• Sydney Robinson

How a Church Girl Learned to Love the World

I want to tell you how a church girl who learned to appreciate diversity as God’s greatest gift to the human intellect. I want to tell you how curiosity cured my judgmental heart.

A few years ago, while still in my undergrad at Baylor, I began challenging myself to think outside of the intellectual box I was raised in. I heard somewhere, that unless we can develop the capacity to think greater than how we feel, we will only ever be able to see the world through the lens of our own past experiences. And we will only be able to judge our friends’ lives through our own lenses – her breakup, his unstable living situation, her incapacity to maintain a relationship with anyone without hurting them. Have you ever caught yourself making snap judgments about people in your life in situations like these? Because I did. And in my mind, those judgments sounded like:

· “Every time my relationship has failed, it was because I forgot my worth and chose a jerk. I wish she would just go to counseling and stop going back to that idiot. I can’t handle her drama anymore.”

· “I know a friend who still lives on his mom’s couch and he’s a total deadbeat. I can’t stand people who mooch off their parents. Get your ass up and get a job.”

· “What. A. Bitch.”

If you take a closer look, you might notice most of these answers are predicated on MY experiences. MINE. Not the person’s experience I am judging, but MINE. Hm…

Once I realized I was basing all my observations on ME, I was disgusted with myself. How could I be so selfish with my understanding? So, I began to wonder what would happen if

INSTEAD, I turned to curiosity, and based my observations on the unknown:

· “What my friend and her ex still share a strong bond with each other, but they both recognize they needed a little time alone to grow? What if she just needs an objective third party to lean on right now? Maybe I could be that for her… God knows I have needed a second chance and someone to believe in me before.”

· “What if he is struggling with depression? I know he just came out as homosexual to his family and friends. I mean, I can’t imagine what it must be like to go from a strait-laced, cum laude graduate at Cornell to suddenly not knowing who accepts him and who doesn’t. I wonder if I could reach out and let him know I am here for him. I know I could use that support if I were him.”

· “It takes a hurting person to hurt people the way she does. I wonder what hurts her so badly. What could I do to remind her that she is loved? Because I know she must know people think she is horrible, and that must be an isolating feeling.”

Notice all these curious wonderings led to empathy instead of judgement. And empathy leads to vulnerability, and vulnerability to healing. I think we humans have an incredible power within us. We can kill each other with judgement, or we can heal each other with curiosity and empathy and connection – EVEN when people do or say things we never imagined we could understand. But I promise, you can understand. You can empathize. If I could learn to become empathetic.. ME, the little pharisee with a pink ribbon in her hair, I promise you can too. All it takes is an open mind and a lot of bravery.

The instances above are close to experiences I have had where I forced myself to think outside the realm of my own experience and become curious about someone else’s, instead of judging it. But there have been others that were MUCH more difficult for me. The difficult ones involved topics I was raised by a Southern Baptist Community to believe were sinful and punishable by shame and outcasting.

Some of the topics that have been the most difficult for me to become curious about were:

· Homosexuality, bisexuality and the LGBTQ+ Community

· Abortion

· The intersection between science and faith

· World religions and philosophy

· Divorce

· Romance

But these have been the most rewarding. Because what often began as a curious journey to understand someone’s experience with one of these topics, blossomed into a friendship that kept my mind open, alive and empathetic. I used to think that I could only keep friends who shared my faith, my education, and a similar upbringing, but I realize now that in order to love the entire world as God asked me to, I must become curious about the entire world that God made. And that includes all the people He made, and all their experiences.

Curiosity cured my judgement.

And though I still find myself snapping off negative judgements in my mind sometimes, I try as much as I can to replace those with curiosity, and a deep knowing that if I were that person, I would crave someone to try and understand me too.

This is how a church girl learned to love the world.