How I learned to deal with judgmental people

“Nooooo!”, they shouted, “What were you thinking?”

I honestly hadn’t anticipated that kind of reaction. Quite frankly, I hadn’t anticipated any reaction at all.

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been so astounded had the emotional outburst come from just one person. However, the unexpected reaction came from entire choir singing in unison.

At that time, I was absolutely clueless of the crime that I had committed. Nevertheless, the choir director’s contorted face resounded of disappointment…. With nowhere to run, I braced myself for the inevitable. I was in for the lecture of a lifetime.  

It was the first time that I had ever stepped into the doors of that particular church, and to be frank, I hadn’t expected my visit to include a public flogging. In fact, the purpose of my visit was simply to observe the choir rehearsal. The choir, that I was a member of, had recently lost their pianist and choir director. Our newly appointed interim director was left in a complete frenzy trying to figure out what to do about music. Once she caught wind that I played piano, she instantly appointed me as the new organist, without my consent. After several attempts trying explain that the piano and the organ were two different instruments, she mindlessly arranged for me to visit her home church to see if their choir’s organist could give me some tips.  Although I knew I knew that this was a difficult task, the thought of learning another musical instrument excited me. Without thinking twice about it, I drove to rehearsal, introduced myself to the organist, and sat down on beautiful oak chair beside him……. Unbeknownst to me, the congregation frowned upon anyone, other than a presbyter, touching that chair.

“Get off that chair!”, the director yelled in my direction, “that chair has been consecrated before the Lord, and only the Bishop Elect is permitted to sit on it.”

I stood speechless. Nothing in my 19 years of existence in a fundamental Christian culture had prepared me for a moment like the one at hand. As waves of verbal disappointment began to wash over my fading smile, I tried to recall any biblical passages regarding chair consecration. Nevertheless, the card-catalog in my memory affirmed what I believed in that moment, none existed. As far as I understood, the purpose of chairs was to provide a place to sit… and that’s exactly what I did… It was never my intention to cause a disruption of any sort.  However, the moment I realized that my ignorance of their church culture was perceived as cardinal sin, I quickly got up, stood beside the organist, and remained silent until the end of practice.

I wish I could say that was my one and only experience where I unknowingly disrupted a cultural norm of a congregation. Sadly, I’ve disappointed many clergy and lay people along the way. Since that moment, I’ve learned that chewing gum can be viewed as church desecration, kneeling to pray on only one knee can be viewed as spirit of pride and rebellion, and admitting a childhood experience of glossolalia can guarantee your expulsion from certain faith circles. My journey has taught me that cultural norms are just as existent in congregations as they are in cultural regions. Depending where you, and who you are with, what is considered as “holy,” varies significantly.

This is what my journey has taught me.

  • I remain holy, in Jesus’ sight, regardless of what others think of me.

For years I struggled meeting up to the expectations of others. No matter how hard I tried to win the approval of those I looked up too, they seemed to never be satisfied with my efforts. Instead of finding joy in my calling, I found sorrow.

In my early twenties, I ran across a gem of truth found in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesians. In the first chapter I am told that before God created the world, he chose me to be holy in his sight. The moment that I encountered this truth, I felt like a weight had been taken off me. As I read the verse, I came face-to-face with the fact that God’s chose me to be holy in his sight. And if God chose me, then it doesn’t matter who else rejects me. In fact, it doesn’t matter what opinion another may have of me. The truth remains that I am holy in His sight….. and at the end of the day that’s all that matters.

  • I can’t please everyone (and that’s completely fine).

It seemed that every time that I was introduced with a new pastor, I was also introduced with a new list of expectations. In my fundamental upbringing some denounced television, others said sports, some denounced Disney products, and the list could go on for days. Much to their disappointment I questioned everything. I had no problem following Jesus, but I did have a difficult time understanding why I had to follow the opinion of man.

As I’ve progressed in life, I’ve learned to make a list of the people whose opinion of me matter. As you might have already guessed, the list is small…. and truthfully, there are some people on that list that I’ve chosen to love despite their disapproval of me. Their opinion of me is a reminder that God has created me to be much greater than the box that they choose to place me in. It is also a reminder that despite my short comings, there is someone that will love and accept me regardless. His name is Jesus Christ.

  • Every time I am judged, there is an opportunity to demonstrate grace.

As someone who follows Jesus, I strive to live a life that follows in his footsteps. With this in mind, I am continuously aware that I must often take a stance that says, “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.” Is this easy? You bet your boots it isn’t. Nevertheless, I am always reminded to show mercy in the same manner that I’ve been shown mercy.

Unapologetically yours,

John Garay

Published by John Eli

I am a self-awareness coach (coach for humans), life strategist, blogger and speaker. I’ve spent over 21 years mentoring individuals in life skills, career transitions, relationships, and life recovery. My resume includes pastoral care, behavioral health, and higher education. From an early age, I realized that God created me to bring hope, healing and encouragement to others. I am currently living out my purpose by creating a space where people can rediscover and become all that they were created to be. I currently live in the beautiful state of Arizona with my wife, two dogs, and an antique piano whom I call, “Betty.”

25 thoughts on “How I learned to deal with judgmental people

  1. OK John you hit a few nerve endings. Of everything you have written, this post specifically hits home . As a product of a broken home because of fundamentalism, I am especially tuned it to your line, “I had no problem following Jesus, but I did have a difficult time understanding why I had to follow the opinion of man.” Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Larry. I’ve come to the point where I’m completely satisfied in the approval of Jesus. His opinion of me is greater than the opinion of any other.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great article. What a disturbing event you described. Christ would NEVER have treated you or anyone else that way. And the modern church wonders why they don’t attract new members! God bless you for taking the high road.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s an amazing story. It’s incredible how far people can veer from the Spirit, in their legalism, and in this case, provincialism. But you brought away something wonderful from this experience. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow, John, you have more patience than me. Since I’ve always been aggressive by nature, especially in my early years, I would have taken on every one of them whenever a non-biblical statement was made. I would have hammered them Scripturally … and that would have been just as bad. These days, if confronted by the same experiences you did, I would just say, “Thank you, everyone, I’ve got to go now” … and not come back.

    Thank you for sharing this account, John.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks David. At that time I was quite a mouthy young man. However, I came from a legalistic background that had its own sacred cows, I was quite used to people making up outrages rules in “the name of Christ.”… I was also significantly outnumbered, so I swallowed my pride and never returned.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sometimes people just boggle the mind with their beliefs! 😮 Thank you for the chuckle about the “public flogging” although I’m sure it did not bring a chuckle at the time. I’ve received a few critical responses to my blog, and rest in the fact that I’m doing what I know God wants me to do, so let it go and let Him deal with them and their words. Life is too short. And the only consecrated chair I know of in the Bible is the Throne of God. So I guess you are safe otherwise

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the heads up… I’ve been searching like a mad man at Ikea hoping to find a consecated chair. I guess that’s never going to happen, is it? 😉😂
      As for critics…. there will be plenty…. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is impossible to please everyone, and quite frankly its a chore that I’m not about to take on.
      Blessings my friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for stopping by brother, it has allowed me to locate your page to get some needed motivation! Hallelujah 🙌🏼😊
    Thank for reminding us that we will deal with judgmental folks not just “outside” of our faith, but also inside too. May we be slow to speak and even slower to anger 🙏🏽. Blessings always.

    Liked by 1 person

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