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Building relationships without judgment or criticism

In my practice of psychotherapy I've noticed that change often takes a long time to develop, but then it seems to happen suddenly.

I have also noticed that change is not complete. That is, it is in part, and no one ever achieves total and radical departure from the things that have been troubling them.

Does that mean that psychotherapy doesn't work? No. It just means that psychotherapy mirrors life.

There is always something more upon which to work, and for the client the question then becomes how much change is good enough?

Nobody is perfect. Or, to put it like Paul did to the Christians in Rome, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

We are all imperfect. We are not merely finite, we are broken in some ways. The image of God in each of us has been marred so that when a person looks at it, they see a vague figure with scratches and dark places all over it. It's like that in every person.

Because of that pride seems like the greatest folly to me. The tale of the Emperor's New Clothes is a perfect case in point.

Since he could not admit that he did not see the “new clothes” the tailors foisted upon him, playing upon his pride as the Emperor, he walked out in front of everyone totally naked.

Watch people long enough and you will see them doing the same thing at some point.

Acting as if they were not all scratched up and darkened in their understanding, many people pretend to themselves and everyone else as if they were wearing a grand outfit, as if they have status and place in life because they have money, because they have position, power, and the attention of others.

The real nature of sin is not that it comprises a list of dirty little secrets, the no-no's, and the things at which people wave their fingers and treat others as if they had been naughty.

The real nature of sin is also not just that it transgresses God's law, God's standards in design with regard to how the moral universe has been set up by Him.

I believe the most important feature of sin is relational.

When Adam and Eve sinned, their intimacy with God was broken, and they hid from Him.

Sin is displeasing to God; it is unacceptable to Him. It's like walking into God's house grimy and dirty from the world and not taking off your boots and just throwing your dirty self all over his furniture and smelling up the place with your stink.

Sin is offensive to God. It is offensive because it falls short of the glory of God, falls short of His standards, but really it is simply offensive.

So, what kind of a person do you want to be? Are you one of those who likes to point out all the various ways in which people sin, to make sure everyone knows what their respective failings are, just how much dirt they have all over them, and how badly they smell?

If so, you might tell yourself that it's your ministry, your purpose in life, and that God has placed you in the world in order that people might realise their need of a saviour. I suppose that might be. But if so, please consider a few things.

First, there has never been a great abundance of such prophets. The Biblical prophet was called of God to be a prosecuting attorney, to bring God's case against his people. So, is it that someone feels they are so special as to be one of them?

Second, such an approach to social life certainly becomes tedious for other people; if all a person can do is find fault, how many friends can stand that over any length of time — to say nothing of family members.

So, I have been thinking about this, and how I much prefer to focus on grace, and I was thinking about a certain part of scripture when I went to church this Sunday and the Pastor (Terence Stovell) referred to it as well.

Once there was a woman caught in adultery, and the people who all were focused on catching people in their sin brought her before Jesus. They wanted Him to condemn her.

There could not have been a more black and white situation than that.

The Mosaic law stated that adultery was sin and that those who committed that sin should be stoned to death.

Jesus took stock of the situation, and he said to the people who were getting ready to kill her, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”

They all dropped their rocks. I liked Pastor Stovell's take on this. It reinforces my decision to emphasise grace.

There is no one who is without sin, so there is no one who is qualified to cast the first stone — no one is qualified to condemn others because of sin.

That fits with Jesus's assertion that He would send the Holy Spirit after his ascension and that the Holy Spirit would take care of convicting people about sin.

So, it seems to me that when people go off the deep end pointing out how abortion, drug use, sexual activity outside of marriage, homosexuality and the like are sins, they are out of line with the will of God and by that very action might be considered to be sinning.

That could be stretch, because surely God has called some people to be instruments of the Holy Spirit at times, but I doubt very much if the self-righteous among us qualify.

Further, it strikes me as odd that those who are the most adamant about catching others in their sins seem to habitually focus on sexual sins.

What about the list that Paul gave to the Christians in Galatia: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

When I work with people in psychotherapy I am building a relationship in which I include the experience of the client without judgment or criticism.

I like how that works in life as well. I know that God has a standard, and I am personally accountable to Him for my adherence to it, but with regard to others, I must leave it to them to work out their own, relative salvation as a matter of their specific relationship with Him.

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Published May 20, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 19, 2014 at 9:01 pm)

Building relationships without judgment or criticism

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