On Judging Others


This entry has to do with two recent events. One of them involves a situation that came to light in the journal community on Friday; the other involves an attack against someone who commented to an unrelated entry here. If you don’t want to read any more, skip this entry. If you intend to read on, please be willing to hear me out all the way.

Journals are supposed to be places where someone can speak their mind. Sometimes one does so and finds that his opinion isn’t popular. There is nothing surprising in this, or at least there shouldn’t be, since different people have different ideas. I know of no two people in the world who agree all of the time on every conceivable topic.

The point is, just as someone who writes a journal should be able to speak his mind, those who read it (assuming comments are allowed) should be able to speak theirs. It is my general policy here not to delete comments unless they contain language that is inappropriate or if they are so off-topic that they have nothing to do with the post to which they are attached. I think I’ve deleted a total of about five comments (with the exception of several deleted when the entries they accompanied were removed).

I have never expected everyone who comes here to agree with everything I say. You are free to disagree with me and my opinions. I don’t mind that. If you keep it respectful, I will listen to you and consider your point of view. My mind has been changed before; it wouldn’t be a first time if it happens in the future.

I don’t walk around believing that I am right about everything. I try to do what I think is right. Sometimes, doing what I think is right means doing what is wrong. It happens. I regret it when it happens, but I’m only human…I never said I was otherwise.

Recently, a fellow journal writer left a comment that disagreed with my position on a certain issue. I felt that her comment was respectful, but I was concerned that she took the matter more personally than I intended. I clarified the position I had and she clarified hers. In the end, I believe we both understand each other’s positions better. At least, I better understand hers. I think that the two of us are far more close to being on the same page than either of us initially realized, which is why I am grateful for that type of dialog: it does open minds.

However, I have just learned that a third party who read her comment here proceeded to send her an E-mail in which that person, as the recipient put it, chose to speak for God, calling her a person who was not the Christian she “pretended” to be but rather was a “pawn of the evil doers.” This person then went on to add that anyone who didn’t agree with the current president must automatically have no morals and don’t deserve to live in this country.

In a word, I am appalled.

Anyone who reads this journal should have known by now that I don’t believe that the Republican party holds any monopoly on Christians. I have stated before that I consider Jimmy Carter to be the most moral president this country has ever seen, and certainly one of the finest and most honorable men ever to hold that office. If you’ll take a moment to remember your history, you may be shocked to discover that he is a Democrat.

Anyone who reads this journal should have known that I have raised my own doubts about which religion is the “true” religion. I recently said:

How do I feel about other religions? That’s where it gets complicated. The religion I accept as true is pretty clear about that. But a big part of me isn’t so sure. It’s not that I doubt that my religion is correct…I don’t at all. I do, however, wonder whether there aren’t other religions that can be correct also? Must God be reduced to one single definition? Could God not appear to other people in many ways and in many forms? Who is to say that the same diety we refer to as God may be the same diety others of a different cultural mindset refer to as Buddha?

I’m fairly certain that I have said before that I don’t think that even those who don’t believe in God are bad people. For whatever reason, they have chosen their own path which they feel is right, just as those who do believe have. It’s their business until they ask a believer to show them why they beleive.

If I could snap my fingers and let everyone on the planet know at once the love of God I have felt in my heart, so that they could all experience it and know it to be as real as I know it to be, I’m not sure that I’d do it. I think there is more value to the individual to find it when the time is right, so that it is a more personal discovery, rather than someone just handing it to you with no emotional connection.

The point is, none of us can really speak for God. We speak for ourselves. We speak for our own conscience. We speak for our own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. When we accuse someone else of being a “bad Christian,” we are stepping over a line we have no right to cross, and I believe that God Himself will have something to say about that action one day.

There is, for some reason, the widespread belief among many that to question the government means being a bad citizen. That’s false logic. Had it not been for those British citizens who questioned their government, this country would likely never have existed to begin with. We have a right and an obligation in a democracy to question what we are told by our leaders and to campaign for changes when we don’t like what we here. That’s what being a citizen is all about.

There also seems to be the widespread belief that just because the current president claims to be doing work he believes is God’s will, that anyone who disagrees with him must be operating in a way that goes against God’s will. That’s false logic, too. I’m not sure I am always in tune with what God’s will is for everything that happens; I think that if I was, I’d understand the way the world works in a much better way. I think, in the end, in one way or another, God’s will shall be done, but I don’t know that I believe that either of the candidates for president this year are the only men who have the capacity to carry it out, nor do I believe that either of them is any more in tune with God’s purpose than I might be.

On Friday, I wrote an entry, as did others, about learning that several in the AOL J-Land family had been deceived by someone who wasn’t what he said he was. I wrote what was in my heart at that moment. Was I angry? You bet. Did I feel I had a right to be? Definitely. Did I handle the situation in the best possible way? No. That was pointed out to me rather quickly, both directly and indirectly.

Those who pointed it out to me directly, after much discussion, prevailed upon me to remove two entries and post a very different one, putting the focus on the individual who had done the deceiving. I admit that this is where the focus should have been from the beginning.

Some — not all — chose to make me out to be the villain because I wrote in anger and didn’t consider the real motive of the person in question.

But as I took a tour of J-Land, I somehow wasn’t surprised to find references to entries made by those of us who posted what we said in anger without thinking things through. Many of those entries — also written in anger — assumed that those of us who had less-than-kind things to say were doing so for only the wrong reasons, that we must be bad people. In short, those people were acting out of anger and doing exactly to those of us who had spoken out what they accused us of having done to that certain journal writer.

I have spoken at length to one particular fellow journal writer about this. I understand her reasons for writing what she wrote in the way she wrote it. I respect her feelings and have apologized to her. I hold no ill will towards her, and I’m glad that she holds no ill will toward me. As she points out, forgiveness forces one to grow beyond who they were. She’s absolutely right and I thank her for that reminder.

But I’ve read other entries by other writers, who say that they have more reason than anyone else to feel pain from those recent events. They say that they are the only ones who know the whole story. And they wrote in anger about what they assumed others’ motives to be without thinking that some of them might have had the whole story as well, as if they really were the only ones who had been hurt.

They weren’t.

I don’t point this out to diminish my error. I was wrong. I admit it.

I simply suggest that those who wrote about the situation and condemned others who were condemning the one person were doing the same thing they were complaining about.

Some of you have been quite kind in suggesting that I had every right to discuss my genuine feelings in my journal, and I appreciate that encouragement. I don’t regret removing those words because I felt it was the right thing to do.

But if you’re disappointed in me for being proved human, for showing that I am capable of making a mistake, you’ll have to allow that disappointment to grow slightly more as I tell you that I’m disappointed that others who don’t know me made the same type of statements they accused me of making and haven’t made similar efforts to correct that. It has even been pointed out to me that some who formed “friendships” through the common thread of concern for this single writer are now even stabbing each other in the backs. And they seem to want to point the blame at everyone except the person who caused the pain in the first place.

I was wrong. I admit it.

But I’m also a little disappointed to be portrayed as the bad guy here. No matter who is crying for help — and there are several who are — if it’s wrong to place blame on one person, then don’t place blame on anyone. If that offends you, I’m sorry. But I’m just being honest.

My point here is this: we are all human. We have a right to our beliefs. We have a right to our feelings. We have a right to express them. And if the individual journals allow them, we have a right to respond to them. But beyond those basic rights, I think we have an obligation here to each other to frame those responses in a respectful way, to treat others as we would have them treat us, to be fair about our handling of other people’s feelings. No one would want their faith questioned because their viewpoint disagrees with another person who thinks he or she is a “better” Christian. And likewise, no one would want his motives questioned by people who accuse him of being wrong for doing the same of someone else.

I was wrong. I admit it. But I wasn’t the only one who was.

I needed a reminder of that, and I got it. I hope those others who need a similar reminder find it here.

I hope that all of us can take a step back and think about how the events of the past week unfolded. I hope there are lessons for all of us who felt anger in the past week, no matter who became the recipient of that anger. We deserve better from each other.

I don’t mean to throw a new spark onto a fire that is dying down; I just want to make sure that there is something positive that rises from the ashes.

I don’t know what else to say…I only hope that I’ve made my point without reopening any wounds. That has never been my intent.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.