One of the reasons I love being a blogger is that I love telling people what to do. My downfall is that at times others do not seem to recognize the brilliance of my insight, but I console myself in the fact that one day they might!

Hence, I know that one of the sins I struggle with is judgmentalism.

Perhaps we all have it to a certain extent, but I have it in spades. I am constantly having to remind myself that I should not judge, for I too have faults. And I should not expect people who are not Christians to behave as if they were.

And this time of year is especially difficult. Christmas is supposed to be about appreciating your family, remembering the good times you have spent together, and creating new memories.

But what do you do when there are certain family members with whom you don’t really have good memories? What if there are certain people who have left more holes in your life than anything else? We often feel that pain more acutely at Christmas.

December brings about the stark reality of all of the dads who walked out on their kids–and even some of the moms. It shines a light on the people who have devastated their families with affairs. We may not think of absent parents for 364 days a year, but when they don’t call at Christmas we’re reminded of the neglect. I struggle when I think of these so-called parents. And the anger starts to rise.

Why Your Family Annoys You: The surprising root of judgmentalism--and how to get beyond feeling angry

It reminds me of a wedding I was at when I had to leave early because I had such a visceral judgmental reaction.

The wedding was for two people my husband knew growing up. While they were smiling and walking down the aisle, all I could think about was the fact that a year and a half earlier the bride had aborted their baby because she was still in school, and they wanted to finish their degrees first. They had nonchalantly announced this to all of their friends at the time.

As I was seething in the pews of that church, I was also pregnant with my son, whom we knew had a serious heart defect, and whom we knew would likely not live long when he was born. We had been pressured to abort, and yet did not, because we wanted to give our baby whatever life we could.

That made the stark choice of abortion all the more vivid to me.

And as I was thinking these thoughts, there was this couple, grinning from ear to ear, enjoying the wedding they wanted now that they both had landed jobs after they had received their diplomas.

I want to reiterate here that the problem was with me; not with her.

Please hear me: I don’t mean this post to bring up fresh wounds for those of you who have undergone abortions; I know the pain you likely feel, and I don’t mean to add to it. I’m just want to illustrate a point–that we are often the most judgmental in areas where we also hurt.

And my thoughts then were not appropriate. For all I knew she had repented. Perhaps she had taken it up with God, and had been forgiven. Jesus already paid for everything hidden and secret and shameful that we have done, and no one particular sin keeps us separate from God more than others do. Yet quite often one particular sin keeps us separate from particular people. 

That incident was about fifteen years ago; I have no idea what has happened to that couple, or if they have gone on to have other children. Yet I have always almost hated that woman. At the time I refused to stay for the dance, and demanded that my husband take me home, because the thought of her being so happy after she had sacrificed everything that was good and pure on the altar of convenience made me physically ill.

I am not proud of my reaction.

I am not sure what I expected; did I want to hear remorse from her in her wedding speech? Did I want her to look miserable? God, I believe, rejoices at weddings, yet somehow I didn’t feel they had the right to. Obviously the emotion I was feeling was not due to her. I was projecting on to this woman for reasons of my own.

Yet often it is in our deepest areas of pain that we are the most judgmental.

I am most judgmental about men who leave their families, and about those who take pride in their abortions, because these are the big hurts in my life: a father deserting me; a baby I so desperately wanted dying. When others throw away cavalierly what we would have done anything to keep, it makes us angry not primarily because of the hurt that they caused, but because we take it personally.

That couple did nothing against me, yet I was acting the part of God in that story, demanding a penance that was not mine to receive. I was wanting to punish them to make myself feel better, not because I wanted to bring them closer to God–which, of course, is the heart of Jesus. I was judging them, yet my feelings did not flow from any sort of godly root.

Many people say judgmentalism is caused by pride; we think we are better than others. I think it is also caused by hurt.

We are angry that things did not work out differently for ourselves, and when others seem to be replicating the problem, it is almost as if they are denying the hurt feelings that we ourselves have. The answer to judgmentalism, then, is not always to look at our own sin. I think sometimes it’s to look at our hurts.

When we don’t go to God with our hurts, we take it out on others. That pain is still there, and it is ugly and it is big and it won’t be silenced. If you won’t take it to God, it will emerge in obscure ways in anger; usually in the anger of judgmentalism. You will start projecting onto others because that way you have a seemingly safe method of exorcising some of the pain. But it doesn’t work, because it doesn’t really get to the root of what is hurting you.

This Christmas, you may find yourself angry at a sister-in-law who lets her work consume her life and ignores her children while you struggle with infertility. You may find yourself angry at the materialism of your siblings or the huge presents your nieces and nephews received when you and your husband struggle to survive on a small income. You may find yourself angry at your father for his relationship with his stepkids because he wasn’t there for you when you were a kid. You may find yourself angry when a brother-in-law makes an off-hand comment about the #metoo movement, not knowing that you were sexually harrassed at work.

It’s a time of year when it’s easy to be judgmental.

So if you find yourself overreacting with extended family this Christmas, ask yourself if they’re touching a scab, or maybe even an open wound on your heart. And then ask God if He will start to heal that wound. Don’t be afraid to touch it. Sometimes healing hurts us initially. The alternative, though, is to live with the pain. And to me, that’s not much of an alternative at all.

Have you ever found yourself being irrationally angry at someone? How much does hurt play a role in our judgmentalism? Let’s talk in the comments!

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