*Written by Pastor Robert Parrish, provider of services and counseling for Love Wins Community Engagement Center.
I find that most people, when asked, would tell you that they love and accept everyone. They will say that they don’t pass any judgement. However, study after study shows that human beings do this on a subconscious level. To confirm this fact, one only has to take a racial bias test. It could be that human beings think that if it is said, acceptance of all people is true. But, all one really has to do is take a good look at society, or listen to the news, and see that this is not the case. Walking and living in nonjudgmental love takes practice and work. It is not only what we say about accepting human beings, it is what we do in relationship to them.
Love Wins Community Engagement Center is a place that offers and gives nonjudgmental love. But admittedly, it is at times not easy. As the pastor of this engagement center I talk with and sit with people from various backgrounds. It ranges from being thrown out of a home from an early age, to spending significant time in the prison system. Struggles with drug addiction, to living with mental illness is also a part of the above. How does a person like me who has not experienced these kinds of life experiences give acceptance and love?
The first thing I do, along with other staff at Love Wins, is to be aware of my biases. This awareness helps me to step away from my prejudice and better enables me to listen to the homeless people more clearly. I also find a way to recall my own experience when I have been judged, and not accepted as a person who is blind. Being around people in society who have low expectations of me is something that I have to live with every day. This connection helps me to better understand how people blame homeless people in making their own problems, or how they ” won’t amount to anything”. Thus both of us are accepted for who we are.
A second way that enables me to accept and love homeless people at Love Wins is to walk with them in where they are in this journey called “life”. In writing this I mean that they don’t have to meet some expectation of what I think they should be. In doing so, a kind of trust develops. It is when trust develops that I, along with other staff, may have the opportunity to help people experience areas of growth or different life choices.
Nonjudgmental love then seeks to be with people where they are. This opens the avenue for all of us to grow in relationships and experience growth in ways that we never knew.