“Judged by the Company One Keeps” has been a favorite poem since a friend shared it with me decades ago. I would recite it to my middle school classes because they could relate, not to the drinking but to the fact that all is not as it appears to be. I agree, and the poem always reminds me to be cautious when judging. Here’s the poem:
Judged by the Company One Keeps
Frequently attributed to Benjamin Hapgood Burt.
One night in late October,
When I was far from sober,
Returning with my load with manly pride,
My poor feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came near and lay down by my side;
Then we sang “It’s all fair weather when good fellows get together”,
Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
“You can tell a man who boozes,
By the company he chooses”,
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.
My students loved the poem for the same reason I do; there is a ring of truth to the simple, silly lines. So often, the one who seems so good and innocent isn’t who they appear to be. That’s true in middle school, and it’s true as long as we live. God placed the poem in my path this morning to teach a lesson and bring a smile because He knew I needed both after a frustrating evening.
Judging isn’t my job, and God makes that very clear on many occasions as He lays out His plans throughout His beautiful word. It’s the only sin that comes with a disclaimer. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 NASB The ten commandments do not carry such warnings, and I believe it is because judging falls into a special category when it comes to sin. Ranking sins involves judgment that hurts God’s work. Judging is playing God, and that is best not done.
I justify judging by saying things like, “They’ve hurt me before, so I know they’ll do it again.” That sounds reasonable and gives solid ground to my claim to pass judgment. If I am to love my enemies and those who hurt me, I must also give up the right to judge them along with the right to retaliate. Judgment and retaliation go together, and that was made clear to me as God taught a tough lesson in love, forgiveness, and the importance of non judgment when it comes to living peacefully, walking in His kingdom, and being the loving witness He so desires for me to be. Fear is at the heart of judgment and will keep me from doing His will if I become its victim. Sometimes, I need to slowly walk away and not worry if others do not understand.
Some lessons pull the rug out from under me, but they leave me flat on my face, humble, and ready to pray. There are advantages to being a slow learner:) Being still and being quiet are two skills I have yet to master, but God knows how to get and hold my attention in a way that helps me see things from His prospective. I see His point much better when face down, and it’s also much easier to be still and quiet in that position.
So far, the sixties have been a challenge. I’m hoping that, like March, they will go out like a lamb as they’ve certainly come in like a lion!!