The world is a big and scary place. There are a lot of things that can go right… and a heck of a lot of things that can go wrong.
When you stumble on one of those right things, what do you do with it?
Some people hold it close and find satisfaction in the thing itself. (It seems like that’s probably the better thing to do most of the time.)
Some people can’t believe they ever didn’t know about that thing. They’re a little shocked they didn’t find out sooner. Depending on the thing, they might even be upset at being lied to, deceived, or otherwise pushed away from that knowledge. What do you think they’re likely to do once they realize the truth (“their truth?”)?
Opinions vs Judgement
If it’s an opinion about something simple or low-impact, I think most of us just jokingly judge others (this is also a very successful dating style). Like if you grew up with one brand of soap over another, or you prefer one type of car over another, you might have a strong opinion that you like to defend, but you’re unlikely to lose a friend over it (even though the argument may go on– jokingly– for months).
I don’t think simple opinions really qualify as “judgement” in a negative sense, unless you take people’s opinions way out of proportion (oops…. is that a judgement? ;-)).
Biblical Judgement vs Judgement
Then there’s judgement in the biblical sense, which literally means that you think someone will go to hell for what they are doing. My understanding is that this is almost never called for, and CS Lewis points out that no one can really know a man’s conscience or his past but God. Hence, no one can judge him. (I agree, though I’m no stranger to this impulse).
Understanding sin in terms of happiness helped me through this hurdle. It’s not that doing stupid or sinful things will send you to hell– it’s that by performing those behaviors you’re making your life a living hell. It’s still not up to me to figure out how unhappy your actions will make you, or to analyze what drives you to do it. But my overall motivation to avoid those behaviors is to achieve the maximum level of happiness and grace I can. The focus is supposed to be on my own personal journey.
Advocacy vs Judgement
This final example is what is giving me so much trouble lately. Since I’ve embraced a food revolution and returned to the Catholic Church, I seem to run back and forth across that fine line between advocacy for things I believe in (and that I believe with all my heart that can have an incredible impact on every human life) and frustration with those who won’t listen or try a new path.
I don’t mean to say that everyone I meet should agree with me. However, I do mean to say that if you frequently express frustration, discontent, unhappiness, or confusion about a situation in your life and aren’t interested in trying out a better path to overcome it… by my calculations, you’re going to stay miserable in the long run. And if I have a relationship with you, that’s going to frustrate the crap out of me.
There’s room for a lot of things in here. There’s room for human weakness, grace, bad timing, your frustration, your personal history, your capacity for hope. And just listing these things makes my heart soften and I realize what a jerk I probably am.
But at the core of my advocacy is fear and terror for the people I love. If you found a truth you believed in this much, and that has changed your life this much… and you didn’t persistently share it with me until I gave it a shot? I would feel betrayed or left behind.
I would feel like I did when I realized at 26 that no one has the right to make their problems your problems, at 28 that Catholicism could be about love, and at 29 when I realized the foods I thought were normal were poisioning me. Incredibly hopeful, but also kind of surprised and alone, like I missed class on that day and no one caught me up.
How could I not (respectfully) share what I’ve found with anyone who will listen?
Perfection… Is not me
It’s not a shocking revelation that I’m not perfect. It’s also not shocking that very, very little about this world can ever achieve perfection (bacon is about as close as I’ve seen). But as Christians (and I think I can say, as productive, positive, self-improving people) aren’t we supposed to try for it? Like, not enough that we’re going to kill our selves with stress. But enough that everything we do is a little better each time we do it, and the big things in life we try to get right.
I think the answer is that we’re supposed to help each other keep trying for perfection, no matter how difficult it is sometimes. And that in that struggle we perfect our ability to forgive, forget, help selflessly, and grow up. But somewhere in there, my judgemental gut is thinking “Isn’t there still a right and wrong way to do things, and shouldn’t we (lovingly) try to encourage each other to do the right thing?”