Don’t Judge Me

I think the #1 fear of people who are contemplating returning to Church, or even just sharing a sin they are struggling with is being judged.


It’s a harsh thing to be “judged”.  But why is that?  Why are we afraid of judgment?

Is it because we don’t want to be confronted with our short comings?

Is it because we are afraid of failure?

Is it because that would mean we are not perfect?

Is it because that would mean we have to change our actions?

Is it because it makes us uncomfortable?

Why is it that the Church community gets pegged with being “judgmental”

This is something I’ve been on both ends of…I’ve been afraid of being judged by people at church, but I have also been someone who probably “judges” others outside of my Church group.

I’ve really struggled with this concept of “being judged”.

So many people turn away from the Church because they don’t want to be judged.

Maybe they had a bad experience, maybe they didn’t. I don’t know.  All I know is that people are afraid of it.


First of all, I believe in truth…yes, I believe there is a right and a wrong.

We are not called to judge, but we are called to speak truth.

It is unfortunate that sometimes speaking truth is considered being “judgmental”.

That is where, I think, the Church gets nailed.

This is an essay I wrote for a class I took a year ago “Psychology of Prejudice”.

The question I have is where one draws the line between a religious person being discriminatory (judgmental) and simply following a moral obligation.  What I mean by this is that most religions have a set of rules or standards that they try to abide by.  I will speak mostly on the behalf of Catholicism here.  Because religion is a unique ingroup in that they have rules regarding morality, I think people get more defensive about religious stances.  Of course other groups have rules, but they typically don’t revolve around the issue of salvation, eternal life, and final “judgment”.  Because the rules in religious groups revolve around such delicate issues like salvation, is it possible that people get more defensive when they are not part of that religious ingroup?

Back to my original question of the difference between moral obligation and discrimination, the question is about where one places tolerance.  As a religious person, I have always been taught the phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin”.  What this means is that you tolerate all people, but you don’t necessarily tolerate a behavior that you believe is wrong, or goes against the moral code.  My argument is that people who are being reprimanded or “judged” for a certain behavior at times take it as a personal offense.  Of course several Catholics also make fundamental attribution errors as well and wrongly treat people poorly based off of an act they did, but in some situations, I think there can be equal blame on the so called receiver of this “prejudice”.

One of the biggest complaints I here from young adults who were raised Catholic and then stopped practicing their religion, is that they are afraid of being judged.  These same people still believe in Christianity and right and wrong, but perhaps feel guilty for falling short of the Christian expectation at times.  This is very understandable.  However, the ingroup of Christianity calls people to a certain standard of behavior.  This is not to say that people don’t make mistakes, but people are expected to attempt to follow the standards.  I think that half-hearted Christians who are typically ones claiming they are being judged by religious people are at just as much fault.  They can’t claim to be a part of a group if they refuse to try to follow the rules of the group.  In the same way, you can’t be a part of a basketball team if you fail to show up to practice or participate in the drills.  It’s just like when my mom says “if you want to live in my house, you need to follow my rules”.  Why does religion get tagged as such a bad guy when they essentially make the same distinction as the examples I just gave?  (ie. you can’t receive communion if you are in a state of mortal sin).

I think it is because religion deals with the touchy issue of salvation and eternal life, and that is the main reason people get so offended when they don’t fit into that group.  Now, I am in no way defending those religious people that are truly acting discriminatory and making fundamental attribution errors, but I am also calling out the half-hearted religious people that are typically the ones complaining about receiving prejudice from the religious.  These people need to decide if they want to be a part of the ingroup of a religion or not.  Then, if they do choose to be a part of the religion, to not take it personally when someone tells them they should stop having premarital sex, or getting drunk every weekend, or other typical behavioral standards that religion has, because that is not being discriminatory, but following a moral obligation to help each other meet the moral code, and ultimately achieve salvation.




When are we “judging” people and when are we simply calling people to a higher standard of living?

Is there a line between the two?

If I said, “hey, I’m worried about you, I wish you would stop x, y, or z, because I think it’s hurting your soul” would you think I was judging you???

Just some food for thought.



5 thoughts on “Don’t Judge Me

  1. You are bringing up some great points of view here Raquel. I have to admit, I have a mix of feelings here. Especially when it comes to Catholicism.

  2. I know this is long, but right now I have a lot of time on my hands.

    I think that when it comes to judgment in religious environments, we’re dealing with two different issues. The first, which I find easier to explain, is the fear of judgment that people who are already part of a religious community feel. The second part covers the fears of people who aren’t yet part of that community, but have cited this fear as a reason to hold off joining.

    The other day I was listening to the radio, and I heard a Christian songwriter come on and explain the motivation for one of his songs. He’d recently had a heart to heart with his wife about some things in his past he was ashamed of. He said something along the lines of “I knew that Jesus had already forgiven me, I wasn’t afraid of that. But I was so afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do the same.” This, I think, sums up the fears that practicing Christians have regarding being judged.

    One of the wonderful things about God is that He will never stop loving us. He might be disappointed in us, cry over our failings, and be frustrated that time and time again we ignore Him, but there is nothing we can do to make Him love us any less. But in this imperfect world we live in, we can’t trust that this will always be true of our friends and family. We’re so afraid that admitting our shortcomings to other people will cause them to turn away from us that we’d rather keep those parts of ourselves hidden.
    The second part, which I’m going to have a harder time describing, comes from the fears of people who have been thinking about joining the faith but are holding back because of a fear of “judgment.” I’m a cradle Catholic, so I’ve never had the experience of converting to a faith. Therefore, I’m going to base my thoughts on what I’ve heard friends of mine, who are converts, say.

    Although I could be wrong, I haven’t heard of Christians judging new converts for not coming to the faith earlier. If they did, it’d be majorly hypocritical; Jesus tells us in His parable about the workers in the vineyard that it doesn’t matter when or how we come to Him, just that we do. So it must be something else. I think part of the fear does come from judgment, but it’s actually a fear of judging oneself. As wonderful as Christ’s love is for us, it’s hard to look back on our lives and see all the times we’ve fallen short. That’s part of converting to Christianity, or really any religion, and frankly it sounds terrifying to most people.

    The second, and possibly greater, part of this fear comes from what must inevitably come after that recognition-change. No one likes changing. It’s scary, uncomfortable, and it can mean giving up stuff, habits, or even people that maybe we were more than a little attached to. That fear of losing people is significant. Unfortunately, there will always be a few people who give others a hard time for deciding to have a stronger faith life. Before starting the process of conversion, there’s no way to know if those people will be acquaintances, best friends, or even family members. Someone in this situation is cutting ties with old friends and leaping towards a group of people who they aren’t quite sure will accept them as part of their community. Sure, they’re supposed to- but will they?
    This fear can be complicated by our actions as Christians. Even if we try not to, we often judge people just as much as we judge their actions. Little nuances in our language make all the difference to those around us who are listening. We don’t think anything of it when we discuss pro-choicers and porn stars rather than the pro-choice movement and pornography, but it makes a big difference. As holders of the truth, we’re responsible for guarding our language.

    I’ll admit I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. About a month ago, I was complaining my roommate about the girls who stumble drunkenly around our campus every weekend night wearing next to nothing. I was in the middle of a long tangent about self-respect and modesty and “who do those girls think they are” when she cut me off by saying “You can’t make them respect themselves, but the least you could do is respect them.” She’s right. Although respect isn’t quite the word I’d use for what I feel towards those girls, and I’m not a fan of what they’re doing, those young women are still God’s daughters. What they’re doing is wrong, but I wasn’t complaining about that-I was complaining about them. Even though they weren’t there to witness my mini rant, my feelings influence the way I act towards them when I am on the street, and the things I say while I am around them. Someone who hears me being snarky and judgmental will be less likely to leave his or her secure friend group in search of a closer relationship with God if they think all that awaits them is people who are equally condescending.

    So to make a long story short, I guess I think that the fear of being judged is a real thing not to be dismissed, but that we need to recognize that there’s usually more to the issue than that. It’s interesting, because ultimately the same fears of being judged and of changing relationships exist in both people who are new to the faith and those who have been part of it for a long time. They just manifest differently depending on the situation.

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