Thursday, October 2, 2008

Convictions vs. judging

I happened to find this article a few days ago, and have been wanting to link to it and share a few words of my own. While obviously, I don't agree with everything the writer believes, she shares very beautifully a truth I haven't been able to word too well, and that is: having convictions about something, even strong convictions, isn't remotely related to finger-pointing, guilting, blaming, and sticking our noses into what others are doing.

She talks, specifically, about the privacy of a woman's womb and the decision of how many children one should have. It is, indeed, between husband, wife and the Almighty. I might have my convictions, but I would never dream of stepping up to someone I know, pointing my finger and asking, "and why aren't you having more children?"

I believe the same can be applied in other areas as well. A couple of days ago, someone told here on the blog that she feels guilty and judged for having a dishwasher, because of a discussion about conserving resources and being frugal. Ladies, I don't even know you personally! I don't know your families or your personal circumstances or, in fact, anything about you. And if I did, so what? Every day, I walk past houses which are nicer and bigger than ours, and it doesn't mean I think, "our neighbours probably have two cars and lots of brand new clothes - wasters!"

I might be supportive of living frugally, but it wouldn't occur to me to ask you, "why did you buy that car?"; I might believe breastfeeding is wonderful for mothers and babies, but I would never say, "you are a bad mother if you don't breastfeed". Your choices are so far beyond my field of competence that I'd rather not even dwell on them.

Living out what I believe in doesn't mean, to me, that I'm supposed to stand in judgment of fellow human beings. It means, largely, that I see how it can be applied to my own life. I'd rather concentrate on improving my own attitude than make the mistake of finger-pointing, while I ignore the log in my own eye. I will do my best not to cast judgment or offer unwanted advice.

I am not the Almighty, and it's crystal clear to me that we can never see the full picture of what others are doing. Therefore, we should be very, very careful before saying or even thinking anything negative. We just never know what injustice we might have done carelessly, and how damaging and painful it might be. Instead, we should act, above all, in love and with love guiding every step.

***

On another note, after spending a very pleasant and relaxing Rosh Hashana with family, we are finally back home, and there's a lot to do - so I'm about to get to work. How good it is to be home! All our things need to be unpacked, some items of clothing washed, bedding and towels changed, shopping list compiled, and there's also some cooking for Shabbat to do. And if I'm lucky, maybe I'll even have time to wash a couple of windows today.

23 comments:

Terry, Ornament of His Grace said...

Great post, Anna. You know, it's interesting how we react to certain things. I read your post about overconsumption and when I got to the part about dishwashers I laughed because we, too, have a dishwasher. I was tickled because I thought to myself, "if I ever tried to get rid of the dishwasher, my kids would revolt!"

I was not offended because as you said, your post was general in nature and there is no way you can make a personal judgment on any of us because you don't know us.

For the record, our family is so large that we would waste more water if we hand washed all the dishes it takes to put a meal together around here.Water conservation is a huge deal in our state. Which goes back to my original point. While it's wonderful that we can receive encouragment from each other through this medium of blogging, we must always filter what we read through the prism of our own situations.

And I loved Laine's letter. I thought she was absolutely right about many of th things that women divulge and discuss online that they shouldn't.

may said...

Mrs Anna T, an admirable post, gracefully and thoughtfully expressed. You've given me something to think about. This is exactly why I read your blog.

A sweet and happy new year to you and your husband.

Tia said...

Amen Anna,

When I blog, I blog about things the way I see them. I blog about my life, which I try to lead in the way I believe is best for my family, in our situation, in our circumstances. I can say "this is what works for me" and "this is what I believe is right for me". It is about my own accountability, not trying to make others answer to my standards. I think you manage this with grace.

Tia

Mrs. P said...

Wonderful post!
I think that we as women tend to forget that in the race to become the best that we can be, we often end up turning it into a contest of becoming better than the rest. Know what I mean?
As far as convictions go, I try not to use that word myself. I find the rare times I do, God usually turns me right around on that topic til I'm backtracking and proclaiming quite the opposite, much to my general embarrassment. I've come to appreciate my friends who do have strong convictions all the more though. I've learned much from them, even if it never changes my stance personally.

Bella said...

Hi Anna,
Lovely post! In your Children - fruit of love post, you wrote, "I might have mentioned before how irritating I find the assumption that having a baby is something on your to-do list which you can achieve whenever you decide."

And in this post, you wrote, "She talks, specifically, about the privacy of a woman's womb and the decision of how many children one should have. It is, indeed, between husband, wife and the Almighty.

So, correct me if I'm wrong, you think it's okay for a couple to decide how many children they should have and not okay to decide when? It's okay to tie your tubes, use birth control, etc. when a couple feels that they have "enough" kids and not okay to use birth control when a couple decides "not yet." These two posts seem to contradict each other.

My husband and I are newly married and through prayer, we have decided to wait a bit to have children. In the past, one person said to us, "children are a blessing from God, how can you wait and why wait?" My husband and I feel that we don't have to explain ourselves to anyone, especially when it comes to our decisions about having a family.

Human beings interfere with nature ALL the time. God gave us a mind to make decisions. He also gave us the gift of science.

The majority of our Christian brothers and sisters, even our Jewish friends feel the same way as we do. And thankfully, just one person we've met felt the need to point a finger, judge, and stick her nose in our business.

I do love your posts and am just trying to understand your opinion on this matter.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bella,

In the other post you bring up, I objected to the way the blessing of children is seen as something trivial, as if we can "decide", and have a child as soon as we - hocus pocus! - start "trying". Not so. The Lord is the One Who opens and closes the womb. I don't recall discussing specifically birth control in that post. I simply stated children are not gadgets to be obtained whenever we desire, but blessings we must fervently pray for. There are countless, countless stories of couples who used birth control for years, and when they finally decided it's "time", went through a journey of infertility - and only then realized Who is in control.

In this post, again, I avoided talking about what is "okay" or "not okay" in my eyes. I simply tried to clarify that what I think about any matter IN GENERAL has little to do with what I say/think about the decisions made by my friends, neighbours, and loved ones. Quite simply, it is none of my business.

To illustrate what I'm saying, several times recently I was contacted by people who seem to have labeled me according to certain things they believe in. They allow themselves to point their fingers and say (write), "you are this and that!" - they don't even know me. Yet they allow themselves to judge. Not to express convictions, but to judge.

This is what I'm warning against.

Andrea said...

I think that the more often we are exposed to the harsh judgment of others in any particular area, the quicker we are to perceive it in other peoples' remarks on similar topics, even when no such judgment is intended. It's a sad testimony to just how much self-righteous condemnation does exist out there when people have been so beaten down by it that they almost come to expect it (and I do speak from experience!)

Anna, I wanted not only to encourage you that I personally did not perceive any judgment against my dishwasher in that last post(!) but at the same time also say that my heart goes out to the commenter who did, because I understand how easy it would have been to read something like that into what was written, and not even through any fault of your own.

I have been exposed to repeated condemnation in other areas of my life and in those particular areas I find I too am very quick to perceive a judgmental attitude even when none has been intended. It's sad, really, because I find that what should be my natural desire to improve in areas where I honestly do fall short has been used against me by others attempting to pound a message into me that I do not measure up, when in fact the measuring stick these people are using is one they themselves have constructed out of patched-together ideals that I am not bound to adhere to.

I certainly don't see any such "pounding" in your post, but I do see how it could have been perceived should a reader have had a history of things in that area being unfairly used as a measure against her.

Aelwyn said...

I think that in modern society we have become "labelers". It is judgement, but we have become so used to wanting to put each other into categories. I see that so much in the present political situation in the U.S. (i.e. A "rural" person could not possibly understand anything to do with international politics. etc.)

I saw this as a teacher as well. It was so easy to just try to put a child into some kind of box.

God made us wonderfully diverse as people and we are all still learning. I think humility is called for in all things.

Bella said...

Thank you for your comments. I understand you saying that you feel some people think the blessing of children is seen as something trivial and think they can get pregnant immediately after birth-control. It is completely in the hands of God. However, God did give us a mind to choose and the gift of science. We always interfere with nature for so many reasons, why can't we interfere with this?
I guess it's a matter of opinion.

I know countless, countless stories of couples who decided to wait and had perfectly healthy children.
Maybe the women who chose to wait and were on birth control weren't able to have children in the first place... who knows? I don't think there is any research to support that birth control can cause infertility nor have I heard this anyway. Eh, I don't think it's wrong for a couple to have children right away or to wait. It's their decision.

When this person came up to me and asked, "How can we wait?" She had her tubes tied after 3 children to prevent having anymore. So, I asked her "what's the difference?". She couldn't give me a valid answer.

Becky said...

Love your posting. You are so right.
Thanks for reminding us.
God bless.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bella,

I'm not saying that birth control necessarily causes infertility. Like you said, there might have been an infertility problem in the first place. No, I'm talking about something entirely different: us being too confident in our neat little plans, forgetting Who is in control.

"Let's see, I'm graduating next year. Three months of vacation, and then it will be a good time to become pregnant. Yep, I think we'll have our first baby in two years."

This attitude, and this attitude alone, is what I see as wrong. Why? Because it takes the Lord out of the picture. People assume they will have a child *whenever they want to*, and it is simply not so.

Bella said...

When people say: "Let's see, I'm graduating next year. Three months of vacation, and then it will be a good time to become pregnant. Yep, I think we'll have our first baby in two years."

So let them go on vacation and then try for a baby.
God opened doors for them to take the time to travel. Good for them! God created this earth for us! Why not travel a bit and enjoy this beautiful earth with just your loving husband.

People also told me" We plan to get pregnant on our honeymoon".

You know, these statements have never really bothered me nor have I ever thought this attitude was "wrong". I never took it as them predicting their fate. I haven't heard anyone else feel this way either. Well... this is the first time. But there's a first time for everything! LoL!

God has instilled us with hope. Without hope, we die internally. I feel when couples say these things, it's them trusting God and having a sense of hope. They know it's in God's hands. And if they can't get pregnant when they want to, then they'll keep praying that God will give them the desires of their hearts. It says this in His Word. He promises this to us and He is ALWAYS faithful.

J.M. said...

Allow me to tell a little story,
Just a few years ago my husband seriously considered taking steps to end our child-producing years. When I say "seriously", I mean the surgery was scheduled. As the day approached something just kept tugging at our hearts, saying that would not be a good idea, so he didn't go through with it.
Fast forward about a year, and we're expecting another child. A girl. We decide to name the child after both of her grandmothers, the first name being my husband's mother. When we told "Granny" she was more than happy.
Fast forward again. A few months after our darling little daughter was born, my mother-in-law discovered that the cancer she had been fighting was back and more aggressive than ever. She passed away less than a year after her little namesake was born.
Our precious little daughter is a miracle. She has the same bearing, the same face-shape, even some of the same mannerisms and food preferences as the grandmother she will never get to know personally. Sometimes she puts her little head on my husband's shoulder, he says to me how grateful he is that he did not keep his "appointment." What hope God has given our whole family in this unexpected blessing!
Of course, having children is a highly personal decision, but I would urge anyone who has doubts to carefully listen to the still small voice reminding them of God's goodness.
J.M.

Sasa said...

Thank you so much!! Your thoughts match my feelings wonderfully.

Mrs. P said...

I have to agree with Anna on this whole birth control/planning children thing.

After our 2 "mistakes" (I truly believed they were!), I was on Depo Provera for 4 and a half years. In that time, I became a Christian, and God worked many miracles on my heart and spirit. In August '07, we decided to go off of birth control "knowing" we'd have another baby in our arms within 9 months, 10 months tops. After all, our first 2 came while we were preventing, and everyone mocked us for our fertility.
Well, it's been over a year, and although we've had one miscarriage, we have no idea when or even ~if~ another child will be given to us by the grace of God. I carry a heavy burden in my heart now. What on earth was I thinking, those years of preventing and hating the idea of more kids?
Just because your first batch of kiddos comes easily doesn't mean that God will give you more at a later date. I would caution couples considering long term birth control to think about NFP or maybe letting God handle it all. He knows what He's doing mroe than we do.

Shannon & Richard said...

I love this post of yours Anna, but I think you did miss one piece of the puzzle. The people who write to you and feel judged, upset, whatever, also have tiny kernals of guilt that drive those feelings.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." and in the blogging world, many are too quick to point that finger out, rather than internally.

I personally feel that we have such low self-esteem (here in the US anyways) that we rely on external factors over which we have little control (beauty, things, how other people view us) to make us feel good and are thus very insecure.

Secure people, both secular and religious rely on internal measures for our self esteem - and I think we are better people for it. I don't need someone on a blog to write something to make me feel good or bad. I am secure enough to read all kinds of thoughts, think about them, and decide how it matches up to my own internal codes/morals, etc.

I'm afraid the art of conversation and reasoned debate is lost to the vast majority of folks. I'm hopeful that with comments on blogs, we can regain that art - as it opens large community discussion to so many more people.

So thank you again for such a lovely post - your dialogue is a joy to read, and always thought provoking.

Shan-Oh

The Chatty Housewife said...

Thank you for sharing that link. I have had questions recently that knock on my door of privacy and I really appreciated they way that she stated her beliefs about the womb and questions surrounding it being very private. I was so glad to read her letter and feel comforted by it.

I also am having fun reading her other letters, so thanks again!

Shannon & Richard said...

Dear Anna T - I really liked this post, as always you have an elegant writing style that is a joy to read, no matter what you feel.

One point that I believe you missed in your discussion of judgement, is that people who feel judged often have tiny kernals of guilt inside themselves.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently said "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

I think it comes down to insecurity. If one does not feel secure in their beliefs, or does not feel good about themselves, things like blog posts affect them. If you are secure in your convictions, your morals and about why you do what you do - you are free to read and watch what you want to, use your intellect and judgement to decide what you do and don't agree with, and know why that it is.

Far too many in the blogosphere are willing to point the finger outwards, rather than inwards. The art of conversation and debate has been lost, as far too many people have limited aquantences, and spend a vast amount of time in one sided discussions (watching TV). I'm hopeful that blogging will actually change that. It provides a large community conversation to so many people.

So keep your chin up, know that there are many of us who can read your posts, disagree with them, and still enjoy reading them and thinking about the points you bring up!

ShanOh

Rose said...

Dear Anna,

You and I -- in many outward respects -- could not be more different. I am 30 years older than you, I don't have children, I wear pants not dresses, I am somewhat feminist.

Yet I am drawn to your blog for its conviction, for its lack of judgement and wholesome virtues -- things you and I share.

I often find difference is just a gap in similarity. And I delight in it.

Best wishes as always,

Rose

misskassandra said...

Hi, Anna!

I've commented once before but I just wanted to chime in-I couldn't agree more! There are so many things that people can and do disagree over, but how many of them in the end are worth the fight? Not to say that there isn't right and wrong, but in how we deal with others we should always be gracious and assume we don't know the whole story. I'm finding this to be especially true as last weekend I was married, and the decisions my husband and I are making are a bit unorthodox in nature according to our culture...I need to be gracious in how I deal with people and their comments to me-but as well in how I view them. I can just trust that God is leading us down this path, and that He's doing the same for them.

MarkyMark said...

It's been my personal experience that, if one lives their convictions in a serious, deliberate way, many people will INTERPRET that as being judgmental anyway. You don't HAVE to discuss convictions or say anything judgmental; LIVING YOUR CONVICTIONS will do this, because your actions are a mirror to the sins of others. As the Bible says, we ought to obey God, and not man. Those are my thoughts on this.

Alysa said...

Anna, this is a question totally removed from the aspect of childbearing.

The post you initially referred to was written by a Catholic woman, and you mentioned that you didn't agree with all it contained. There have been other times that you have linked to Christian posts/blogs, and I was wondering what your perspective of these was, and the perspective of other Orthodox Jews in general?

I love reading your blog, because your gentle style eloquently reflects your love for your husband, your baby, homemaking, and above all, our Lord God. You've taught me much about what it means to be a prudent wife, as well as many truths of the "Old Testament."

I hope you don't find my question intimidating, but I am just curious. I will understand if you choose not to post it or answer it.

May the Lord continue to bless you, as you encourage others!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Alysa,

To put it very simply, I believe we can learn from each other even if some of our convictions or religious beliefs clash. Otherwise, I would have to always read only Orthodox Jewish writers, and I feel I would miss out on much if I did that.