Judgement Free Zone


Judgement Free Zone

The other day I went to Planet Fitness to check out their gym. Rows and rows of machines, 30-minute circuit, and young urban planetfitnesshipsters. My kind of place! The only drawback--no fitness classes. (No Zumba?? Whaaaat??) But what sold me is the gym’s JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE. Manny from Planet Fitness explained it to me. Here’s my embellished paraphrase: We want to create an atmosphere where people feel free to come as they are, where they work out to feel good, not to impress others. We want to let people know that it’s okay if they fail, we’ll help them do better the next time. If they don’t live up to others’ expectations, there’s no judgment.

As my grandmother’s primary caregiver, I decided to set up a JUDGMENT FREE ZONE here, specifically applied to each person involved in Grandma’s care. Uncle C buys her a sausage and egg breakfast sandwich when she’s on a high-fiber, low-sodium diet? It’s okay, a once a week splurge won’t kill her. My music producer brother can’t come by because he has a meeting? I understand, he calls regularly and is doing the best he can to support the family. Grandma refuses to come to the table after I prepared her dinner? Well, she just wore herself out dressing and undressing and redressing for the last 20 minutes because she forgot what she was doing—I’ll just bring her a banana.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not talking about excusing others for inexcusable behavior. At Planet Fitness, the trainer doesn’t just walk by when you’re sitting backwards on the abs machine and say, “Good job!” He corrects you. There are situations where I need to step up and say, “No, that just can’t happen.”

Like a conversation I had today with my mom. The plan is for her to relieve me for a few days this week. While we were talking, she made an offhand comment about possibly not coming until Friday, maybe Saturday. I told her respectfully yet firmly, “No, I need you to come on Thursday. I’m doing fine with Grandma for now, but Wednesday is going to be my limit. I need these days off to step away for a while.”

Well handled, huh? Yup, before you start applauding my maturity, keep reading.

The minute I got off the phone with her, my inner ranting started. (Read all this with a tongue-clicking-hand-on-hip-neck-rolling-Black-girl in mind): “Uh-huh, she think that just because I live here, I’m on-call 24/7. Just watch, she gonna call THAT MORNING with some lame excuse like her car broke down again, or she has to go to court because one of her hardhead kids that she works with got arrested again. She better remember that I am the G-R-A-N-D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R, and that this caretaking thing is her responsibility! I am NOT playing!”

Fire in my fingers, I opened up my caregiving blog to start my very first “rant” all about my mom (the same one who was a “Rock Starr” last week)—when I heard a familiar inner voice, sweet but convicting. “Are you kidding me?” I could feel God saying, with a glint in his eye. “What happened to your sanctimonious JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE? Great theory—now put it into practice.”

Ouch. A painful reminder that I can observe the actions of people—but I can’t judge their motives. I feel God preparing my heart. If my mom cancels, or comes up with some excuse for not coming, I need to deal with that the best I can and take a course of action. But if I fill myself with venomous thoughts now, that’s exactly what’s going to come out later. (Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.) And that’s not going to be good for me or my relationship with my mom—and certainly not for grandma.

And besides, ultimately it’s not my mom nor the rest of my family that gives me respite, it’s Him, the only place where true rest is found. He is the source of my strength.

Top that, Planet Fitness.

(NOTE: The example about sitting backwards on a fitness machine came from the author’s personal experience. And I’m not even joking.)

Like this article? Share on social


Sign in to comment


Last update on this post; My mom had a great time with Grandma, even organized a ladies luncheon with two of her neighbors!!


Update: The very thing that I anticipated happening with my mom happened, so instead of a five-day break, I get four days. Good thing I had already prepared for it emotionally, and didn't REACT like a madwoman. (I simply RESPONDED like an adult.) We talked about getting me more respite time...an hour later, I got a call from a friend of hers offering to sit with Gma in the evenings so I could go out. How about that!! :-) She's still a Rock Starr.


Oh, my gosh, I got such a kick out of this! I love that you set up a Judgement Free Zone and then start judging. :) You are soooo right--we can't judge motives. We can't know what lies in another's heart. It's not about being a door mat, it's about understanding what's within our control and letting go what we can't. \r\n\r\nDid you join the gym?


Ahh, yes, Denine, I love that God just chuckles and reminds us gently. . . I need that too! Think soothing ointment on diaper rash. . . that is what we need to be :)