There's this thing I hear people say all the time, though fortunately not to me. But they say it about others. I even used to say it myself. But now when I hear people say it, I kinda cringe. It goes something like this:
"If she's so spiritual/religious/Christian, then how come she _____?"
The reason I cringe is because when we call out people for their own hypocrisy, we're being hypocrites. Especially when it comes to calling others out for their levels of morality, judgment, belief, loyalty or faith.
I have yet to meet the perfect person. I have yet to meet anyone without a shadow, secret shame, unwise habit or otherwise unhealthy behavior hiding in the closet. And the degree to which we judge others for these things is equivalent to the degree to which we're in denial about our own behaviors...the degree to which we are being a hypocrite. It stings, but it's true. And this goes for pretty much everything, not just for someone's spirituality.
Of course there have been many times in my life where I've gotten small lessons in this, but my first big lesson in it came when I quit smoking cigarettes. I had known on some level for years that I was addicted to nicotine, but I didn't understand that my need to introduce the drug into my system every 15-30 minutes was the same as "getting a fix". And that the desperate cravings I had and the depths to which I would go to relieve them (like smoking butts) on unsuccessful quit attempts made me a "junkie."
In my journey with quitting, I learned that an addict is an addict and the thing you're addicted to is just a detail. So a lot of the judgments I had about drug addicts, alcoholics, compulsive people, gamblers and others who exhibited addictive and compulsive behavior subsided. And when it comes bubbling up again, I just have to look at the number on my bathroom scale to put myself right.
There are a lot of ways to express addictive and compulsive behavior, from being a neat freak who just can't bear to see something out of place to being me who just can't bear to see any chocolate left in the wrapper. We both have the same urges pulling us to get our fix. And you can argue that the neat freak is healthier and therefore better than the overeater, but you'd be wrong. They've both got issues that cause stress inside their bodies and cause concern with others in their lives. A junkie is a junkie. It's like saying the murderer is better than the pedophile because the murderer doesn't harm children. The fact is, you don't want either of them living next door to you. And if you had to make a choice between the two, you'd probably move.
This whole thing about "if she's so spiritual..." subsided when I realized that, no matter how spiritual I was, I wasn't perfect. I made mistakes. My behavior didn't always align with my beliefs. And my beliefs didn't necessarily drive all my behaviors. When I realized I was a human on an imperfect journey, working on things in one room, while ignoring things in another room, it occurred to me that others may be doing the same thing. When I realized that I couldn't always keep the 10,000 balls up in the air that you need to keep up in the air in order to be perfectly pious and servile to my higher power, I started giving others a break. And when I saw how, after I grew, I could look back and see how silly or misguided my previous ways were, I just let other be.
There's a certain snobbery that people have over religion and spirituality. We'll say we respect other religions while we mock their gods and criticize their "stupid" beliefs. We'll question "how Christian" another person is being while we, ourselves, are refusing to let another car into traffic on the highway. We'll expect our odd little corner of belief to be respected while we criticize anyone who doesn't believe the same way we do.
But the thing is, if we believe in being kind to others...if we believe in building community...if we believe in lifting ourselves up higher and leaving this earth a better person, then every time we make a judgment against another person, we're being a hypocrite. Because judgment is not kind, inclusive or high minded. And most of the time we're judging, we're guilty of the same or very similar sins. I know this because I find myself judging others. And then I find myself turning within and seeing that the same thing I claim to hate in others is also true about me.
I think a lot of times when we judge or criticize others, we feel a little superior afterward. If we're honest with ourselves, we do. Because we may have a lot of issues, but we don't have THEIR issues. But as people raise their consciousness higher and as they understand more about what drives them, when they hear you criticize other people, all they hear is your own denial and hypocrisy. They don't even have to know you to know it's true. It's that universal a kind of thing. Because when we've truly recognized and healed something within us that's broken, we have compassion and understanding for those who haven't yet made that journey, not judgment.