All of us can relate to the fear of being “uncool” our high school days. I certainly remember the dull hum in the back of my mind grow louder as I walked into school each day: “Does my hair look stupid?” “I knew I should have worn my other shoes!” “Are my jeans pegged the right way?” (I guess that was more junior high). There seemed to be infinite opportunities to get it wrong. It’s easy to laugh now, but when you’re going through it there’s nothing funny about it. You’d do anything to avoid being thought of as uncool.

Today’s New York Times article, Free Lunch Isn’t Cool, So Some Students Go Hungry, shows just how potent this judgment can be. It highlights the newest trend sweeping our nation’s high schools: kids who can’t afford to pay for their meals would rather starve than look poor. They avoid the subsidized meal line at all costs because, in their minds, having the label of being a poor kid and, consequently, an uncool kid is far worse than going hungry. Does this remind anyone else of The Incredible Shrinking Bride?

The power of judgment never ceases to amaze me. It accounts for so much fascinating behavior (and great journalism!). Knowing we can’t/won’t meet the standards set before us causes a person to run in the other direction, regardless of the outcome. Just thinking back to any one of the many awkward experiences in high school stirs up painful emotions. Judgment hurts.

At almost 30, little has changed. I may worry about different things today, like being perceived as successful rather than cool (although I always want to be cool), but the pressure is exactly the same. It is a universal experience. Whether you’re Michael Jackson and dealing with the pressure of being the King of Pop or you’re someone like me completely on the other end of the spectrum, judgment is a reality. Of course, the good news is,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:17