Like many of you who were able to attend or watch the general Relief Society meeting last Saturday night, I loved listening to President Monson speak on charity at the close of the meeting. His remarks were loving, wise, and inspired. “Do [our] differences tempt us to judge one another?” asked President Monson. “Can we love one another if we judge each other? And I answer…No; we cannot.” He went on to say that charity is “the opposite of criticism and judging.”
Interestingly, I’d just prepared a lesson to teach the Beehives the next day, in which I was directed by the Supplemental Materials booklet to refer to the section entitled “Judging Others” in True to the Faith, which says, “Sometimes people feel that it is wrong to judge others in any way. While it is true that you should not condemn others or judge unrighteously, you will need to make judgments of ideas, situations, and people throughout your lifetime. The Lord has given many commandments that you cannot keep without making judgments. You need to make judgments of people in many of your important decisions, such as choosing friends…and choosing an eternal companion” (p.90). The booklet goes on to caution us to use “great care” when making judgments and advises, “All your judgments must be guided by righteous standards.…Approach any judgment with care and compassion. Whenever possible, refrain from making judgments until you have an adequate knowledge of the facts” (90-91). The Supplemental Materials booklet then asked teachers to pose this question: “The world asks me to be tolerant of everyone’s actions and beliefs. In what circumstances does the Lord ask me to make judgments of ideas, situations, and people?” (p. 8).
Hmmm. Before President Monson spoke last Saturday, a friend and I happened to be talking about judging and she said, “Righteous judgment is essential to living a good life. Everyone judges, and to think otherwise is to deny reality. I think nowadays there is such an emphasis placed on tolerance and acceptance that any tiny amount of criticism is immediately pounced on as ‘judgment.’” Because our children sometimes accuse us of being judgmental (usually if we have concerns about the kinds of friends they are hanging out with), she and I have been discussing this topic on and off for some time, struggling to figure out when it’s appropriate to judge and what constitutes being judgmental.
So, I was a little taken aback after Saturday night’s meeting when my friend emailed me and said, “I know I’m going to hell. Not even in a hand basket. Here’s hoping it’s a dry heat.”
I’ve been thinking about her reaction to Pres. Monson’s talk, especially in conjunction with the lesson I taught my Beehives on Sunday, and I’m wondering how the rest of you feel. True, we all need to work on being less judgmental. Like all of you, I’ve been stung by others’ unkind (and incorrect) judgments of me, and I’ve done my share of unrighteous judging of others. I don’t think any of us is exempt from this human weakness. Ironically, I’ve even judged others for being self-righteous and judgmental. Around and around it goes. And it prevents us—all of us—from developing real, Christlike charity. So President Monson’s counsel was much needed and appropriate. But was he saying that we shouldn’t make judgments at all? I don’t think so.
So, here’s what I want to know: How do you define “righteous judgment?” Do you struggle with knowing the difference between exercising righteous judgment and being judgmental? Do you think, as my friend suggested before Pres. Monson’s talk, that sometimes we err too far on the side of tolerance for fear of appearing judgmental? And, finally, how do you interpret Pres. Monson’s counsel?