Editor’s note: I heard Beth [not her real name] share this story years ago in a Relief Society lesson. (Relief Society is the women’s organization in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) It has always stuck with me. She shared it in a way that had us all laughing, because we could all see ourselves in her story (and she is a wonderful storyteller). I recently asked if she would be willing to write up this memory so others could reflect on her experience.
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:1-2
Once upon a time, I had a neighbor I had conflicted feelings about. I admired lots of things about her. She helped our ward choir sound several levels of professionalism beyond a bunch of volunteers. She taught a lot of piano lessons to kids who made wonderful progress in musicality. She taught “cultural refinement” lessons that were mind-expanding and worthy of college courses.
But I also found myself also making negative judgments I didn’t enjoy in myself. One day I sat myself down to figure out what, exactly, I felt annoyed about. I narrowed it down to these things. It seemed like her house was always messy. (I feel sheepish writing this, because I realize now that none of those things are my business.) It seemed like the whole family yelled a lot. And it seemed like their front door slammed all day long.
Fast forward to our next army assignment, in a country in Europe. We lived in a row house where, typical for living spaces in this area, our front door was only about 50 feet from the back door of my neighbor’s house. She and her husband were empty nesters, and she was a stay-at-home housekeeper. Every Friday (unless it was snowing), she moved all the living room furniture onto the patio, then she scrubbed and polished the floor, a two- or three-hour process every week. And she aired all the comforters out the bedroom windows nearly every morning.
After I’d been her neighbor for a few months, I realized, Wow. Compared to hers, my house is really pretty messy. About the same time, I realized that people in this particular country, who generally live closer to each other than Americans do, have a lower volume of conversational speech. It dawned on me, Wow. Compared to my neighbors, it must seem like my family yells at each other all the time. A crowning moment came a few weeks later when our front door lock broke, and the ONLY WAY we could shut the door (till we got it fixed) was by slamming it.
This experience has been a lasting lesson to be cautious in making any judgments about other people. [See video below.]