I could feel it vibrating, so I did a quick peek to make sure it wasn’t one of the kids. Seeing my friends’ names on a group text, I pushed the phone back in my purse until the movie was over.

As soon as we were in the car, I retrieved the phoneList. The message thread was buzzing with commentary about the day’s big news: the Ashley Madison list. Names from the list were flashing across my screen. My friend’s boyfriend. Another friend’s brother. An acquaintance’s husband. Local politicians. A prominent minister. I recognized so many.

My responses were judgmental. Seeing these names – and the dollar amounts spent on infidelities and dalliances – had me stunned.

These were bad people. They deserved this.

Then I paused, and thought about their loved ones. I asked myself the question: What would I do?

But the question was strictly rhetorical. My husband would never do such a thing. He’s better than them. We’re better than them. I let that feeling wash over me with a smugness that was unsettling.

“I’m better than them.”

But what if it had been a different list.

What if it had been a list that I was on?

I’m on a lot of lists. Some I’m proud of. The list of volunteers at my son’s school. The list of donors to our new church. The list of people who voted in the last election.

Other lists, I’m not so proud of. In fact, I’m so ashamed I won’t even reference them here.

But I’m on a lot of lists. And I would be devastated if some of them were shared openly. If my children were to see my name on them. If my secrets were revealed to the world.

And I thought about the people on that list.

Some of them are feeling like there is no recovery from something this bad. Some have taken their own lives, like the pastor and seminary professor from New Orleans. I watched the interview with his family through tear-filled eyes. If only he could hear their words. His wife’s message to others, “Don’t underestimate the power of love.” His daughter’s lament that her father “doubted the fact that I would love him enough.” How many people feel alone and ashamed every single day because their name is on a list.

We have let lists define us. We validate ourselves by being on the good lists. We denigrate others when they’re on the bad lists.

We judge by these lists.

It’s time to move beyond the great American pastime of judging others. We must live with so much love and grace that the people around us will feel that love and grace every day. We have to make sure people know we love them enough. Even if they’re on a list.

Then we have to acknowledge our own shortcomings so we can move past them. We have to treat ourselves with that same love and grace we are sharing with others.

Because we’re all on a list.

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Share your thoughts on lists.


42 thoughts on “Lists

  1. The Mother Freakin' Princess

    “But I’m on a lot of lists. And I would be devastated if some of them were shared openly. If my children were to see my name on them. If my secrets were revealed to the world.”

    Isn’t that the truth. I’ve been trying to keep that kind of attitude in mind as people in my life are struggling with different things. Compassion is what they need, not judgement or my anger.

  2. theresawiza

    The only list that concerns me is my shopping list. I try not to judge other lists. We’ve all done things in our past that would horrify us if we were publicly exposed. We may never know if somebody somewhere has US on a list, but I’m betting we hope we never see it.


    You’re right: We’re all on a list of some kind, and it may be the most frightening thing about technology. We all want easy access to stories on the internet, a product on Amazon, directions to a friend’s house. It’s all there for the taking, so we shouldn’t be surprised that we may have to pay an unthinkable price for it.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      My mama’s advice to me (back int he 1960s) was not to do anything that I wouldn’t want on the front page of the paper. Which would be a small audience compared to today’s. The only way to stop this fascination with others’ flaws is to stop reading them, stop buying them, stop reporting them. Thanks for joining the conversation.


    Tough to know what to make of this. Yes, judging others is wrong. But I’m afraid that lists are no longer safe, as evidenced by this awful Ashley Madison hack. I feel badly for everyone involved- and that is totally without judgement.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      You are right. They are not safe. Perhaps this undesired transparency will bring back the old code of making good decisions. Even if it’s not for the right reason.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      I’m disheartened, too. Making it my mission to treat others the way I would like them to treat me. Such a simple rule, and one most of us learned as children.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      I don’t excuse anyone from the consequences of their actions. And I think anyone who seeks out an illicit encounter is wrong. I’m disheartened that so many people participate in judging and shaming for sport. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Carolann

    What a mess. A lot of people’s name was falsely added too. I think that many people know that too. I never judge anyone. You never know a person’s situation until you’ve walked in their shoes. Great post!

  6. Cathy

    This…this…this says it all about you, Lisha. And why someday I’d love to meet you in person.

    “It’s time to move beyond the great American pastime of judging others. We must live with so much love and grace that the people around us will feel that love and grace every day. We have to make sure people know we love them enough. Even if they’re on a list.”

    For me it doesn’t get much better than that, Lisha. You are light and love.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      Oh, Cathy, you make my heart smile! I have to admit something here. For a while I was in a bad place, and I joined the movement. I criticized and judged. Then one day I had an epiphany, that by participating in others’ drama I was letting their karma become mine. It took a while to shake it off and get my mojo back. But I did. And I’m so glad. And I can’t wait to meet you in person!

  7. Lisa_GrandmasBriefs

    So perfectly said! Such a sad story for so many folks who likely never expected they’d be included on such a list, partners of such turds. “There but for the grace of God…” is the bottom line pretty much all the time. Nice reminder, Lisha.

  8. just another s-a-h-mother

    I agree with much of this. I don’t understand what the hackers thought to gain by publishing names; I don’t know why, in this day and age, people believe in anonymity; I don’t know how deep a person’s despair must be in order to take their life over something like this. I try not to judge because I know I myself am not perfect.

    And as for your mama’s advice, I say the same thing,meither a modern spin: if you don’t want naked pictures of yourself on the Internet, don’t let anyone take naked pictures of you.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      You and my mama would have hit it off! I don’t know what their motivation was, either. If it was a moral high ground, then I hope they aren’t on any lists. Oh, wait. We’re all on a list.

  9. Mary La Fornara (@itsaboutpretty)

    This is a wonderful post, but I have to wonder, if the people on the Ashley Madison list were to know their names would be released would they have still sought out cheating so cavalierly? They should have thought this might not be a good idea and their name might end up somewhere where they would not want people to see…like on a list!

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      Thanks for the kind words, Mary. The anonymity certainly empowered some to go where they would not have gone publicly. I like your choice of the word cavalierly, too. I think that characterizes the attitude here well.

  10. Kay Lynn

    I think it was very malicious of the hackers to publish the list of users. It definitely is causing havoc in the lives of many people as as you noted so many that are innocent. It’s very sad.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      I agree, Kay Lynn. It was malicious. I doubt those who made the decision to do so considered the impact it would have on the lives’ belonging to those names.

  11. doreenb8

    I try hard not to judge anyone for anything. We really can never know what’s in another persons heart and soul. We don’t have to agree with everyone or what they do but judging and shaming are better left to God.

  12. susanintheboonies

    I think your premise is right on.
    It’s not our/my job to judge others: agreed. That’s God’s job.
    The fact that I am also on various naughty lists? Undeniable.
    The fact that I hope my particular lists are never published? Also undeniable.
    Do sinners/promise breakers (like me) long for mercy? Absolutely.
    If my husband had been on that list, would I have been devastated? Completely.
    Because getting on a website that openly encourages linking up with other promise breakers?
    That is intentional, and messed up, and wrong.
    I know that God forgives the worst of us: even me.
    But I’m not going to say that what those on that list did is OK, because it’s not.
    It’s not that I’m better than those (also) dearly-loved-by-God clients of Ashley Madison.
    It’s just that I’m not going to apologize for saying that promise breaking is wrong.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      I didn’t mean to apologize for them, or to imply that breaking promises is OK. It’s not. I see the world slipping into a state of moral relativism, people denying the reality of their actions by comparing their actions to others’. You’re right. It’s God’s job to judge. It’s our job to love. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Susan.

  13. Julie Jo Severson

    What a great post. Yes, my name is on lists that I’m not proud of, too. We all are. And this is a great reminder to replace judgement with empathy. Thank you for this.

  14. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen)

    I appreciate your take on lists. As much as stars undoubtedly enjoy being famous, I often think if I were followed around 24/7, and every discretion were potentially going to be trumpeted all over the place, the fashion and food discretions and being mean to strangers …. not to mention the Ashley Madison type things …. I would be pretty miserable. Doesn’t exactly address your point, but it’s what that brought up!!

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      Thoughts begetting thoughts. That’s the idea here. 🙂
      I agree with you. No one could survive constant scrutiny and judgement. We’ve made a competition out of daily living, and it doesn’t seem to be serving us very well. Thanks for joining the dialogue, Paula.

  15. Carol Cassara (@ccassara)

    Well, you know, you’re right. At the same time, it wasn’t the list, it was the exposure of a bad decision. Cheating is a bad idea. Always. So if I’m on a list that I don’t want disclosed, I’d have to wonder about what I’m doing.

    1. Lisha Fink Post author

      The earliest advice my mama gave me was the one about not doing what I didn’t want “on the front page of the paper.” I think the veil of anonymity certainly made people feel empowered to do things without retribution.


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