Skip to main content

The Vice-Virtue Judo move, in three steps...

As we see again in this Sunday's gospel, Jesus frequently warned us about the dangers of being judgmental.

"Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves, that they were righteous, and regarded others with contempt."

Person A - who was a religious, law-abiding person -- goes to the temple and prayed, "I thank you God, that I'm not like other people," especially not like sinners and tax collectors." Person A is our tendency to hold ourselves up as good examples by comparing ourselves to others. 

Person B - a tax collector, and so probably someone who was thought of as corrupt, despised, and even a traitor - stands at a distance and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Person B is the grace you receive to judge only your self, and not to engage in comparison at all.

Guess who goes home "justified" (put right, made right) with God? (Hint: it's not us when we are being judgmental.)

As Oswald Chambers writes, Jesus wants us, as his followers, to "cultivate a temperament that is never critical."

But how? How do we do that? How do we avoid falling into the trap of being judgmental?

Well, a simple three-step strategy that I heard of some years ago helps.

I call it the "vice-virtue judo move."

STEP ONE: Think of something that bothers you about other people, and ask yourself "what is the vice that underlies that behavior?" Name it. Don't just get annoyed at the behavior, stop and ask yourself, "What underlying vice is behind that behavior?" Give it a name. For example, is it selfishness? Mean-spirited ness? Prejudice? A lack of care? Greed?

STEP TWO: ask yourself, "what is the opposite virtue of that vice?"-what is the antonym? What does the opposite behavior look like? For example: If the vice is selfishness, then generosity might be opposite; if meanness, then kindness; if prejudice, then open-mindedness; if lack of care, then kindness; if greed, then sharing.

STEP THREE: Practice that virtue in your own life.

This is the single best way I know of short-circuiting my own judgmental attitudes, because it forces me to re-focus on my own attitudes and behaviors.

A word of warning, though: adopting this practice takes patience. As Oswald Chambers writes, "this [change of heart and habit] will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person. ... If I see the little speck in your eye, it means I have a plank of timber in my own eye. Every wrong thing that you see in another person, God finds in you. Every time we judge, we condemn ourselves. Stop having a measuring stick for other people."

Instead, let our prayer be,

"I don't have a leg to stand on...

"I live in a glass house, I can't throw stones...

"God, be merciful to me, a sinner."

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Let's Unpack One Trump Tweet on Refugees

No one can  -- and I certainly don't want to try -- to unpack every tweet the person currently holding the office of President of the United States sends out.

No one has the time to respond to every one of his tweets on just one issue. Although I wish I had the time on the issue of the Executive Orders recently issued in regard to refugees.

But every so often I feel I MUST respond to at least SOME of those tweets, lest I grow accustomed to them as normal. And I refuse to normalize the abnormal. 

Take one of Saturday's tweets, for example: in response to Judge Robart's temporarily stopping an Executive Orders, there was this: 



“What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.?” 

Let's unpack: 

"What is our country coming to..." 
Does that lament sound familiar? Ask yourself: who often says it, where do you hear it from the most? Is it a positive, hopeful line of thinking? I wil…

The Beatitudes, Lady Liberty, and Refugees

A sermon preached January 29, 2017
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…

The Best Posture of this Country

A sermon preached September 6, 2015

The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal Falls Church, Virginia
James 2:1-17 Mark 7:24-37
In case you’re confused by the service leaflet, where it says Kelly is supposed to be preaching today, well, she was, and she was planning to. But yesterday she came down with the stomach flu, and of course we encouraged her to stay home until she’s 100%.  
(And to think I came this close to getting out of having to preach on a couple of very tough passages…)
(Kelly’s sermon, by the way, was written well ahead of time and is, as we have already come to expect, excellent. And inspiring – I was inspired reading it.* Hard copies are available, and will be made available on line.)  
What you’re going to get from me today is a little different than a normal sermon.
Today I want to tell you a story – a bit of my own family history -- and then read you a poem. And then show you how I think that story and the poem relate to today’s lessons and to current events.