forgiving vs. condoning

Elder Holland's General Conference talk in April struck me with the following passage.
At the zenith of His mortal ministry, Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” [John 15:12] To make certain they understood exactly what kind of love that was, He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” [John 14:15] and “whosoever … shall break one of [the] least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be … the least in the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:19]  Christlike love is the greatest need we have on this planet in part because righteousness was always supposed to accompany it. So if love is to be our watchword, as it must be, then by the word of Him who is love personified, we must forsake transgression and any hint of advocacy for it in others.  Jesus clearly understood what many in our modern culture seem to forget: that there is a crucial difference between the commandment to forgive sin (which He had an infinite capacity to do) and the warning against condoning it (which He never ever did even once).
I have often supported or encouraged in others things that I would not accept for myself. Sometimes I feel like this is okay, and sometimes it falls into "condoning sin."

Let's start with a softball example: pierced ears. Paul taught that the body is a temple (among lots of other crazy stuff), and the LDS church has discouraged piercings and tattoos, with the exception that it's okay for women to have one earring in each ear.  I don't have any piercings, nor do I want any, but I have no problem buying earrings for people, or complimenting earrings.  Honestly, I think non-traditional piercings and tattoos can also be very tasteful.  Simply put, I'm condoning things that I wouldn't accept for myself.  But the things I'm condoning aren't really a sin, I just have a weird thing against body modification for myself.  It's one of the thing I'm compulsive about: I can't even draw on myself with pen and not be scrubbing it off within a few minutes.

Alright, so the easy stuff is over; let's move right on over to the difficult and sensitive issues: gay marriage and sex outside of marriage.  I'm supportive of gay marriage rights. I'm also supportive of my friends who have sex outside of marriage.  But should I be?  I have no idea.  I don't really know what is sinful and what isn't—this is the crux of the problem.  On some level I just don't care about the details of personal choices my friends are making.  Mostly, I don't want them to feel judged constantly whenever they talk about their partner and I want to keep being their friends.  If I don't say anything supportive, they might very well presume I'm stewing in religious judgement, which I'm not.  For me, it really is as simple as the pierced ears example: I'm not going to do it myself, but I think other people can be happy with different choices.

For less complicated issues, I might think that people could be happier with alternative choices.  If they asked my advice, I'd probably guide them according to my personal morals.  But on socially charged topics, it's really hard to disentangle the "sin" from the "sinner."  If a dear friend is gay, how can you possibly tell them in love that you disapprove of them having any kind of romantic relationship?  Are you just supposed to let it sit there awkwardly?

I can't forgive friends for certain things (like being gay) because there is nothing to forgive.  They haven't wronged me in any way and it's not my place to pass judgement. For this same reason I cannot condone or condemn their actions.  I trust people to choose the best path for themselves.  I will give advice when asked and will try to be supportive of them as individuals.  If I am guilty of condoning sin, it is because I think everyone should have the choice to determine for themselves what qualifies as sin.  I'm certainly still figuring it out for myself.

While I seem to be dismissing Elder Holland's remarks, I still am rolling them around in my mind and heart.  In particular, there are certainly times that I fake approval of other people's choices (trivial or otherwise) because I'm a people-pleaser.  The real thing that I've internalized from his comments is to stop that behavior; I should just be honest about my reactions to things.  If I don't like the way that skirt looks, I shouldn't say I do and encourage my friend to buy it because she likes it.  If I don't think a particular couple should move in together, I shouldn't fake my support because I'm worried that they'll think I'm being judgmental otherwise.  I should have confidence in my opinions and stop trying to say what other people want to hear.


Jeff Kaufman said...

"Paul taught that the body is a temple (among lots of other crazy stuff), and the LDS church has discouraged piercings and tattoos, with the exception that it's okay for women to have one earring in each ear."

I'm missing a step here. How does a pair of pierced ears on a woman respect the body as a temple while the same on a man, or an additional ear piercing on a woman, wouldn't?

Can an LDS woman have a single pierced ear?

ajbc said...

On the missing step: I have no idea; I've never really understood these guidelines. I think it boils down to social norms and gender roles: it's pretty common for women to have one piercing in each earlobe, but less so for men to have them. Mormons have a history of being peculiar, and so I think this was one of the many attempts to conform to some interpretation of normal.

LDS women can have variations in piercings and still be "card-carrying." I think the only way these guidelines could impact you is through individuals' biases or your ability to represent the church (e.g., missions).

MelissaDaams said...

I like the 11th article of faith... Allow others to worship , how where or what they may...

ajbc said...

That's a good angle to it.