As I’ve been thinking about some of the hardest parenting lessons I’ve learned in the last eighteen years, the thought that keeps bouncing around in my head is: You don’t know what you don’t know. Stop judging.
Jesus had a lot to say about the inner critic that lives inside all of us. “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use” (Matt. 7:1-2).
I would never want to be judged with the same standard by which I have judged others—especially in parenting. The voice of the Spirit has been challenging me these days to stop offering unsolicited advice to parents, especially those with kids older than mine. I don’t know anything about their situations, and I have no wisdom drawn from life experience. How quickly my mind jumps to assumptions.
Recently on The Glass House podcast, we met a new friend, Nicole Zasowski. She’s written a book called What If It’s Wonderful, which hit me between the eyes on the issue of judging other moms. She wrote: “The voice of jealousy is not kind. The conversations I hear among other women tell me I’m not alone. We see a woman who is driven by her successful career and tell ourselves that she must not spend any quality time with her kids.”1
If I’m honest, that uncharitable judging voice often lives inside my head and must be crucified.
Recently, this all came to a head when we dropped our firstborn daughter off at college. Full confession: before taking my own child, I had zero compassion toward overly sappy parents in dorm rooms. I was so wrong and ignorant. I didn’t understand the complex paradox of being equally thrilled for her new adventure and devastated that a season had ended.
On the long, quiet, tearful drive home, I was looking on Instagram and a well-known Christian leader just happened to be taking his firstborn daughter to college the next day. He was filming them loading the cars and giving the onlookers’ well-wishes of how this isn’t supposed to be a sad day. He said “Celebrate the launch. Don’t mourn the loss.”
One reply to this said, “Yeah. Talk to us again when you come home without her. That is the hardest part.” This is exactly how I felt at this moment—easy to give advice when you haven’t done it. I began thinking how often I’ve given advice on something I have not yet personally experienced.
Want in on a couple of the things I’ve judged others for before I was in their shoes? Let’s take a little trip down my judgmental memory lane:
- Family dinners. When my kids were younger (we had four in forty-eight months) and I found myself cooking every meal, I wondered why people didn’t prioritize family mealtimes. I mean if we can do it, anyone can. Right? Fast forward to when we had middle and high school age kids in sports, music, part-time jobs, and a husband who travels more than he ever has, and we are lucky to have two meals a week sitting around the table together.
- Older kids who leave home and begin to make bad decisions. Again, when I was younger and had total control of my kid’s lives and schedules, I secretly thought that kids who made unwise decisions had parents who weren’t invested in their lives. I was so wrong. I have now walked with some of the godliest friends through some really hard things, and they are deeply grieved. Our kids have minds and wills of their own, and as parents, often the most we can do is watch and wait and pray.
A woman I follow on social media writes specifically to mother/daughter relationships. Therefore, the following quote is naturally aimed at the female bond, but substitute “kids” for “daughters” if you have boys and listen to this carefully:
“Moms, if you want daughters who celebrate other girls, then let them hear you celebrate other women. … Expecting our daughters to master jealousy when we can’t do it ourselves is an unfair expectation. If we want daughters who love and celebrate their friends, then let’s show them how it’s done.”2
I love this challenge, and I am taking it to heart. Let’s stop judging women we don’t know and situations we have no insight to and simply begin encouraging and praying for and with them.
Let’s pray for one another for wisdom.
We are all in this together, doing the best we can to point our children to Jesus and to model our faith for them. Let’s be women who choose encouragement and support over judgment and criticism every day.
Lynley Mandrell is the wife of Ben Mandrell, the new president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. Before coming to Lifeway, Ben and Lynley spent five years in Denver, CO, planting a church designed to reach the unchurched. She is a mother of four and a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Dr. Pepper®, and silence.
1. Nicole Zasowski, What If It’s Wonderful (Nashville, TN: W Publishing, 2022), 49.
2. Kari Kampakis, @karikampakis, “Moms, if you want daughters who celebrate other girls …” Instagram, December 6, 2022, https://www.instagram.com/karikampakis/?hl=en.