This is about the time every year that I stop watching NBC’s The Voice. Don’t get me wrong, I love the show. But I only watch it for the Blind Auditions. After that part of the season, it all just looks like another competitive singing extravaganza. If you aren’t familiar, this is one of those shows where people enter a singing competition judged by celebrities (Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine in this current season), in the hopes of reaching fame themselves. And the first few episodes of the show, called The Blind Auditions, are breathtaking.

The Blind Auditions are only blind for the celebrity judges. They know nothing about the contestants before hearing their voices. They can’t even see them. And yet, as the audience, you have learned about the contestants, their families, their personal stories of hardship and redemption. And so by the time you see them take the stage, you are automatically rooting for them. In some way you get to know these people before a profound judgment is placed on their lives: Can they sing or not?

To be honest, that’s not actually a question I care about. In most cases, people are incredibly talented. But I find that I am not moved simply by the sheer beauty of their voices, I find myself teary because I have heard their stories before the vulnerability of their performances. And so my judgment hasn’t had the chance to take hold. Instead, the stories we hear on The Voice compel us towards love.

I want to hear about how the single mom hopes to support her family through music. Or how the soldier just home from war is eager to try his hand at “All These Things I Have Done.” Or how an aging wedding singer sees The Voice as a last stitch effort towards fame. And when they finally do sing, and the judges chairs turn around with (surprise!) judgments, I kind of tune them out. After hearing about these strangers, I have found myself dreading the judgment of them that inevitably follows. I know that the former lead singer of No Doubt is just doing her job, but her opinions are not what keeps me watching.

The Voice offers this unique opportunity to get peoples’ stories before the tally sheet of worth rolls in. I want more of these vignettes where you learn what struggles have made this individual who they are. And while I know this may place me in a certain camp of Hallmark sentimentality, I find their stories beautiful.

I had a friend years ago who told me that she wished everyone came with a business card that said who they really were as a way to warn us about one another’s worst qualities. So instead of “The Rev. Sarah Condon, Episcopal Priest,” mine might be “Sarah Condon, Don’t Let Her Have That Third Glass of Chardonnay.” After realizing seasons of my love for The Voice’s Blind Auditions, I have begun to wonder if we should all have business cards with a line or two about our stories and struggles.

Fought in Iraq. Still dealing with it.

Lost 3 pregnancies. Finally got a healthy baby.

Caring for aging parents. So tired.

This personal narrative technique that The Voice employs is a pretty regular fixture of American television right now. We share people’s stories of difficulties and victories all the time on social media. And everything from football pregame shows to Today Show montages have these moments where we get to witness the reality of other peoples’ lives. We love it because we get to see their stories before we have time to judge them. We learn what has been formational in their lives before we can begin to think about their height, weight, and clothing choices. In a world so informed by the judgment of others, these stories make us empathize before we have the choice to do otherwise.

Honestly, I think we all desperately want to be pulled out of our own stories. We can unknowingly perpetuate the thought that everyone around us is simply a player in our own narrative. Without even intending to, we can use judgments and physical/intellectual assessment to deem someone “worthy” before we’ve even learned their first names. I tire of my own judgmental thoughts. Mostly, because I’m always wrong about everyone.

Several months back I was having a conversation with colleague. And what I mean by “conversation” is that I was gossiping about a person we both know.

“He’s rude and he doesn’t seem to like me!” I self-righteously bellowed.

Without hesitation my colleague said, “Yes, he is really difficult. But if you knew his story, you’d know why he’s like that. If you could know his story the way God knows his story, then you could love him the way God loves him.”

His words are still ringing in my head all these months later. God isn’t interested in our self-assessed righteousness. Our judgment of others has no intrinsic value on the streets of heaven. And besides, every time we shut ourselves off to one another based on our calculations of their worth, we miss out.

We don’t hear their stories. We don’t know what struggles have shaped them. We forget how much God has loved them through the pain and strife of their lives. And, perhaps saddest of all, we run the risk of forgetting how much God loves us.