Sisters in Christ – Part 5

March 28, 2013

Relationship Barriers

'Gavel' photo (c) 2008, walknboston - license: you a judgmental person? Of course not! No Christian woman wants to think of herself that way. 

Yet, ask your average non-Christian young adult and you won’t like the answer. Eight in 10 of them believe judgmental is an apt label for Christians (according to studies in both 2007 and 2012), and over half of Christian young adults agree. 

“Yes, but today’s youth are naïve and overly tolerant,” you say.

That may be, but I keep running across Christian women who also use the j-word to describe the other women in their church. I bet you know a few women you would describe that way, as well.

 This is the fifth post in a series on Sisters in Christ, which started out by considering how Jesus connected with women. In Part 4, I discussed how being sisters in Christ meant being so much more than friends, but some barriers exist that hinder strong sister relationships.

Consider some responses I have received over the past year from women anonymously completing the following statement: “I would have more close relationships with the women in my church if only…” 

I wasn’t fearful of their judgment—not measuring up. 

They were real and able to be trusted….If I weren’t afraid for them to see the real me. 

I felt like I could trust them. … I don’t want to be judged, nor do I want to be felt sorry for….just to share and [to receive] genuine compassion. 

I did not fear rejection if someone finds out my past. 

I could share my full testimony without feeling that I would lose the respect of the women hearing it and be treated much like the other women in town treated the woman at the well. Most Christian women would say it wouldn’t make a difference to know what a woman has been saved from, but most would distance themselves if they really knew the rest of the story of woman’s life or past.

When women live in fear of judgment—which they expect will lead to rejection—it forms a huge barrier to trust. We need to be honest with ourselves. Something very wrong is going on here. 

1. We have a judging problem,

2. We have a perception problem, or

3. We have an insecurity problem.

 Maybe it’s all three.

People can have different meanings in mind when they use the label judgmental. For me, being judgmental is when I draw critical conclusions about someone’s motives, intentions, sincerity, worth, or righteousness based on either direct or secondhand knowledge of their statements and behaviors.

A recovering judger myself, I am ashamed of how many times I have judged and stereotyped women, then written them off as not worth my time. Judging becomes especially ugly when my assessment of others’ status with God causes me to reject or condemn them or feel superior to them. 

A Judging Problem

The problem with judging, of course, is that there is so much I don’t know and can’t know about a person’s circumstances, experiences, and predispositions—not to mention everything that goes on inside her head and all of her actions lived beyond my observation. There’s no way I can make an accurate judgment. 

I can compare specific actions to specific commands in scriptures and generally assess whether a person broke a law. Even then, my judgment of the seriousness of her infraction is likely to be biased by my own spiritual values and the hierarchy I place on different sins. 

That’s why Paul asked, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (Romans 14:4).

Only God is capable of making accurate judgments, and it turns out he is a merciful judge at that:

“To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.” (Romans 14:4)

So, yes, we who try to do right by God have a judging problem, which is why both Paul and Jesus warned against it.

Paul knew the damage wrought when Christians judged and condemned other Christians, so his solution was to “live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” Jesus said that refraining from judging and condemning others is the guarantee of escaping judgment and condemnation against ourselves. Forgiveness is better (Luke 6:37). 

A Perception Problem 

We also have a perception problem. We can come across as judgmental to some women without meaning to.  We may be distracted by our own difficulties or overscheduled or merely inattentive. Sometimes our facial expressions communicate condemnation, even when it’s the furthest thing from our minds. 

Sometimes we are unwilling to enter into someone else’s pain, so we utter trite phrases, escape as fast as we can, and avoid future encounters because of our own discomfort. Maybe we simply don’t know how to respond. 

Not smiling at, not greeting, not interacting with women, and not welcoming them into our groups are actions that can all send signals likely to be interpreted as rejection. The assumption women too often make is that they have failed to measure up. 

And let me add that too many Facebook posts boldly declaring our own lofty moral standards can communicate condemnation of others and give the impression that we are not merciful people. Be careful of those unintended messages. “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (I Corinthians 8:1).

An Insecurity Problem

The third problem is insecurity, and that topic I’ll leave for my next post. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.

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