Published originally in Purpose, January 10, 1993.

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