I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how we aren’t perfect beings. We’re human, we mess up, that’s life, and that’s why Christ did the Atonement. We can make mistakes, learn from them, and become better than we were.
But now I want to make sure that something is clear – when I say that we’re imperfect, I’m not justifying our sins. Yes, we make mistakes. That’s to be expected.
That doesn’t make the sin okay.
The Atonement, when used, makes us okay. But to use the Atonement, we have to recognize that we messed up. And that’s on us.
Our Actions and God
We have choices constantly in front of us. We also have the gospel teachings in front of us, or if we don’t now, then someday we’ll have the opportunity to learn the gospel and choose to accept it or not.
I think sometimes people feel judged for the choices they make. And maybe sometimes they are being judged. I hope not, but let’s be honest, we’ve all had those judgmental thoughts once in a while. We can all be more kind to the people around us.
However, at times I think there’s an idea that it doesn’t matter what we do, we should not be judged for those actions.
Again, judgmental attitudes between God’s children are not in line with the gospel. At all. I 100% agree that we shouldn’t judge others around us.
I don’t agree that, no matter what we do, our actions don’t matter.
This whole idea builds on justifying poor behavior. That we should be able to do what we want without feeling bad about it. Again, judgment of others isn’t a good thing, but I’m talking about more than just judgment.
The fact is, what we do does matter. Maybe it shouldn’t matter to the people around us. But it should matter to us, and it definitely matters to God.
And even if the people around us don’t have the right to judge us, God does. He has this right because He has perfect knowledge. He knows us better than anyone does, even better than we know ourselves.
Samuel the prophet was told:
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.1 Samuel 16:7, King James Version
The Lord sees into our very heart and soul, and knows what is truly there. That means that He is uniquely qualified to make valid judgments of us and our behavior.
This can be a blessing, but it can also be a fear if we know we aren’t following God’s commands. When we sin, and we know we are sinning, we offend God, and we are held accountable for that. God knows why we do what we do. There’s no hiding that.
When God passes judgment, we can’t deny that His judgment is deserved, good or bad. As Alma puts it:
15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.Alma 12:15
Someday, when we meet God face-to-face, we will have to account to Him for what we’ve done and who we’ve become. This could be a pleasant experience or a painful one. It might be beneficial now to candidly account to ourselves to see how we feel we are doing. A good sign that change might need to happen is the feeling of defensiveness.
Focus on God’s Opinion
I find that when I’m struggling against the Holy Spirit telling me to change, it’s because I’m trying to justify my actions without fixing them. I get defensive any time someone says something that agrees with the Holy Spirit I’m fighting against.
It isn’t until I recognize this behavior and soften my heart that I can accept that the Holy Spirit is telling me to do the right thing.
The real problem, the root problem, is that I’m valuing the opinion of the world and my own weakness over the opinion of God.
As wrong as it is to judge others, why do we allow the opinions of other people to be our determining factor as to what is right and what is wrong? The only opinion that really matters is God’s – and if we’ve offended or disappointed Him, we have a responsibility to reconcile that.
I like Elder Christofferson’s perspective here:
Since the Savior paid for our sins and satisfied justice for us, we become debtors to Him rather than to justice. We must therefore meet the stipulations He has established for forgiveness and cleansing. Otherwise, He withdraws His proffered mediation, and we are left to deal alone with the demands of justice, lacking the means to become pure. One must choose Christ to receive what Christ offers.Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, June 2001
God set up the plan that can bring us to salvation. That means that He is the one who calls the shots. We can choose whether to do as He asks or not, He won’t force us, but we can’t expect to be free of God’s judgment when we knowingly do what goes against His commandments.
Defensiveness will not justify our actions whether we are judged by the people around us or not. And honestly, we’ll be judged by people whether or not we follow the commandments. So, while we need to stop judging the people around us, we also need to stop letting the opinions of others be the most important opinions in our lives.
The most important opinion is God’s. If we pay attention to what He asks, and do it, there will be no need for defensiveness or justifying. We will be right where He needs us when He needs us, and we will have Him with us everywhere we go.
Again, as I’ve mentioned before, we aren’t perfect. This post isn’t a call to perfection. But it is a reminder that our mistakes are choices. We have to be responsible for them. And even if no other person ever judged us again, that fact of accountability doesn’t change.
This isn’t always an easy thing to deal with. Every single one of us will struggle with taking responsibility for things we have done at some point in our lives. But if we rely on God, trust Him to understand our hearts when we sin AND when we repent, we’ll still make it through all right.