First, a quick grammar lesson: The word “but” is a conjunction, which is used to contrast something that has just been said with something that is about to be said. Ex: I can’t stand mayonnaise, but I love mustard. So, it makes complete nonsense to say something like, “I’m not racist, but …” (and then say something disparaging about another ethnicity). Or, here’s a good one: “Don’t get me wrong, but …” (and then say something critical). Or, how about this classic: “I’m not judging, but …” (and then cut down someone). What it boils down to is that you can’t use the word “but” as a disclaimer for saying mean things about people. Contradicting yourself does not give you grounds to judge others. Believe it or not, the Bible does not forbid us from judging people. In fact, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, we’re actually instructed to judge each other, but it should be within the context of the church and for the good of the church family, not to alienate or degrade people. Then there’s Matthew 7, which warns that we risk being judged by the same criteria that we judge others. Ouch, I remember being stung by that passage of Scripture in my early days of parenting. As a young, childless adult, I had often thought negatively about the parenting skills of people whose children were being obnoxious in a store or restaurant … until I was *that* parent with the inconsolable, fit-pitching toddler. Talk about eating my words! I have seldom been so mortified. Remember that cliché you probably heard from your parents: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” For the most part, I agree with that sentiment, but there is also a time and a place for constructive criticism. The catch is that the first place we need to look for problems is in the mirror. Matthew 7:3-5 picks up the conversation with a reminder to investigate our own flaws before we start pointing them out in everyone else. Part of being a healthy church family includes holding each other accountable, which means holding ourselves accountable, as well.