Speaking of gross generalizations…

Mo Mommy - November 24, 2008

Why are we, as a people, so prone to being mean? Do we fail to see the difference between righteous judgment and just being self-righteous?

Using the bloggernacle as a concentrated version of Church culture I think it becomes clear that humility and modesty are not necessarily our strongest attributes. Even in the less inflammatory real world, basic principles are greatly twisted and horribly skewed once all that human nature becomes involved. Service, parenthood, faith, worthiness…no motive or result is off limits when we decide it’s “our place” to render judgment. Too often this is done behind someone’s back and in the iciest of manners. But it may be the haughty, in your face, “someone had to say it” attitude that does the worst damage. And sure, we’ll pass judgment on an outside group easily enough (ever hear the phrase “the gays” at church?), but our really good stuff is saved for other members. Heaven forbid someone feel differently than us, because then it’s time to break out the grill and roast them over the coals, preferably in front of many, many people.

Yes, it’s a personal subject to me, having been on the receiving end as a youth. This totally unjust condemnation eventually led to my inactivity in the church, and though I later navigated the long road back to the gospel, many in my position have not. I no longer take notice of the barbs and snide comments, because I’m content in myself and my relationship with the Lord, but my heart breaks for all the people so hurt that they could never muster the strength to come back or to even approach the Church in the first place.

These attitudes wound, deeply. I feel so much more hurt when I see it from members of my own church because 1) We love to tell people how accepting and loving we are, 2) We are so put out if someone questions our motives (but see no fault in questioning others’), and 3) We, of all people, should know better. In fact, we do know better. I think we’re just really, really good at rationalizing….

23 Comments »

  1. I, also, had a judgment made of me when I was a youth that could have led to my inactivity, but did not. As important as it is to be kind and loving, it is also important to realize that part of the reason we even have a church is to learn to accept imperfection. That goes for both sides of this problem.

    I’d say it’s not passing judgment on a behavior that is the problem, it is doing so without charity. But charity is a pretty tricky attribute to learn . . . .

    Comment by SilverRain — November 25, 2008 @ 4:30 am

  2. The question is were they right in their condemnations? I mean that in two parts. Were the accusations correct? Is it within the right of authority for members to call others to repentance?

    Comment by Jettboy — November 25, 2008 @ 7:41 am

  3. Okay, first, this suddenly sounds a lot more bitter than it was meant to. I was trying to leave things as open ended as possible to foster discussion, so just chalk it up to that.
    Let’s first assume that there was no call for judgment. Should a teenager be called a tramp because they dyed their hair black? I don’t think that hair dye would be cast as meaning unrighteousness in any light. Or parents having a difficult time with their children, not really someone’s place to bash their parenting techniques just to point out the parent’s imperfection. Imperfections are fine, I have plenty of them and I’m comfortable with that. But minor, or even major, imperfections aren’t a tool with which to do damage.
    As for if there are reasons for judgment, that leads to two OTHER questions: Is it even their place to do the judging at all, under their stewardship as it were? Let’s assume it was, so then how did they deal with the situation? We don’t have the authority to place condemnation or absolution, ultimately that lies with the Lord. There’s no reason to be catty and mean, especially behind someone’s back, and justify it as righteous judgment.
    Is this a regional thing? Economic? And how do we bring it to light and fix it without being equally harsh?

    Comment by mo mommy — November 25, 2008 @ 8:46 am

  4. Should a teenager be called a tramp because they dyed their hair black?

    A teenager ought not be called a tramp for any reason, unless he or she is actually Charlie Chaplin.

    Comment by Norbert — November 25, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  5. The only time I feel the need to “chastise” or judge “righteous judgement” is when people say things that could illicit false information about the Church, the Gospel. I’m talking about blogging here, though –not real life. The information put out there in cyberspace is pretty permanent (well, you know) and so when people try to change doctrine to meet their specific opinions, I get pissed.

    Oh, dang! But now I might get judged for using the word “pissed.” Sigh.

    Hey, you know, mo mommy, I get what you are saying. Why can’t we just be nice and try to get along, right? I think the reason people are stupid is because we’re all struggling in one way or another, and if we see someone else doing something wrong, it kind of validates our “well, at least I don’t do that!” pride. Pride, selfishness –that’s what causes sin. But to judge the sinner? That’s sin, too. We’re all sinners, eh? And now I have no idea where I’m going with this anymore except to say I agree with you –to a point. There is a time for judgement, even by sinning mortals. That doesn’t mean we should ASSUME, though. Assumptions are whack because they never leave room for the whole picture. Thus the need to be careful when trying to exercise righteous judgement, etc. etc. and now I’m done.
    ;)

    Comment by cheryl — November 25, 2008 @ 9:51 am

  6. Part of what I have experienced is that if you look/act or hold beliefs that are different from the Wassach front norm (and yes, I know that is a loaded generalization in and of itself), navigating church can be trickier.

    A person who has tattoos, or more than one piercing, or who favors more colorful hairstyels often has their righteousness called into question. They can be(and often are) callled to the mat on their testimony, their faithfulness or their commitment to the church. No one has the right to do this.

    And yet, in the culture of the church, conformity is often equated with worthiness.

    Comment by tracy m — November 25, 2008 @ 9:56 am

  7. Assumptions are whack

    Fantastic use of the word whack cheryl, extra scene points for you… I think you really get my point. Everyone does the best they can with what they know, but we tend to forget that you don’t necessarily know what I know, etc. I know many people who think Mormons are mean(we’re talking pre-Prop 8), and that’s heartbreaking to me

    A teenager ought not be called a tramp for any reason, unless he or she is actually Charlie Chaplin.

    Point well taken Norbert, I shall take that into consideration in the future

    Comment by mo mommy — November 25, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  8. I have to say this.

    I think we’ve been given a nearly impossible task.

    examples
    1. How you present yourself is a representation of your relationship with God BUT don’t judge people based on their outside appearance.

    2. Avoid even the appearance of evil BUT don’t jump to conclusions about others.

    3. Hate the sin, not the sinner. In my view this is nearly impossible advice since what we deem a sin is ,for so many, a persons complete identity.

    In short, I reject many of these appearance sins. All they do is fuel the insatiable tendency to cast unrighteous judgment.

    Comment by CJ Douglass — November 25, 2008 @ 10:12 am

  9. Thanks Mo Mommy,
    This is a subject is near and dear to my heart. I have a younger sister now in her early forties who will tear up when talking about her youth expereince. She was ignored and belittled because she was ” not popular enough”. This mean girl behavior was practiced by girls and couple of adult women. My sister has stayed active in church.

    I have said this before, but we as a church community create some Anti-Mormons from our own people by how we abuse one another.

    Comment by JA Benson — November 25, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  10. It’s compelling to judge others because it acts like a sonar ping to our own positions.

    I realized I was someone’s dinner in the Member Judgement Food chain when, after all the temple work, home teaching and service projects, my closely trimmed goatee was called to question.

    Now I know that I am nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

    Comment by David T. — November 25, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  11. Ooh! And Tracy, thank you for pointing out the Wasatch Front judgement thing. Utah Mormon generalizations, to me, are just plain dumb. I mean, President Hinckley and Monson are Wasatch Mormons –are they part of the generalization?
    You know?
    Exactly.

    Comment by cheryl — November 25, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  12. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m often guilty of forgetting why we have a church…and a Savior. Because we are all imperfect humans. I used to be overly sensitive to things people would say because I had some self esteem issues myself. Then I got some counseling and now I blame eveybody’s imperfections on low self esteem. That’s not a joke, I’m serious. If someone feels the need to say something derogatory or judgemental about someone else, it is usually because they don’t feel good about themselves. When we have a wonderful relationship with the Savior; when we are confident in that relationship all other relationships don’t matter as much. It is wonderful to be in a loving relationship with others whether that is a loving family relationship, a romantic relationship or a relationship of good friendship, but we won’t get hurt nearly as often if we have a close relationship with the Savior and are confident in God’s love for us.

    I still get my feelings hurt too easily (try just this morning) but my counseling helped me to understand why my feelings are hurt. So next time you have the urge to criticize or judge someone else, ask yourself why you’re inclined to do that. The answer might frighten you. And when you hear that someone has dissed you behind you back – or to your face – just consider why they might find the need to do that. You’ll probably end up feeling sorry for them rather than loathing them.

    Comment by lamonte — November 25, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  13. And when you hear that someone has dissed you behind you back – or to your face – just consider why they might find the need to do that. You’ll probably end up feeling sorry for them rather than loathing them.

    This is great advice. Hard to follow when you’re feelings are hurt, but great nonetheless.

    People who are happy generally do not feel the need to spread unhappiness around.

    Comment by Susan M — November 25, 2008 @ 1:09 pm

  14. Count me in as someone who was on the receiving end of some pretty harsh treatment. Interestly enough I found out later it was because I was the dreaded “Goody-2-shoes” Kind of crazy. Members of the church didn’t want to hang around with me because, Huh What?! Talk about doing a number on your head.

    I think over the years one thing has become clear. When people need to feel superior, it really doesn’t matter the reason – they’ll latch on to whatever they can. And if they can get others to listen – even better. So first comes pride – then gossip. They’re both horrible.

    It’s also tricky now that I’m a mom of teenagers. How to help my children NOT be that way, but yet make right choices – because sometimes you can’t always simply NOT be friends with someone – sometimes that’s not the best way. They just might turn out to be your best friend in spite of the differences of opinion. But, to know that no matter what choices are being made around them they need to choose the right because of who they are. How to teach them when is the time to say something (and thus talk about the gospel) and when it’s just good to be a good example. And help them love and respect everyone around them whether they agree or disagree because of who they are. And sometimes when it’s time to actually say – you know, I know this is right, you may make your choice, but this is what I know. And yes, I’ve seen a rare occassion when I was proud of my children for drawing the courage to take a stance. I will admit though, those times it usually involved a lack of respect that was being exhibited by others or something harmful.

    All of this is REALLY tricky and makes for lots of long, interesting discussions with my teenagers.

    Comment by Mommom — November 25, 2008 @ 2:26 pm

  15. Is there really any such thing as “righteous judgment” when we’re talking about other people? My guess is no.

    In other words, Jettboy, the answers to your questions are no and no. You are never right to condemn others and it is never within your authority to call someone else to repentance, unless of course you happen to be that person’s bishop. And even then you better make absolutely certain you are following the spirit, because most bisops I have known do not operate that way.

    Comment by MCQ — November 25, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

  16. I guess I was judged so much and harshly by the world that getting called on for any “righteousness” issues makes me laugh. That is where a lot of my angst and anger at unrighteousness and unfaithfulness to the LDS Church and gospel comes from. To want to cozy up to the world, especially in how we act or even dress, seems counter to what the Scriptures councel.

    I believe both answers, of course, are yes and yes with caution. We should not be mean about it, but as Saints it is our responsiblity to point out the sins of the world. To me that includes making statements toward members who should understand the most. For instance, was it Nephi’s place to call his brother’s to repentance? Although there is that family relationship, it was the father that was in charge and Nephi shouldn’t have said anything. Yet, the Book of Mormon seems to indicate it was because of his faith and obedience that he was given the authority of speaking up. I admit he is the closest example of such “unauthorized” calling out. His brothers definately called him self righteous.

    Because of the straight forwardness of the internet I am much harsher than in real life where I am for the most part quiet. However, because the Internet is so non-private I feel it an obligation to speak up and even be mean.

    If we are not to call each other to reprentance, then what are our obligations to each other to help purify the membership? Should we turn our backs to the sins of others? What good would that be other than allow satan and his influence free reign? The gospel stands for things or it doesn’t.

    Comment by Jetboy — November 26, 2008 @ 8:16 am

  17. First, this has been talked about already, but I want to reiterate: it’s absolutely critical to empathize with the judgmental ones who are giving offense. This puts you in a position to deal with it without being bogged down in your own pain. You can reason about “us” instead of “me, hurt” and “that inexplicable other”. It’s hard.

    #10: “It’s compelling to judge others because it acts like a sonar ping to our own positions.”

    Well-stated. Saints in general seem overly concerned with how we’ll be judged. We tend to settle on heuristics for ourselves, which often include comparison to others, and then apply them broadly. Hope – realistic anticipation of our own final salvation – is the antidote. With this, we stop judgment altogether, of ourselves and others. There’s simply no need after discovering that the best Judge is infinitely more merciful than we are.

    (BTW #8, hope, not rejecting “appearance sins” altogether, is IMO the best way to deal with those impossible tasks.)

    We tend to skip from faith straight to charity. Or we try to, and fail miserably. Charity is really hard to have when doing all this judging stuff. Yet there are plenty who think the best way to help someone develop Christlike attributes is to hold salvation in front of them like a carrot, withholding it until they meet a minimum standard of righteousness. Hope doesn’t fit in that framework, since you only develop hope after you learn you’ve been saved. Besides that, it’s not how the gospel works.

    I have some religious envy of Protestant Christianity over this, because they seem to understand hope better than we do.

    Comment by The Right Trousers — November 26, 2008 @ 10:50 am

  18. Just a side note-judgment here. I think taking the Mormon Bloggernacle as a microcosm of the Church is a stretch at best. :)

    Comment by Bret — November 26, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  19. If we are not to call each other to reprentance, then what are our obligations to each other to help purify the membership? Should we turn our backs to the sins of others? What good would that be other than allow satan and his influence free reign? The gospel stands for things or it doesn’t.

    This is a very telling quote from you Jetboy and just as wrong-headed as it is possible to be.

    You do not have a responsibility to purify the membership. That is not your job. What gave you that idea in the first place? I have never heard that taught in our church. Ever.

    This does not mean that you turn your back on the sins of others, or that you give satan and his influence free reign. The way you influence others is by love and example, not condemnation. The way you fight satan is through prayer, repentance and personal righteousness. Speaking of which, whatever happened to biting your tongue and worrying about your own sins when tempted to correct others? Does that sound at all familiar to you? It’s what Christ asked of us.

    Comment by MCQ — November 26, 2008 @ 1:15 pm

  20. Bret,
    I was hoping someone would recognize the absurdity and humor with which I chose that example. But really, all the things people say freely when hiding behind internet anonymity are the things they likely share surreptitiously in real life.
    McQ,
    Like I once said to a friend “I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He has saved us, so it’s not your job or mine to save anybody else, get off my back”. Motes and beams baby, motes and beams. Thanks for saying it like a grown up and without the use of the word “baby”.
    All we need is love, da dadada duh. All we need is love, da dadada duh. All we need is love love, love is all we need…

    Many of the things which lead people to make comments are so purely subjective that it would be hard to claim them as “Gospel”. Just because you don’t like the way someone dresses doesn’t make it irreverent or unrighteous. If things like tattoos and piercing don’t automatically bar someone from the temple then how can we automatically presume to know the state of their souls based on those things? Just a couple obvious examples of where judging gray areas with one’s own black and white view can be dangerous.

    Comment by mo mommy — November 26, 2008 @ 4:46 pm

  21. Thanks Mo:) Like you said about anonymity of the internet but I also think that even if we met everyone on the Bloggernacle, they’re a quite different breed as a whole from those who are not on the ‘nacle as a whole.

    Basically, we’re all a bunch of weirdos, but I’m totally fine with that!

    Comment by Bret — November 27, 2008 @ 2:38 am

  22. My ex was in the USMC, so I have been in wards on both coasts. Humans go to church both places! I have met ward members with sticky fingers, fanatical members, lax members, lovers of Christ, lovers of the laws and commandments, and I myself have been a pain of different kinds to different people, but I have learned a lot from just about everybody-isn’t learning what the church is all about?

    Comment by Kim Reece-Lairson — November 27, 2008 @ 10:15 pm

  23. Just responding to the original post… I would question the advisability of using the bloggernacle population of representative of anything except the Mormon blogging population.

    Bloggers are, almost by definition, more narcissistic and self-important than the general population at large. We also tend to deal with a lot more shoot-from-the-hip incivility and time constraints mean we have to also shoot from the hip in our responses. Incivility is to be expected.

    Comment by Seth R. — December 1, 2008 @ 9:38 am

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