I have a friend who once told me his secret to not judging others. It's an analogy and it goes like this:
Sin is like dirt. Dirt's all the same.
His point, which he elaborated, was that it doesn't matter what a person's done; there's no reason to judge them for their actions. The point is they're dirty. Everyone is dirty in some way.
And dirt's all the same.
I haven't been perfect in my life. I wish I could say I have, but I haven't. Who am I to expect that from someone else? Whether their dirt is the same as mine doesn't matter. The point is we've gotten dirty. We've both walked on a beach and gotten sand in our shoes. We've both spilled food on our shirts; maybe mine's grape juice while theirs is mustard. Neither one is better. Neither stain is preferred, because that's what they are: stains. They both need extra attention and care to be removed.
Dirt's all the same.
I've tried taking this into my heart and acknowledging it in moments where I'm tempted to lessen my view of someone based on my perception of their life, but it's never really stuck. I haven't gotten it to be the thing that pops effortlessly into mind to deter me from passing judgement.
Until the other day when I realized I'd been inwardly chanting something to remove judgmental tendencies, it just wasn't about dirt.
In my mission prep class we're moving into teaching The Plan of Salvation, or Plan of Happiness. My teacher gave an example of an object lesson a young girl in Guatemala (where he served his LDS mission) gave to a group of her peers. She had them write down:
And then asked them, next to each 'time,' to write one of the most important choices or decisions they had to make in that instance.
So, for example, maybe your biggest choice today so far has been what to have for breakfast. Last week maybe it was to go to that last-minute audition even though it seemed pretty pointless and when you got there you realized you were right. But the choice to go was important and had impact.
So everyone did it. And for fun, I'll ask you to do it. Right now. One of the most important choices. Write it.
(Please do not read ahead until you've completed the exercise. Thanks.)
When they were done, she said something to the effect of--paraphrased by my mission prep teacher and then scribbled by me in my notes--"I tricked all of you because life didn't start with birth. Life started in the pre-Earth life, and you made a choice to come to Earth. You chose Christ."
In fine, the most important choice you made in your life happened before you remember. You chose Christ. Her follow up point was that, in each instance listed above--day/week/month/year/life--do we continue to choose Christ? Does following Him continue to be our most important choice?
To clarify because I feel I should, in the pre-mortal existence (referred to above as pre-Earth life. We're fans of synonyms in this church), Heavenly Father presented a plan for us, as spirits, to come to Earth and gain a body and experience and live in mortality before returning to His presence. Satan pitched a plan that, in essence, left mankind without agency and gave all the glory and praise to Satan himself, rather than God. Christ stepped forward with the plan that every man may choose his own path, but He would come to Earth in His own time and be a sacrifice for the sake of mankind, that through Him they might repent of any sins or wrongs and return to God of their agency and free will, with His help. And the glory be to God forever.
Satan's plan was rejected and Satan rebelled. There were many that followed Satan's plan, and God cast them and Satan from His presence. Those that remained, those that chose Christ, were sent to Earth to gain a body and experience, and the opportunity to choose Christ again.
(Scripture references for my amateur and brief explanation of the war in Heaven and Satan's fall: 2 Nephi 2:14-27; Alma 42:2-9. And I'm sure there's more but I don't immediately know them. I'm in mission prep. I'm still learning these things.)
Basically, if you have a body, you chose Christ.
Take a moment to look at yourself.
Do you have a body?
When I find myself looking on someone who seems to have left the path, strayed from Christ's plan, I remind myself that they chose Christ once. They chose Christ first. That's the thing I've been chanting. That's my "dirt's all the same."
I have a botany professor who is insistent on his way of life being the right way, and thereby discredits any other source of knowledge or belief. He's yet another admitted liberal professor who strives so strongly for those of us simple-minded conservatives to awaken to the bonds with which we are bound (ie our traditional beliefs and lifestyles) and transfer to their free and easy and non-prejudice way of life that is vastly prejudiced to those not part of it. He tries to get us to understand indigenous people's view of nature and the divine by bashing the concept that some all-seeing God in Genesis "made it that way." To him, in order for me to understand or appreciate another religious belief system, I have to crumple mine up and light it ablaze and send the ashes over the Grand Canyon first. I've often had the impression in his class that a supernatural belief is permissible; unless it's mine. Unless it's an understanding that a Heavenly Father sent His Son to create the Earth and come to the Earth and die for the sins of mankind.
That belief is wrong. He makes no mistake in telling me.
There was an instant last week, as he taught and made some side reference to the fault of Christianity, that I had the distinct thought: "You chose Christ once. You elected to follow Christ once."
My cynical view of the man changed in that moment from indignation that he consistently trample on my religious affiliations as though I'm some mindless lemming, to a sort of warm understanding that he sees the world his way now, but in a time past he understood this supernatural belief he now fondly mocks. He chose to follow that God he discredits, and soon to come he will face Him again.
Not to disrepute my friend; I feel "dirt's all the same" to be very much an accurate perspective, and it correlates with this notion to follow Christ, but at least for me, acknowledging the good they chose once rather than the wrong we've both encountered leads love for them to form in my chest. I've started to see others as siblings and cohorts on the same tract of life, whether they see it or not. They chose Christ once. I chose Him at that same time. I've chosen Him again, and so could they. We are kindred spirits, we both chose Christ. We both have fallen into dirt. Judging them isn't leading them to an understanding of God and the Atonement and His love.
Dirt's all the same. And there's only one way to ever fully be clean.