Judgment is something I know well. It’s been a companion of sorts for quite some time. No actually, a long time. In the beginning, one might say. As a religious person I’m a recovering Calvinist.

Too early I learned the language of fear and the hellacious nature of God. That being said, I judged many people, but never more so than myself. Maturity, and life’s twists and turns, led me to become a theologian rather than just a heretic. I unlearned a judgmental God and found, as Luther advocated, a gracious one. But even Luther, brilliant as he was, fermented judgment and harm in all the wrong places. But that’s another story.

I learned in later years the softer side of judgment, which is discernment, a sorting, reflecting process which requires compassion and a heavy dose of humility. It’s hard to shake the early nuclei of self-judgment though: too many muscle memories still linger from the old dispensation.

Nowadays, despite the sound bites of yesteryear, I rest my judgment in kindness, and when I’m really feeling strong, compassion. Love and judgment are not incompatible if it means making right choices, doing no harm, seeking the good in others, and oneself as well.

So, I rest in discernment praying whatever muscle memories of fear and self-doubt remain they will continue to weaken over time. Until the last judgment, which I now trust is not to be feared, but embraced, knowing the softer side of love and the deeper side of joy.