judgment

Matthew 7 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

A Liberal MLA apologized Monday for comments he made about health care and the cost of treating people with chronic illness.

Chester-St. Margaret's MLA Hugh MacKay took to social media Sunday to say chronic diseases are often linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, poor diet and drinking too much.

He said the cost of treating things such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer is "a source of great frustration for our health-care professionals and for your government."

He said that before asking why there isn't more money for education, roads and community services "think about the immense wasted costs in treating the results of our lifestyle choices," he wrote in the now-deleted post.

"Tough words for a tough problem, but I was elected to tell it like it is."

The comments drew the ire of opposition politicians who called them insensitive and oversimplified.

"Just to go out and say that the problems we have in the health-care system, the education system and the highway system is because we're wasting money on health care — if you have a sick parent [or] child, to tell you that, that you're wasting money to treat your father or your son or your daughter, to me that's a slap in the face," PC health critic Eddie Orrell said in an interview. The NDP also released a statement criticizing the comments as "shameful" and "high-handed lectures."

While Nova Scotia does indeed have high rates of chronic illness and cancer, the regional medical officer of health for the provincial health authority's central zone said years of research shows simply reminding people of the consequences of negative behaviour and unhealthy choices isn't very effective at changing behaviour.

"That's likely because there's other factors at play that make it difficult for individuals to make a healthy choice," said Dr. Trevor Arnason.

"If an individual is struggling to make ends meet, struggling to pay bills, pay rent, pay for child care, it may be very difficult for them to prepare healthy foods or go to restaurants that have healthy foods." Arnason said prevention is something people should be discussing and it's a valuable aspect to the health-care system because of what it means for people's long-term outlooks and the ability to save money for the system.

But broad policies focused on the social determinants of health, including community services, education and employment, are likely to make some of the biggest changes to the system, he said.

MacKay wasn't doing interviews a day after his "tough words," instead taking to social media again, this time to offer an apology and interact with several constituents.

"I failed to properly address the social determinants of health," he wrote. "Health care is a complex issue that is multifaceted and my post did not reflect this."

I think we should cut this man some slack. All of us have been there, said that. The dirty secret of shaming the poor is that the poor themselves will often inflict this judgment on each other. More often than I would like to admit I have heard someone at a soup kitchen look across the table and tell me “that guy doesn’t deserve to be here, he wastes his money on booze and lottery tickets.” And the middle class and the wealthy do likewise, we look at people who are overweight and blame them for the costs of health care, or smokers, or drinkers, you name it. It makes us feel better, superior, like we are not the problem, THEY are.

I remember at one foodbank, a volunteer who I knew from years of toil in social justice work, a true progressive in every sense of the word, telling me he would not serve a certain client anymore because that client had taken his family on a drive to Florida. Never mind the client did it on the cheap, using deals, last minute sales, and a gift from a generous relation, to make the trip happen. This volunteer was so offended his let go of all his social justice training and knowledge and make a judgment.

I don’t believe Jesus told us not to judge. Who wants to live in a world where is no judgment made, no distinction given, between justice and injustice? Not me! Even the most ardent proponent of “no judgment” judges, and for a very good reason. That is how laws are made, a moral covenant is established, we let ourselves and others know there is virtue to be found and lived. BUT as Jesus says if you dare judge another, if you dare tell someone they are being unjust, immoral, selfish, mean, wrong, then you had better know that the other is apt to come right back at you and expose your own shortcomings. Unless you walk in her/his shoes you just don’t know how s/he feels. If you have a plank in your eye and call out the speck in the other’s eyes, look out! Hypocrisy is the often the other side of judgment.

We all do it. We are all sinners. We are all broken and flawed people. But that is how God made us, thus Jesus’ advice, to set us free, to heal us and make us whole, fully human.