By Heather O.
I’ve started and restarted this post, trying to figure out what I want to say. I’ve tried humorous, roundabout I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, straightforward, rude-in-yo-FACE, but none of it is coming out quite right. So I guess I’m just going to say it. (Which means it might come out as straightforward AND rude-in-yo-FACE, so be prepared.)
Seriously, I keep defending them, especially when I hear stories about things that people do in other wards or in other states. I think, and say, “It’s not like that everywhere, you just got a bad crop”, or “She didn’t mean it that way”, or “Maybe she’s coming from a difficult place and you have to understand her point of view.”
Sometimes, those things are true.
Sometimes, they are not.
I include myself in this. I have said and done things that are not in keeping with the spirit of Jesus Christ. I try not to, honestly, but sometimes I fall short of the ideal and act like a b*tch.
(I swear sometimes, too. A lot, actually. I need to work on this. Which brings me to the point of this post.)
Pointing out personal failings to another human being is not being Christian. You’re not fulfilling your Christian duty to help somebody out. You’re just being a jerk.
For example, I know that I swear too much. My kids remind me of the hypocrisy of demanding good language from them, but letting a whopper fly when I am mad (or in pain. The late-night stubbing of the toe seems to be a particularly effective catalyst for my inner sailor).
I might be working on this, I might not be. If I am working on this, I don’t need somebody else to tell me it’s a problem. If I’m *not* working on this, telling me I should be just makes me want to punch you in the face. If you are my bishop or my husband, it might give me pause. If you are not, back away, sister.
I don’t know what it is about women in the church that makes us believe we can be the righteous police. And again, I include myself in this. I recently told somebody that she needed to make some changes about what she posted on FB. She got defensive, angry, and shut down the friendship. The question is not, why did she do that? The question is, why would I have expected her to react differently?
The mother who gets told that her daughter is not wearing modest clothing is not going to thank you for explaining modesty to her. She’s going to get defensive, angry, and either shut down the conversation/friendship or stop coming to church or both.
The very essence of christianity is to accept people even when they are not living up to an ideal standard, indeed, especially when they are not living up to an ideal standard. We learn the ideals from the pulpits, from our teachers, from our lesson manuals. It’s not as if there are members of the church who don’t know what our expectations are. It’s covered. Really.
I hear story after story of women who are confronted by other women who feel it is okay to tell somebody else how to live, how to dress, how to speak, how to behave. Unless somebody else’s behavior is a danger or a detriment to your family, and unless you are a parent or a trusted mentor, you need to just let it go. Seriously. (And, just for the record, exposed shoulders aren’t dangerous. Neither are tattoos, nose rings, double row of ear piercings, divorced women, or not wearing nylons in church.) You don’t have to be that person’s best friend, you don’t have to agree with her choices or her behavior, you can even be uncomfortable and choose not to be around her. But you do need to keep your uncharitable thoughts to yourself. Because outwardly condemning somebody else’s behavior, even if it is legitimately silly/destructive/offensive, is not going to change it. It’s just going to make that person hate you. And never, ever, ever come to you for help.
Women of this church, we are better than this. We are strong and immovable, as we’ve been told time and time again, and we have the power to be a force of good in this world that is unlike anything else. We do damage to ourselves and to our sisters when we lose the focus to love one another and build the kingdom of God and start deciding on our own who deserves to be in the kingdom of God and who doesn’t.
Because those choices, they are not ours to make. And God has made it pretty clear about what He thinks about those who try to do His job for him.