Mind your own affairs and others affairs don’t matter

A response to Thomas Oppong’s Life Gets (a Lot) Better When You Stop Giving a F*ck

BPK’s like me get to see the action first hand. [1] I spent the first eighteen years of my life listening to prayers like, “Holy father, show brother Ellis that his secret drinking problem will keep him from heaven,” or “please work on sister Sharon to stop her sexual promiscuity.” I quickly learned that “judge not others lest ye be judged,” meant “unless it’s for their own good.”

My Baptist elders repeatedly told me, “don’t date Catholic girls. They’re fast.” [2] When I finally understood what “fast” meant, I decided to date nothing but Catholic girls. Alas, my elders missed the boat. Catholic girls made Baptist girls look oversexed (and I was lucky to get over the blouse action with them). [3]

Once I started college, and my father no longer required me to sit in the front row every Sunday, I thought I’d be free of Baptist judgment. I quickly learned the Baptists didn’t corner the market on judgment. Even Christians couldn’t claim that honor. Judgment bleeds through the genes. I’ve collided with judgmental educators, judgmental Republicans, judgmental feminists, the judgmental (and pompous) men who drove those women to judgmental feminism, judgmental Democrats, judgmental bureaucrats, judgmental leftists, and one extremely judgmental orthopedic surgeon (I found a new surgeons the next week).

When my Baptist elders justified their judgments of others, they inevitably cited Paul’s letter to the church in Rome (aka Romans) as their authority. God hates queers, adulterers, gossips and cheats. “Look it up,” they’d say. Romans offered a verse to justify judging any human behavior.

It’s easy to think Paul condemned every one but himself. If, however, you put down your underlining pen and read the letter as a letter, not a collection of verses, a different message emerges. Paul, a master of rhetorical strategy, begins by calling out the very evils so many politicians rail against now: homosexuals, murders and haters of God. [4] He goes onto say that gossip, envy, ruthlessness (prized in business transactions), boasting (Trump anyone) and even stupidity are every bit as bad as same-sex sex.

His conclusion? We’re all in the same boat, fucked-up and guilty of something (in the Latin: youa culpa). [5]

Do unto others

Thomas Oppong insists that the cure to judgmentalism is to not give a fuck. I find that view short sighted and self-centered. When an individual says s/he doesn’t give a fuck, s/he’s still proclaiming, “The world is about me.” In truth, the universe is an infinite, uncaring place that doesn’t give a shit about any of us. Unfortunately the idea that we owe nothing to those around us but our own happiness leads to social disfunction.

If I browbeat friends, employees and family members, cheat people with less power than me out of their money or livelihood, routinely backstab my friends and fellow employees, and, even worse, encourage others to behave like me to assuage my guilt, feel free to pile the judgement on. I deserve all of it.

When others judge me, I’m required to ask if their judgment is fair. Quite often they’re right. Ironically, it was only as I tried to counsel my own son about how to avoid conflict and judgment, that I realized I could have used that counsel myself. Not just when I was at his age, right now. [6]

Teachers and mentors hold up the golden rule because it still provides a great compass for self-reflection and responding to judgement. First, make sure you aren’t treating others in a manner that brings judgment onto your shoulders. Second, once you’ve done the first, you don’t have time or inclination to judge them.

From Forever Beloved

Judging others masks our own failures

We judge others as a coping mechanism. Rather than face up to our own shortcomings, and investing the time and effort (and sometimes money) to overcome them, we say to ourselves, “At least I’m not Republican. They’re narrow minded, judgmental and unforgiving.” [7] Judgment is little more than rationalization, a mechanism to forgive ourselves for our own failures. As long as s/he’s that bad (we tell ourselves) I don’t have to worry about my behavior.

Once you mind your own affairs, you no longer need to judge others to compensate. Others will still judge you, but the people that matter will treat you with respect and admiration. Plus, when the moment arrives when you need to call someone for behavior that is, truly, inapproprate, others are less likely to listen when they point the finger of judgement back at you.


[1] Baptist Preachers’ Kids.

[2] Baptists didn’t like Catholics when I went to school, calling them the whore of Babylon. (Sex occupied Baptist thinking, perhaps because they were afraid to get any.) It took the Christian Jimmy Carter’s Presidency to change their minds and join together to resist the spread of secular humanism and baby murder.

[3] Only in college did I discover my elders should have used the phrase “ex-Catholic girls.”

[4] Politicians often substitute “adultery” for “opposing family values” since, sooner or later, a reporter will out their own affairs.

[5] Okay, it’s actually tu ad culpam, but nobody speaks Latin anymore (including me) and “tu ad culpam” doesn’t make a good punch line.

[6] His other issues are his mother’s fault.

[7] Think of “Republican,” “narrow-minded,” “judgmental” and “unforgiving” as variables in this sentence (x,y,z and p). You can exchange them for any other set of judgments (e.g. “Barack Obama, antiChrist, communist, marriage-destroyer”).

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