I went before a judge for the first time in my life today. At the Caroline Country District Courthouse I stepped up to plead “Not Guilty” to the charge I received for not having my county sticker properly displayed on my dashboard. Getting into the courthouse was an obstacle in and of itself: it took me five trips back and forth from the metal detectors to my car and back to be allowed entrance. I learned quickly that the court had no tolerance for my laptop, my cell phone, my water bottle, my purse, or my book. Thinking that the day was set against me, I still went in with high hopes of pleasing the judge.
When asked why I hadn’t had the current 2012 county sticker on my car, I honestly explained that I hadn’t been capable of removing the first sticker. Suspicious, and as the cops in the courtroom behind me chuckled, the judge looked at me with a strange look as he reviewed my proof of personal property tax payments hesitantly. Eager to please, I piped in that the adhesive was very sticky, that my dad had already fussed at me for being like a blond and that if I had been a little smarter, I would have thought to have had the 2012 sticker in my glove compartment. After a moments pause, the judge looked at me with a straight face and then smiled, agreeing that yes, I could have been a lot smarter. Acknowledging that I was a county resident in good standing, he paused again and then said: “Not Guilty.”
Dismissed from even having to pay court costs, I verified the judgement with the court office. Upon hearing my “Not Guilty” sentencing, the receptionist said she had never heard of another case in which this particular judge had granted pardon for the absence of a county sticker. I practically skipped myself out to my car with joy and thanks for the favor that I had found for the day.
Many of us go before ourselves in judgment everyday, judging ourselves on whether we measure up or not to an undefined standard that we see in others. If you are one of those who harshly self-judge, I urge you to change the sentencing. Pardon yourself today, even if it is not typically in your character to do so. Let yourself be “Not Guilty” and let yourself feel the freedom and relief that I got to experience myself today in the courtroom.