whyThere’s a “why” to every “what.”

The week we call Holy Week must have been a whiplash for the followers of Jesus. Beginning with a coronation parade, there were crowds, cheers, waving palm branches, and exuberance.

All was good. They were ready to see the triumphant conclusion of the previous three years. Jesus was going to head for the temple and kick some butt. Then on to the palace for phase two of the takeover.

Instead Jesus remained subdued, even a bit morose. His teachings turned dark and clouds began forming in the back of their minds. Thursday evening they celebrated the Passover together, a reverent occasion that should have been both somber and joyful. Right in the middle of things, Jesus began talking about being betrayed by one of them.

Whiplash! From crowd surfing to betrayal. How could this be? Little did they know that they would each abandon him within a couple of days.

What’s in this for me? One of the lessons I had to keep learning as a psychologist was that every person’s actions, no matter how bizarre they seem to me, is that person’s attempt to make sense of their life at that moment.

I have heard some things that made absolutely no sense to me, and some had disastrous consequences. In those moments, it’s easy for me to judge them as stupid or malicious or thoughtless or something else pejorative. The more extreme the action, the easier to judge it negatively.

But judgment separates people. Empathy connects us. I don’t have to condone behavior that is destructive, but as long as I am judging that person, I cut myself off from that person, AND I cut myself off from learning about myself from that person.

Judging them is MY attempt to make sense of my world. If I judge them, I can keep them in a category that I am comfortable with. I can assume I am in a different category. I’m not like that person. I wouldn’t do what they did.

Jesus didn’t warn us about judging others because it’s not nice. Jesus was not about being nice. He cautioned us about judging because it blinds us to our own actions and motives, and it closes us off from experiencing forgiveness. When that happens, we are in no position to show compassion to another.

I would have waved palm branches on Sunday. I would have gone to work on Monday and worried about my little dramas. I would have abandoned him on Friday because I was scared. They are all part of me. I am capable of all things holy and sinister.