The Casualties of Judgement

My father said something very profound to me a couple of years ago after we had been discussing some of the issues with Mormonism.  It resonated with me and explained a facet of Mormonism that has always troubled me.

He said, “All most people really want in this life is the right to live life as they see fit and to not be judged for it.”

judgement

Mormonism is a belief system which requires the subjugation of self, our hopes and dreams, even our very lives, into a strict, narrow, conforming and confining path, controlled through a host of written and unwritten rules.

A couple of the more psychologically damaging teachings of Mormonism are “Avoid the very appearance of evil,” and the temple admonition to avoid “…every other unholy and impure practice.”  The real difficulty with these admonitions is they are undefined.  It grants to all Mormons the right to pick and choose among their own prejudices and apply those as “evil or impure.”  When you combine these teachings with the idea that Mormonism is “the only true and living Gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth today,” you have a recipe for an environment filled with judgement, condemnation, and disgust for people who don’t see the world in the same way.

Humans are social animals.  What others think of us does matter, particularly in communities with rigid social mores. If one doesn’t “toe the line” doors are closed, people are gossiped about, children are disowned, and relationships are destroyed.

This is, of course, the center of our difficulties between believer and apostate.  Judgement and resentment go hand-in-hand and the combination is corrosive to our most important relationships. Where I think both “believers” and “apostates” are making a mistake is in the ground in where we choose to fight our battles.

Tactically speaking, it has been a time honored position in warfare to hold the high ground. The person in that position has a definite advantage because gravity is on their side. Sieges have always been long and costly and resulted in great destruction.

Citadel

Believers argue from the “high ground” position of “faith and God” where no negotiation can happen because in their beliefs their position is “RIGHT.”  It is the ground where condemnation, judgement, and disgust shut down communications.  Communications are of the sort, “my way or the highway.”  This is usually where the casualties start piling up.

The trick is, I think, in shifting the ground from “high moral position” to the ground of “relationship.”  This can often be accomplished by asking this question.

“You may be right, but is being right so important to you that you would rather destroy the relationship between us in the name of being right?” 

Bad_Friends_quotes__02

Most believers aren’t focusing on the relationship, they’re focusing on the “rightness” of their position.  Becoming cognizant of the destruction of the relationship is pretty much like getting hit in the face with a bucket of ice water.

On the other side, the apostate holds the high ground of “Science and Reason” and we get so caught up in the battle we lose track of the casualties in relationships, too.  Eventually both sides seem to accept the casualties as a “necessary part of the battle.”

It really is sad.  But there is an antidote.  It is called “unconditional love and acceptance.”  It doesn’t mean that you have to sit back and permit people to walk on you, it only means that you will continue to love and accept people for who they are, not for what they believe. The cool thing is it can be extended unilaterally.  Sometimes, we have to experience it before we can share it.

In my own life, judgement and condemnation toward me by my (ex) wife eventually ended my marriage.  She couldn’t accept me for who I am.  I never pointed out to her the damage she was doing to our relationship.  Instead, I gave of myself until nothing was left, trying to be what she wanted.  Would things have been different if I had explained?  I guess I will never know.

5 Replies to “The Casualties of Judgement”

  1. Years after becoming single, I took up attending junior college to earn a two-year degree. One of my required classes was Accounting 101. The teacher was a real character who one day, in the midst of the lecture, proclaimed, “Most people would rather be right than be happy”.

    It hit me like a ton of bricks! Of course, they do!

    I was still TBM at the time and, being the most-recognizable single sister in the ward, I was often called upon to give talks in Sacrament Meeting. (We all know that single members have loads of free time on their hands. Yeah, sure.) For one talk in particular I chose that very subject. A few ward members commented afterward about the talk. It had never occurred to them before.

    “Most people would rather be right than be happy,” caused me to look at life and situations from completely different perspectives, particularly in behavior toward other people. I learned what the term “pick your battles” means and how to apply it to “Right vs. Happy”.

  2. This is true in general for many religious and political sects. It’s too easy to make this divisive line instead of seeing our shared humanity. Yes, it’s okay that we don’t see eye to eye on everything [and it would be mighty boring if we did.] Disagreeing doesn’t have to become a point of judgement on someone though. That’s when it goes over the line. Thanks for this.

  3. I personally feel it is more useful to judge beliefs in terms of how healthy they are, for the people who hold them and those around them, than in terms of whether or not they are “right.”

    It’s hard to let go of the tendency to make being “right” more important than anything else, especially coming out of Mormonism. But it’s healthy to be able to accept and live with ambiguity, when it’s not the manufactured ambiguity of “knowing” the Mormon church is true in the face of evidence that it isn’t.

    In the case of Mormon beliefs, I feel that it doesn’t matter whether “the church is true” or not, because its teachings are extremely unhealthy. They make a lot of people miserable, and make a virtue out of being wilfully ignorant and refusing to sympathize with people you’re hurting.

    I can coexist with someone who believes Joseph Smith is a prophet. I have a harder time coexisting with someone who wants me to cease to exist, and is willing to shame and marginalize and write laws to erase me.

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