How To Deal With “All Those” Judgmental People at Church

Imagine for a minute you’re sitting in sacrament meeting and a 12 year old boy decides it would be fun to play angry birds on an iPad with the volume all the way up?

What do you do? Is it alright to say something to the boy? Is it alright to say something to the parents? Should you complain to the bishop? Should you just be glad the boy is there and thereby let him do as he pleases? If you’re irritated at the scenario…does that mean that you are being “judgmental” and “self-righteous”? Should we just mind our own business even though it is directly impacting and negatively effecting others?

Regardless of how you answered those questions, we all must come to grips with the fact that there are judgmental people at church. Really…there are going to be judgmental people anywhere you go. There is no church or organization on the earth that is free from judgmental people. But the real question is how are we supposed to deal with “all those” judgmental people at church.

self righteous people at church

Do we get offended and never come back? Do we live out our days holding secret grudges? Do we get even with them by calling them judgmental and self-righteous?

It seems to me that the most common insult hurled between church members is that of calling one another “judgmental” and “self-righteous”. Most of the time this accusation is coming from a member of the church that is upset or offended by a comment, or “a look”, or an insinuation performed by another member.

Calling someone judgmental or self righteous is an interesting phenomenon to me. It feels like it’s the most distinguished insult that a respectable church member can render another church member without sounding like a complete jerk. It’s like the grownup’s equivalent to the children’s classic comeback: “I know you…are but what am I”.

It’s the insult that can always be turned right back in your face. You may hear someone say something that sounds self-righteous and you call them on it. But then one day when you least expect it, don't judge mesomeone labels you as self-righteous and you’re bewildered at the accusation.

But isn’t it actually “judgmental” to call another person “judgmental”? Are you not judging the other persons judgment based on your own opinions and perceptions?

Does the act itself of labeling someone “self-righteous” intrinsically brand you as “self-righteous” as well? Doesn’t self-righteous mean that you believe “self” is “right” or that your way of thinking or acting is better than the other person?

I heard an example of a real life situation that happened among church members. A few people sat down to watch a PG-13 movie (because all PG-13 movies are acceptable right? No.)

As the movie began, it quickly got into some things that were definitely not suitable for thirteen year olds or thirty year olds. A few of the people decided to get up and leave. They kindly made an excuse so as to not offend the host…but eventually word got back to the host that those people had left because they weren’t comfortable with the content of the movie.

So what did the host do? Well…no less than call those that left the movie “self-righteous” and “judgmental”.

What if that was your son or daughter that was brave enough to “up and leave” from that movie? You’d probably call them “noble” for it. But the host of the movie would maintain that they were self-righteous and judgmental! “They think they’re better than me” he’d say!

So in reality, calling someone judgmental is a matter of perspective. It’s an empty accusation. If someone has made your behavior look bad…then your initial reaction is to deflect and defend.

Just because those members were’t comfortable with that movie…it doesn’t make them any more “self-righteous” than the host when he decides it’s ok to watch the movie in his home and then defend his position.

One of the things people noticed about Joseph Smith was that when others found fault with him whether it be directly or indirectly…instead of confrontation, and placing all of the blame on them… he’d say: “Look deeper, Brother, and see if maybe there is a kernel of truth in what they are saying.” He took the good from others and applied it. He took the bad and discarded it.

Instead of a knee-jerk rash response, we can look to see if there is anything that is being said that we might be able to improve upon. Are we not all judgmental and self-righteous in our own ways? Everyone thinks their own way of doing things is right.

Smart people don’t “react” to things they disagree with. They internalize what was written or said and then analyze whether or not any of it applies to them. They seek to exploit their own weaknesses in order to improve them and are grateful for any insight into the flaws that they might need to fix.

The Savior says “Judge not” but that is only the beginning of the lesson that He is trying to teach. …”For with what judgment ye judge…ye shall be judged” He continues. (Matt 7:1-3) Then in another place the Savior said “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24)

By reading all of the passages that refer to judging…it’s clear to me that I am supposed to make judgments in this life…but I should strive to make those judgments as righteous as they can be. In John 7:24, the Greek word for “righteous” means among other things… to be “equitable”. God want’s us to be fair with others and not judge others any harsher than we ourselves would like to be judged.

But is it judgmental or self-righteous to give correction or make suggestions to other people generally or individually? I tell you with all my heart…that if I did not have people to give me correction and suggestions and even rebukings throughout my life…I have no idea where I’d be. I could have asked those that corrected me…”who do you think you are” or “why don’t you just have charity toward me and not judge me”. I’ve had bishops, and mission presidents, and mission companions, and employees, and friends, and random individuals call me out in my weakness. Where would I be without them? I’ve needed them! Even though in the moment I was hurt and offended and possibly even angry…I needed them to help me consider things that I might have been oblivious to.

Hey! My wife judges me every time my behavior negatively impacts another person! I don’t always use my brain…and she calls me on it. Maybe I wasn’t speaking nice about something or someone…and she calls me on it. She’s not trying to coercively change me, but giving subtle suggestions on things I might not be able to see. I get defensive and can’t believe what she’s saying sometimes. Then I sit there and think about it and realize that most of the time she’s right. Then I change. Then I become a better man. Should I tell her to stop judging me? No. In many cases…I’m actually asking her to judge me…so that I can improve.

Aren’t we all here to help each other?

Where would I be without Alma chapter 5 in my life? If you haven’t read it…then read it!

“But Alma…who are you to judge us and give advice? Why are you being so self-righteous? Weren’t you a bad dude back in the day? Remember that time you…”

Laman and Lemuel thought Nephi was self-righteous. The people of Ammonihah thought Alma and Amulek were too judgmental. “Who are you to tell me what to do”, they’d say. “Who are you to give advice?”

So if you find yourself annoyed by someone that you think is judgmental and self righteous, you can do a few things. First you can laugh. I find myself laughing internally at people all the time. People are funny…and I’m sure I have my fair share of people laughing at me internally. Second, you can contemplate why someone is saying what they’re saying and try to strip any kind of good out of the message and apply it to yourself.

It’s time to stop using labels such as “judgmental” and “self-righteous” as an excuse for our own complacency. If something is true…then embrace it and change. If something is false…then laugh it away!

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