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March 17, 2013


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I really try to rationalize it away first with some rendition of, maybe there is more here that I'm not seeing. Or I may write it off to simple ignorance. There are very few things I'm willing to confront over anymore. I think though that in your shoes I might have said, I was wondering if just this once you could go outside for your call. This funeral is for a truly tragic death and *so many of us family members* are just feeling crushed right now, and the quiet peace of the sanctuary would really help a lot.

Odds are it was somebody attending as a formality rather than in deep bereavement like the relatives. I wouldn't set her straight on principle, I would do it to let her know she was being personally offensive at that moment. I do think people have drifted with cell phones, and it's okay to ask for silence.

There's a wide margin for me between "That is a choice *I* wouldn't make or allow my kids to make" and "That choice is wrong" and "That choice is wrong AND I'm going to interfere." I would interfere only (I think - it's hard to say what you'd do in a situation unless you are confronted with that situation in real life) if there was going to be damage to person or property.

I might make an exception if the behavior was extremely disruptive, but maybe not because I sat behind a family in church a few weeks ago with a young (5-7yo, I would guess) daughter who was playing games on a phone the whole time. She was wearing headphones, but I could still hear low level sound effects. I didn't say anything. I HAVE, however, turned around and smiled and asked someone to stop kicking my chair. So I think it's all in what I'm capable of ignoring if the behavior is not actually hurting someone.

In cases where I am not going to confront someone, I think, "Well, THAT'S a choice someone could make!" in a somewhat sarcastic tone. Then I channel my psychologist brother who asked me once, "What's the use in getting angry, Linda, if you can't change the situation?" and think, "I'm letting it go . . . " with a mental picture of the behavior and my annoyance sliding away.

SOMETIMES, I ask myself why I find the behavior wrong and do a little digging. Often my annoyance with the behavior is more a reflection of something I dislike about myself or some baggage I am carrying than it is about the other person. I think the same thing when someone interferes with ME and a decision/behavior they see as wrong. If I examine myself and my motivations and my behavior and am still convinced of my innocence, then it's usually more about them than it is about me and I shrug it off.

I feel like this is a mess, but hopefully you can glean my meaning.

I get distracted so easily so if I saw something like the phone or the giggly college kids, it would make me nuts the entire mass (says the woman with the squirmy 2 1/2 year old ...). I do get judgey, I admit. I'm working on it. But the phone thing makes me CRAZY. People are just so RUDE anymore with them.

I think there is a difference between sinning against God and sinning against societal norms. Cell phone in church? God's glad that person showed up and made a choice to participate in mass (especially considering that God knows the things that can get in the way of even spiritually mature people showing up). But from our human perspective, a cell phone in church is outrageous! How can that person DO that! It's so inappropriate!

I try to keep in mind when I find those thoughts coming up is to remind myself that I don't know their whole story. I only see a tiny picture of what is going on and that doesn't tell me ANYTHING. For example, that person on the cell phone may not have been raised in the church and was never taught proper "church behavior". Just sitting in that pew is a huge victory! That doesn't mean that it's your job to teach that person "the one true way to behave in the sanctuary", really, fight that impulse with everything in you I think that when we try to interfere with people we run a huge risk of alienating them from the church. Correction is best done in the context of a relationship when we know more of what's going on in a person's life.

The most important thing is to find opportunities for mercy when we find our feathers ruffled. Even those college girls being silly in the service reminds me of times in my life when I was less than sensible. I grew out of it, mostly, and they will, too. It's great to see them maintain their connection to the church even through that period in their lives. In a time when churches are hemorrhaging members, I think it's great to see people come, however it looks when they get there. Try not to get emotionally invested in the malfeasance of the people around you. And I almost never let myself get involved in correcting others, at least not adults and especially adults I don't know. NOT my job. My job is to be as gracious and forgiving as I can be. A friend of mine always says, "No one made ME the Holy Spirit!"

Thanks for the comments, you guys. I do want to be clear that this isn't me deciding who's worthy at Mass or who is sinning against God anywhere. It comes up in plenty of secular situations as well: people smoking in a non-smoking area, people talking in the movies, people bringing bigger boys into the women's locker room at the gym when the sign clearly says they need to be 4 or younger. I'm rarely certain about how to handle behavior that makes me uncomfortable.

I just reread my comment--I didn't mean to come across sounding so lecturing. Sorry my tone was off!

Ah, I see. The lesser instances where people for whatever reason aren't following the rules. In those moments I figure that they are just very into themselves, and I am unlikely to interrupt their little love affair. ;o) I have seen people get really radical on them in their confrontations, and mostly I don't want to be That Person. There are nicer ways of doing it, but they can be hard to think of in the emotions of the moment. I don't want to get close enough to the smelly smokers to say anything. At the gym I might either point them out to the manager; our Y has a family changing room and family bathroom for situations like that, or for when a father is bringing a young daughter. If your has one, you could mention it in case she isn't aware of it. But yes, messy. You are offended, but you probably wish to spare feelings. Talking in the movies I just endure, because if I can speak to them they're right next to me and if they're across the room I don't want to be even louder than they are. If they're really raucous I would go and get the manager, though.

I do that judgy thing in church more often than I'd like. I never say anything though. And I try to say positive things to people, especially if I like their singing, or if a young family has struggled to keep their young children quiet.

In non-church situations I will speak up on occasion but it rarely goes well even when I try to be reasonable and I'm in the right. Also I'm sure that I give cause for judginess on occasion (my family does talk in movies but we do it quietly).

When I get to Mass early I like to pray the liturgy of the hours or the angelus, which are on an app (Laudate) on my phone, but then I realize that it looks like I'm texting or playing games. I don't dare to use the phone for following the readings during Mass (there are no missals in the chapel)! On the other hand, when I use the phone app to pray the rosary or liturgy of the hours in doctors' offices, it looks like I'm texting so I get that anonymity.

You know, I was going to comment on the original post about judging, but didn't get a chance.

I was "just that" person texting on my phone just the day before I read your judgy thing (not at your Mass, of course). Granted, Mass had not started, but still. Here's my explanation I needed to inform my husband at home about communion being brought to our 12yo who had broken her ankle, and I knew I'd forget until too late if I didn't do it right then. There wasn't time to walk out and call him, and texting seemed the best way.

So reflecting on this, I realize what I wanted others to do was assume the best (at least I hope so) of me, and I try to do the same for others.

I find that I was super Mrs. Judgy when I was younger, and I have mellowed sooo much since I passed 40 years back. It is such a relief and I'm so grateful for it.

Having said that, I call still eye-roll with the best of them. There was a teen serving as usher during the youth group Mass some weeks back, and she was chewing gum all Mass long. Collecting the baskets--chewing gum. Standing in front of pews for communion-goers--chewing gum. Finally, when she got to my row, I whispered, "You probably want to get rid of the gum before communion" but I still felt horrible and judgy. So after Mass I tracked her down and said, "I hope you didn't mind, but I just know I would want someone to tell me." And she wasn't offended at all, but she easily could have been.
Thanks for the great discussion, Jamie. Nancyo, do you have the Universalis app? I use it all the time, even before Mass, and I don't even think about people thinking that I'm texting. Isn't that funny?

Some of these situations might be able to be turned from Judgey to something... else? by maybe phrasing them as a need *you* have and giving the other person a chance to show you mercy in your need? Like: turning to the giggling girls, once it's clear they don't plan to stop, and saying quietly, "I'm sorry-I have difficulty focusing on Mass. Would you be able to help me by being a tiny bit quieter?" and as they (probably) react at once with, "oh! [self-awareness kicks in] yeah!" a big/quiet, heartfelt "Thank you SO MUCH :) :)" Or to the smoker, "I'm sorry - smoke really makes it hard for me to breathe (or bothers me, or whatever the most forceful statement of the truth is, but in apologetic tone for your own weakness) - would you be able to move a little further away?" (I'm thinking of the playground no-smoking-within type rules) Just one thought, to reframe the situation from "YOU are BREAKING THE RULES" to "(these rules are supposed to be protecting me/others) Can you help me meet these needs?"

Of course, when we quietly, kindly approached the older teens cursing loudly on the bus in Boston and asked them to help meet our need to protect our toddler daughter's ears, they... did not oblige ;) Rather sought to expand her vocabulary, I guess.

I like the quote I have heard attributed to St Catherine of Alexandria - "Do not judge those around you, for everyone is fighting a great battle." And I try to remember to pray for the battles going on around me that I only see the fallout from....

Oh, and thinking about it - if you say to the giggling girls something about your struggle to focus, it gives them a window into the other battles fought by those around them, so when perhaps next week, a grumpy woman glares at them, they will have a bit of background to think, "Hmm, maybe she is having trouble concentrating" instead of "What's HER problem!" At least eventually....

I'm not a rule person - not by choice but by temperament -, not a judge-y person, and no good at confrontations. Which means I sit around getting incredibly, irrationally, seeing-red angry, rehearsing arguments in my head and stewing in hatred (really!) - all because somewhere I lack the self-confidence in myself and my rules to say 'that's not how we do things'. What I mean by this glimpse into my petty mind is that I think being judge-y has advantages: for one thing, better to get judgmental than feel hate towards people. For another, it does surely mean you're focusing on the offense and not the annoying person.
PS. I would totally see a friendly reminder of the rules as an act of charity - if the tone of the person setting me straight was such. Not very easy to do.

These things are hard because, of course, they force us to examine our motives, check our spirits, etc.. I channeled my inner "Church Lady", as I like to call her, one Sunday in the cry room at Mass. The boy in front of me looked way too old for the cry room, he was holding a blanket, and he was eating. To make a long story short, I eventually noticed his mother was wearing a bracelet that said "Autism Speaks" and the blanket was a weighted blanket. Gulp!

My last cry room issue was a teenager in short! short! short! shorts texting all through Mass. I thought her mother hadn't noticed and then the daughter passed the phone to the mother, the mother read the text and laughed, and on it went.

I think to myself, "What's the point? Why are you here?" But, really, that's for God to decipher.

The only time I've interfered was when two teenage boys were talking loudly in the narthex during the consecration while I was walking and bouncing a whimpering baby. I tried to look motherly and said, "The consecration just started."

In your example in the locker room, you were absolutely right to mention the family restroom. No one needs to be dressing in front on any ten-year-old boy ever. Good gravy.

Yes, Nancy P, the app I have is by Universalis and it's called Laudate (on an android phone). I absolutely love it! I use the rosary podcasts, the liturgy of the hours, the Mass readings. And the last time I went to the sacrament of reconciliaiton, I used the app's examination of conscience and when I finished examining, the app turned it into a script for the confessional. I was able to email the script to myself and printed it. But I could have read it right from my phone in the confessional!

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