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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

OR we could do something different!

I don't soapbox often for a couple of reasons:

1. I prefer to hear the opinions of others rather than share my own, which doesn't mean I agree with those opinions, simply that I'm interested in hearing them.
2. Most of the time I don't feel like dealing with the emotions stirred up when I speak about things that bug me. Those who are my "venting" buddies understand that when I'm really upset or excited, I become impaired. I either speak using obscure words which convey my meaning beautifully but which sometimes cause my friend to roll eyes or stop listening, make alphabetical lists of adjectives which do nothing to strengthen my position, or lose the ability to drive my car without endangering the lives of any persons within it.

However, today I am dragging out my box, dusting it off and standing tall.

I can't stand listening to one more well-meaning person talk about "...hate the sin, love the sinner..." and the resulting lists of reasons why some person is "good" but their actions are bothersome/loathsome/reprehensible.

Stop it.

You're using it as an excuse to not interact with someone deserving of love. Don't argue with me about this.

I have listened so many times as a person has spoken to me about someone he/she knows, it might be a old friend, a family member, or a new acquaintance. The virtues are extolled, and then I hear the list of reasons why such a person is not a good companion. I hear about promiscuity, drug abuse, drinking, homosexuality, coarse language, off-color humor or stories...

"I know he's a good person, but..."

Don't say that phrase to me anymore.

Here's the thing:

1. If you care about someone who is doing something that doesn't tally with your life values or ideals, talk about it with that person. I'm not suggesting you attempt to correct them. It's your word against theirs--and their choice of a path in life may be the best one for them. You are only allowed to judge if it's right or wrong in your own life. But you can let your loved one know that there are certain places where you're uncomfortable and offer alternative suggestions for spending time together. If that person knows you well, it won't come as a surprise and will probably be a welcome relief. You still want to be friends/family, you're not isolating the person or trying to punish behaviors or beliefs that don't align with your own, you recognize that you enjoy the company and affection of a person you love.

2. Don't talk about the situation with everyone you meet. That would be defined as GOSSIP, and people usually indulge in that because they're embarrassed about the social situation with their loved one and feel it must be explained to other self-righteous, judgmental friends, or because it's simply a habit (and if that's the case, perhaps it's a habit one could replace with habitual discretion--I promise, you won't regret knowing you are a trusted confidante).

3. Stop looking for all the reasons you must grant exceptions for your friend/family member in order to maintain a relationship with them. Instead, focus on how many times you laugh together and how many memories you've made. Notice their goals for the future and understand that there are still things that cause joy and sorrow in their lives.

4. Be honest. If your loved one wishes to discuss something you aren't comfortable with--say that! Don't pretend to be interested or concerned, and then avoid the person because you don't know what to say, nor do you wish to discuss the topic again.

5. Enjoy each other. Relationships are redefined constantly. Allow yours to grow and expand because of your differences. Allow your loved ones to decide their own boundaries--and don't assume you know where those are. A brother or sister who is no longer a member of the LDS church might still wish to be invited to a baby's blessing, for instance. Or that event might be something they feel is an abomination and such an invitation would not be welcome. Find out where that line is drawn and respect the feelings and beliefs of your loved one--just as you would hope your own would be respected.

6. Sometimes a relationship becomes toxic. In such a case, I would hope honesty would reign. Let your loved one know mutual interaction feels harmful--don't leave that person guessing, wondering why you're no longer a part of their life. If you don't state your reasons for needing space, you open the door for speculation, and I promise, regardless of how petty or insignificant your true reason is, the speculated one will become even more petty and spiteful.

Please stop hating the sin and loving the sinner. Stop it.

Instead, might I suggest this: "As I have loved one another."

Notice that Christ didn't say, "As I have hated the sin, but loved you...hate the sin and love one another."

Just imagine how that would warp the lovely song we sing from our hymnbooks if those extra words were included.

I suggest that the very idea of hating the sin is judgmental, haughty, and lacking in charity, because in order to hate it, we must see and define it, and in that act we place people on a sliding scale of worth. Our thoughts turn to the idea that as long as that person has that sin, we cannot welcome them completely into our lives. We seem to forget the list of our personal sins, many invisible, that we ought to, perhaps, disclose to the sin-laden person in question. After all, they ought to have equal opportunity to hate our sins while attempting to love us.

My point--if you're busy seeing the sin, you're not really seeing the person you love. And such a comment, "hate the sin, love the sinner" indicates a need for justification--an awkwardness in admitting we care about someone who might live or believe differently from ourselves. Shame has no place in real love.

How about this: When we talk of those we love--even those living lives wildly divergent from our own, wouldn't it be wonderful if we speak of all the reasons they bring us joy? What if the perceived "sin" was never mentioned? What if it was never even thought of because we're so busy being in love with people we don't have the energy to be judgmental or self-righteous?

My proposal: Stop hating the sin. Stop loving the sinner. love, serve ye one another....

...please... one another...


  1. I struggle to make rational sense of all of these thoughts, but they feel good. I'm probably not great at living them. Maybe that's partially why I've been so defensive around my own pain and fear of rejection. I appreciate the message.

  2. I'm unsure what part you feel is irrational-- clearly, it's pretty cut and dried to me. :-)

    Simply stated: I think the "hate the sin, love the sinner" crap began because people were concerned about how their connections with loved ones were perceived by others. My point is that Christ sat with the known sinners, unconcerned that his reputation might be tainted, and perhaps we could simply recognize the feelings of love we have for others without qualifying them.

    There's something rather beautiful about knowing we're all imperfect, we all have different beliefs/opinions, but we can still interact and care for one another. Pinpointing selected behaviors or sins and "excusing" them is just another way, in my opinion, of saying, "Well, you're not as good as I am, but I love you anyway," which is not a sound basis for a balanced, healthy relationship.

    It just seems to me that there are so many things to be enjoyed and celebrated in others, and that's what we ought to be concentrating on. apologies...I took out the soapbox again...

  3. I love this point of view, but I think it assumes a strength that many people haven't developed.

    I had some pretty strong love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin impulses when I was in my teens, particularly as my best friend began using salty language and telling dirty jokes. I hated that he did those things. They made me uncomfortable because I understood them to be morally wrong and I was afraid of being influenced by what he did that I hated.

    The hate comes from fear, which comes from ignorance and inexperience, which aren't necessarily things people can just change.

    In other words, I love what you're saying, but I don't think it's fair to expect everyone—many people—most people?—to do it. Not unless they have support that can help them overcome ignorance and inexperience first.

  4. I hear you--and I disagree. I believe it's completely fair to expect everyone to do this. While your statement about youthful ignorance is spot-on, the worst culprits of the behavior I eschew are adults who believe they're being charitable, and I'm calling them on it.

    Teens and children always get a bye from me when I'm being judgmental. Adults don't. If you're going to follow Christ, and Christian people are the worst offenders in this realm, then I suggest we actually do it and stop putting words in His mouth.