Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's 2am...

One of the spiritual works of mercy is to admonish the sinner, but we are also supposed to be charitable and loving, right? I know it’s 2am and so I don’t pretend that this post is going to make much sense, but this is something that is really troubling me (hence the 2am.) I hear all the time that we are to speak the Truth even when the Truth is unpopular. Is this whole “don’t be judgmental” thing coming from society? How can I speak the Truth when it is unpopular and admonish the sinner without being “judgmental”? Isn’t just pointing out that they live in sin a judgment, or, again, is that just society that says that?

I have some acquaintances (a couple) who used to be friends. There are personal issues I have with them, but there are also moral ones. I have actually had to cut myself off from them, but Hubbs is still involved. Whenever I bring up something about how they are not living their lives correctly and how that makes me uncomfortable, he always tells me I’m not supposed to judge. I insist I am not judging, I am not saying they are bad people or making any kind of prediction of where they are going in the afterlife. But they are in mortal sin. I can’t just pretend that they are exempt from being in mortal sin just because they aren’t Catholic or because Hubbs likes them. It really… pisses me off that he constantly tells me I’m being judgmental. He says that all I can do is be a good witness, but I have cut myself off so I can’t do that anymore. I do sincerely hope that if I they think I’m a bitch, they attribute it to me and not that I am Catholic.

But again, this brings me to my question: am I being judgmental? My problems with this particular couple are more personal and less moral, but the fact that there are personal problems make the moral ones feel bigger than with other people. I know that I have made mistakes, the very same mistakes that they are making, in fact. I know that I am not above sin. We are fallen and we all sin. I know that. How do we admonish sinners, speak the Truth and still be loving people in a society where no one will take responsibility for anything they do and any kind of questioning of anything is judgmental or intolerant? I don’t want my attitude to reflect badly on my faith (and I know it will) but I also don’t want to be relativist or permissive about things I know are wrong. 


  1. I dont know all of the details obviously, but do remember that one has to know that what they are doing is a mortal sin for it to be a mortal sin. They may know it is wrong, but do they actually have a clear understanding of mortal vs venial? Many non Catholics (and even many Catholics) don't and that would mean it is not mortal. If their lifestyle is such that you feel it is unhealthy to be around them, then you have to preserve yourself. If not, the best thing would probably be do lead by example and be a role model. You may be the only.Christian influence in their life.

  2. Beware, novel forthcoming:

    Ugh, I struggle with this ALL THE TIME. I love your point about "don't be judgmental" possibly being a construction of society. Whenever Jesus told Peter (or John, urg, I'm not sure which) to stop asking what punishment will be brought down on the other (again, knowing this scripture would be helpful), Jesus said, "Don't worry about it. Worry about you." But then, how are we supposed to SPEAK the Truth if disagreeing with someone else's actions (even if we're only sharing our discomfort with our loved ones, like you with your husband) is considered judgmental.

    (Disclaimer, I don't pretend to know everyone's situation, so if this sounds like you/your past, please remember I'm only talking about my friend - ha, there's that judgmental mindset) -->

    There are a few things to figure out here: if I told my friend that it was immoral to live with her boyfriend, she'd be unlikely to listen to me. I'm convinced that I'm not "judging" her just by disagreeing with (and being saddened by) her decision, but isn't it fruitless of me to just sit by and pretend it's okay?

    At the very least, shouldn't I be able to say, "Cousin, I know you're excited about this, but I wonder if you've thought about what this really is: playing house. Setting yourself up for heartbreak without a guarantee." Sure, they might get married, but by saying nothing I'm (conforming to the societal "don't judge") holding back the Truth AND standing by while she (potentially) lays groundwork for heartache.

  3. Totally struggle with this, too! Talking it over with your husband should be a safe place for you to not worry too much about how much you cross over into judgment. But "admonishing the sinner" is tricky. I mean, I think you have to have the goal in mind: loving the sinner back to the truth and out of that sin. If they will not receive the message as care for their well-being, the more loving thing would be not to say anything unless asked, and wait until the relationship develops to a place where you can say something. It also takes a gentle approach, so you have to make sure that you are spiritually detached from the outcome... which is I think the hardest part: because it can't be about you, it has to be fully about them.

  4. The word "judgmental" has lost nearly all of its meaning in our society. It used to mean that one was assuming something negative about someone else; assuming they were in sin, assuming they were going to hell, etc, etc. Today, it means having any opinion differing from what the other likes. It is a word used too lightly these days.

    As for what to do...I think that only in the most extreme of circumstances should we "cut someone off". One of the only times I can see a reason for this is if the person is a near occasion of sin for you, and you are risking your soul to be around them. Are these friends of your husband a near occasion of sin for you? If not, then you do not really risk anything by being with them. What do you gain by avoiding them? Will they come to a better understanding of their wrong if you do it? If not, then you are not really "admonishing the sinner"; you are just getting the point across that you are angry. There are other, more fruitful and charitable ways to help them understand the gravity of sin.

    The person most often found in the company of sinners was Jesus.

  5. I've done the same thing - I cut myself off from people who are openly sinning, not because being around them leads me to sin, but because by spending time with them in which they discuss/flaunt their sin, I have to choose either to condone it (by saying nothing) or point it out (causing a disagreement and hurting our relationship.) It is easier/safer to just avoid them until they are hurt by their sin and are open to hearing what I have to say.

    I guess my hope is that someday I will be mature and wise enough to know how to deal with that situation gracefully, but right now I'm incapable of it so I choose to avoid. Not exactly an admirable way of dealing with the situation, but I think it's acceptable.

    My question for you, which 100% applies in my situation is: Are you really upset because they are sinning, or because they appear to be getting away with it? Or maybe they just think they are? ;) Again, I know this is exactly what is going on with me. I can't stand to see someone openly sinning and BEING HAPPY.

    1. It's definitely that they think they are getting away with it, while I toil over here and do my best and actually care whether I am sinning or not.

  6. Just stopping in to comment because I, too, struggle with this on a regular basis. However, you are to be commended for cutting yourself off from them. That's no easy task.

    However, you are being charitable in your concern for their spirituality by gentle chides regarding their life choices. That is what a true, loving person must do.

    Obviously I don't know the specifics either, but we are called to admonish the sinner. To do any less would be a sin on our part (doubly so for we'd allow pride to stay our tongue and thus allow their error to spread to others when we had the chance to correct them).

    It's not an easy situation for you to find yourself in, especially since your husband still keeps ties with them. I'll keep you in my prayers that you can find a way to gracefully handle this situation should it arise again. It's not easy.

    May you be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, and may He guide your tongue and heart to gently lift the veil from the eyes of those you wish to see in Heaven.


    1. Thank you, Gina! Thanks for stopping in and commenting. We have discussed this ad nauseam lately, and have tentatively agreed to have dinner with them- OUT! Not at their house, etc. I am going to try to be civil with them for Hubbs' sake, but I also told him I would be honest with them when they say/do something that makes me uncomfortable, though I will try to be as charitable as possible.

    2. And that's the most anyone can ask of you. I hope he realizes what a blessing you are to agree to this compromise. :)

  7. I hear this "Christians are't supposed to judge" nonsense all the time. Christ himself said so, goes the argument. (Matt 7:1). What everyone, especially non Christians fail to see is that the context of Christ's words revolve around judging JUSTLY, not some absolute ban on making moral claims about the situations you find yourself in. Doing so would effectively render the Faith null and void, a cloistered sort of moral relativism whereby the "sin" of offense was somehow greater than whatever actual sin we avoid discussing.

    The reality is that immediately following that verse in Matthew we see Jesus expounding the parable about removing the plank from our own eye prior to dealing with the speck in our brother's. The obvious reasoning is that we would be able to "see clearly", but what does that a tally mean? Christ desires that we live virtuous and just lives FIRST, then we possess the charity and grace necessary to deal with the sin of others effectively. Not as the world would, through condemnation and ridicule, but by His very own Love.....seeking the good of our brother in charity, and ultimately Truth. Such judgments are the fruit of careful reflection, purposeful prayer, and a desire to see the union of all with our Savior.



Go ahead and weigh in. As Chesterton once said "Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot."