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Here Comes the Judge!

Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).

We have all heard differing ideas about what judgment means. Being judgmental is condescending and patronizing and altogether wrong, right? Judgmental is one of those words whose negative connotation immediately leaves people with a sense of, what else, judgment. Therefore, accusing others of being judgmental is, ironically, judgmental. Here’s why: when one has a strong conviction about morality or has a strict value system, he or she is forced to make judgments on behaviors that he or she knows within his or her heart is wrong. As Catholics who attempt to live our lives according to the Catechism and precepts of the Church, we have to make judgments every day. It is necessary to weigh decisions and manners of being up against a moral code. Unfortunately, we must analyze the behavior of others in this process. It is the finest line to have to walk, because as dutiful Christians, we are not to judge others. Their behavior is another matter, and that is where the difficulty lies.

Jesus could love all the sinners he encountered and still chastise them for their immoral behavior. (Sometimes Christians conveniently forget that he called people out on the things they did wrong.) He had the authority to do so, obviously. We are called to love one another, without judging the character of others, but the behavior of a person is so intricately entwined into the character of a person, that the two are hardly discernible. For example, I can respect and love someone who is dealing with same sex attraction, but if that person acts on those impulses and I do not condone that action, it is hardly discernible whether I am judging the person or the action, because they are so closely related. This is where “love the sinner, hate the sin” comes into play. Most people, especially non-Catholics, refuse this can be done. For instance, you cannot disapprove of a person’s lying, without calling him or her a liar, right? Wrong. We can and should disapprove of sin, but we cannot and should not disapprove of people. There are girls I know and love, both 19 years old, who have had abortions. I abhor the sin they committed, but I cannot call them murderers. They were scared, placed in horrible situations by others, and committed a sin because of it. I weep for those babies, I pray for these girls. Nevertheless, they were absolutely wrong; their sins cry to Heaven, and I told them so in the most loving way I could. I have to believe that God knows the sinner’s heart; in fact, I rely on it. He will be the one to judge. Now, I also believe in a just God, one who will hold us accountable for our sins. That is why I cannot justify someone’s sinful behavior; that in itself would be my sin. We are each burdened with something; for some people it may be insecurity, SSA, poverty, etc., and all these things can lead us to sin, but it is the sin we must say is bad, not the person. I think most Catholic are clear on this matter, but we are then judged on being judgmental; even though in our own hearts we have made the distinction, many others do not think the division is even possible.

So here is the second struggle: praying for those who have committed such sin or for those who have such burdens. When we profess to be praying for someone, it can be misconstrued as judgment. For instance, I pray for a friend who struggles with SSA. However, I made the mistake of saying to someone else that I was praying for her. I was called judgmental and “hateful” and that I could not have those “opinions.” Praying that others will see their behavior as sinful and praying that I will see my own behavior as sinful are prayers I come to God with on a daily basis. This is the first step in reconciliation and true contrition. Who does not want that for themselves or others? Nonetheless, I have learned my lesson that those prayers must be my own, but I have also learned that I cannot keep quiet in regards to general sinful behavior. It was difficult to be called judgmental and hateful, because I know I am neither. I have come to the realization as well that it is guilt that leads us to blame others as judgmental and vice versa. If my behavior is not justified, it reminds me that what I am doing is not okay. None of us like being reminded that we are imperfect and neither are our actions or viewpoints. St. Philip Neri said, “If we wish to keep peace with our neighbor, we should never remind anyone of his natural defects.” So in an attempt to simultaneously keep peace and our own good consciences, we cannot rationalize sinful behavior, and we must love our neighbors, in spite of their sin.

I think it is a good idea to remain true to our convictions, the ones God has given to us through the Church and our consciences and pray the following for ourselves and others:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51).

 

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About Charla

Charla is a life-long Catholic, married since 1995. She has three children, all who attend Catholic schools. for over a decade, Charla has been teaching high school English at the same Catholic high school she attended. She has been a stay at home mom and is a graduate student studying Gifted and Talented Education. Charla has served as a lector and Eucharistic minister at her parish. She enjoys reading and all activities involving her children. Her special devotions are to the Blessed Mother, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Padre Pio and the Holy Rosary.

July 11, 2012 - 10:51 am

Sarah - Thank you for this insightful post. Sometimes it is very hard to judge someone just for their action, because there is such a strong link between their action and the person they are. The best way I have found to overcome this is to put myself in the other persons shoe, imagine myself as that person, and try my best to relate to the emotions that I might feel If I were that person, in the exact same situation.
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July 11, 2012 - 6:03 pm

Colleen - Oh Charla, I can SO relate to this post. Sometimes we are put in situations in which we MUST speak up for the Truth. If someone asks us a direct question about the morality of an action, we are obliged to tell them whether the action is moral or immoral. If there is a chance that someone else’s actions can cause serious scandal to others, especially children, we also should offer gentle and discreet correction to protect the innocence of others. Unfortunately, in both scenarios, oftentimes in speaking up we are condemned.

You are so right – it’s very important to make the distinction between “I love you and want you to be happy” and “Your action is objectively immoral.” I have definitely been on the receiving end of the backlash from pointing out that something is, in fact, wrong – ironically, in almost all cases, someone has point-blank asked “Is this wrong?” and then they (or others) decided I was “judgmental”. Hence the reason I am jokingly known as Judgeen.

Being unfairly judged for being judgmental ;) is a huge opportunity for us to grow in humility, I think! To be falsely accused and not protest – to “Bear wrongs patiently.” It’s often discouraging, but I guess when we think about it, Christ was also falsely accused, so we can unite our cross with His and ask Him to accept the suffering humbly in order to be more like Him.

July 12, 2012 - 5:45 pm

Christine Hickey - This is such an important and difficult issue…we must speak the truth in love, but be very careful that it is done in love. Even so, we risk being accused of being judgmental, and alienating that person from us. I believe it is essential to pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit in such instances and to continue in prayer for that person irregardless of their response. Thanks for an excellent post.

July 14, 2012 - 12:01 am

Judgmental Catholic Online Michael Galloway Anglo-Catholics Church of England | Big Pulpit - […] Here Comes the Judge! – Charla, Catholic Sistas […]

July 26, 2012 - 7:39 am

That Hat Lady - We are called to admonish our brother and sister in a charitable way if they admit it or we observe them doing something against a commandment. This is true charity; being nice is *not* charity. Being silent about it is the sin of ommission. Ask if they see it as a mistake, and if they don’t, tell them why God does. If they are offended by your instruction, too bad! If they retort because you’re praying for them, ignore it! These reactions are inappropriate and ignorant. When they meet God, they’ll be grateful you did pray. Your goal is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to save souls–not winning friends and influencing people.

July 26, 2012 - 10:36 am

Jim Conrad - The root word of the word used by Jesus in the Gospels when he warns of ‘judging others’ is the Greek word ‘krino’ which means to condemn. The Lord isn’t telling us to ignore actions, situations, etc. that need to be called for what they are – ‘calling it as it is’. He is telling us not to ‘condemn’ them. The entire Gospel is full of situations where Jesus called situations and even people as they are, and we are called to do the same thing. It’s up to God whether they are condemned or not but it is our calling to call evil,evil, and truth, truth. Political correctness is just a convenient method of not addressing absolute truth. Jesus was not ever politically correct, nor are we supposed to be. Truth, that is, Jesus, is absolute, not relative. God bless!

July 26, 2012 - 2:06 pm

ANNE - It is not difficult to judge actions. Actions are right or wrong. And we must always judge which actions are right versus those that are wrong.
We should NEVER tolerate SIN. Jesus never taught us to overlook bad/evil actions.

“Admonishing Sinners” is one of the Spirtual Works of Mercy.
In fact, if we love our Neighbor as commanded by Jesus, we will want him/her to get to Heaven for Eternity.
Many times correction is necessary to help others get to Heaven.

Those who commit the Mortal Sin of (public) Scandal by their actions/example can help send others to Hell.

Saving Souls must always be the goal.

July 26, 2012 - 2:08 pm

TW - Excellent, timely post.
I think you can ease up on the ambiguity if you make the connections to parenting. A parent is judging her children’s behavior all day long – because she loves them and is in charge of correcting them. She is not judging their character or inner motivations. She loves them unconditionally. The Ten Commandments are all judgments on behaviors. All (most) of our laws are neutral judgments on behavior.
It’s high time we all got this straight in our heads and spoke up – in charity, of course – whenever this false judgmentalism accusation rears its ugly head.

July 26, 2012 - 2:47 pm

ANNE - PUBLIC BAD ACTS whether they be by a politician (including his/her voting record), other persons, or an individual writing in a blog – MUST be PUBLICALLY corrected for the following reasons:

CCC – “2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.
Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.”

CCC – “2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized.
It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

CCC – ” 2286
SCANDAL can be provoked by LAWS, or INSTITUTIONS, by fashion or OPINION.
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice,
or to social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible.
This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger,
or MANIMPULATORS of PUBLIC OPINION who turn it away from moral values.”

There is also a section on the use of the Social Communications Media on page 597, in the CCC.

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