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When you judge another, you do not define them…you define yourself

Written by: on January 26, 2020

Learning to grow into one’s faith can be a tricky journey. Growing up as a Catholic, I knew that I was in the “right” religion. As Catholics, we always understood that we were “number 1” in God’s book. We had beautiful Bibles, which were large and ornate, and we polished them every week to keep a shining glow on them. Yet, we never really opened them, as we didn’t want to ruin their pristine appearance. We attended church every Sunday without miss and were extra faithful during Lent, always making sure we gave up our choice candies and sodas to show our love for God and each other(?) in a special way. We faithfully said the Rosary and repeated our organized prayers faithfully. I remember attending church numerous times after a day of partying at my Saturday afternoon college football games “three sheets to the wind” but not wanting to miss evening mass!

Then, about 15 years ago, I was serving on the Planning Board for the city of Portage when a church group presented their desire to build a new building in the area. I immediately felt called to this church and made the change from Catholicism to non-denominational – and I fell in love with a Christ I had never known. The power of learning about walking in faith, claiming your gifts, and learning the Bible were so powerful to me – and I jumped into this new-found faith with my whole being.

I learned, loved, and grew in my new beliefs, but I also found myself on a short-lived, judgmental journey. As I became bold in my faith, I expressed at times to friends and family how they were not living their life correctly and, although I truly hate admitting it, I began to find myself extra critical of others and judgmental of their lifestyles. Of course, it was only a short-lived journey, because my kids quickly and honestly pointed out to me that, “Mom, you are being a jerk!”

Yet, I found myself straddling a belief system I didn’t know how to handle. I was powerfully integrated in my faith, but I was forsaking my world outside of my Christian walk, and worse than that, I was judging it! But, in the end, I realized there is room for both worlds: I can be a loving Christian and still be able to walk with those who may not be on the same journey as me. I quickly understood (with the not-so-understanding encouragement of my kids) that there truly are two worlds that can live together – and I can grow within both worlds without sacrificing one for the other.

I think that’s a part of what Noll was trying to say in his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. I realized that, after his in-depth history lesson, he was just enforcing the fact that people need to be “well-rounded” and educated in many areas of their life, so their life can be viewed by others as a life worth embracing. Noll expressed that Christians have failed notably in sustaining a serious intellectual life.[1] Noll notes that “the evangelical ethos is atavistic, populist, pragmatic, and utilitarian. It allows little space for broader or deeper intellectual effort because it is dominated by the urgencies of the moment.”[2]

I think that sometimes religious peeps don’t allow themselves to grow, because they live their life in self-righteous boxes and often jump into a “better than others” attitude with judgement and condemnation. Often, we don’t understand that just because others live differently, they don’t need our condemnation, but instead need us to meet them where they are at and help them find their way to a better place.

Voltaire, who was a philosopher famous for his criticism of Catholicism, once said that “we should judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Although I don’t agree with Voltaire’s philosophy about religion, I do appreciate this quote from him. It is through the questions of others that we can truly learn and grow – and it allows us to walk with others on their journey. Because, as motivation speaker Wayne Dyer once quoted: “when you judge another, you do not define them…you define yourself.”   Touche’!

[1] Mark A. Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994), 3.

[2] Ibid, 54.

About the Author

Nancy VanderRoest

Nancy is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and fulfills God's calling on her life by serving as a Chaplain & Counselor with Hospice. In her spare time, Nancy works with the anti-human trafficking coalition in her local community.

7 responses to “When you judge another, you do not define them…you define yourself”

  1. Jenn Burnett says:

    Thank your for this personal reflection Nancy! How lovely that you have benefited both from the Catholic tradition and the evangelical tradition and now embody the best of both within your thinking! I appreciate your confession of this short season of judgementalism in the midst of your new found zeal. I circumstance I too periodically found myself in during my journey. What practices have you found help you hold in tension preserving a gracious heart with the critical mind of a scholar? Bless you my friend!

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Thanks, Jenn. I absolutely love my Catholic foundation and am so thankful for it. I still absolutely love my time in my fav prayer room, St. Monica’s Adoration Chapel. But I realized I became “drunk” with new Christian knowledge and found myself sometimes pushing it on others. I learned my lesson quickly…to meet people where they are at and guide them on their journey. I think it took self-reflection as well as some heavy feedback from my kids to realize that I don’t need to “push” my newfound faith on others, but instead to live it – and let others see the light that glows when we walk in love. Thanks always for your sweet reflections, Jenn.

  2. Andrea Lathrop says:

    I did not know most of this Nancy and I am grateful you shared it! I was drawn to Noll’s idea of “doubleness” in our orthodoxy – mainly that Christ is double in that he is God and human. And we should see this both/and in other areas of our faith. I think of this in your journey – the both/and of tradition and of new/fresh. Catholic and non-denominational and the security of ritual with the discovery of what God is uniquely saying to you. I see your eventual embracing or making room for both. Just my musings while I was “listening” to you. I appreciate your journey and insights!

    • Nancy VanderRoest says:

      Hi Andrea. Thanks for your response to my blog. I truly love my Catholic faith combined with my new Christian walk. It’s been a journey, that’s for sure. As I reflected to Jenn, I think I was just learning so much so quickly that I found myself pushing my faith on others – instead of just walking in love. It was only took me about 6 months to realize that meeting people where they are at and walking the journey with them is so much more powerful than telling people about something they aren’t yet ready to accept. I am truly thankful for this lesson, as I now understand that to be like Christ, we just need to spread our love to others. Thanks for your nice reflections, Andrea.

  3. Karen Rouggly says:

    Hi Nancy! I think this might be one of the best blogs you’ve written! It was super engaging, and I think you were able to take Noll and personalize him in a way that makes him relatable, and you! Well done!

  4. John Muhanji says:

    Thank you, Nancy, for sharing your personal Christian upbringing as a Catholic. Although I was not raised up as a Catholic, my Quaker tradition connects with you in the same way we were raised up by our respective churches. You reminded me of how we used to memorize bible verses without knowing the meaning of them. we lived and obeyed each and every word from the scripture so that we could not Make God annoyed with us for our contrary behavior. It is true that Noll is raising here a point that we need not just to take what we are told by the clergy but take it and interrogate and evaluate the process in a positive manner in order to understand the true God’s way of doing things. It is the same spirit that the early Christians after listening to the word would go back in their home interrogating and questioning what they have heard. that made them grow in their faith knowing and understanding God’s way in their lives. Thanks for this piece, my sister.

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