Wednesday, October 24, 2012


For whatever reason, lately I have been more able than usual to see the value of a soft answer, of seeing the best in people, in noticing their accomplishments and not their failures or weaknesses;  I have been more able to judge people according to where they've been, rather than where I think they should be;  I have been better able to recognize the value of assuming the best about the intentions and motivations of others, even if goes against my previous experiences with them.  I have several theories on why the sudden (and seemingly unearned) rosiness of my life-glasses, but I'm going with the all-the-love-I've-recieved-catching-up-to-my-attitude theory.

Don't get me wrong: I believe there's a big difference between turning the other cheek and unnecessarily submitting yourself to a beating.  But what's so wrong with turning the other cheek, and doing it over and over?  Why is it so hard for us stubborn, prideful, sensitive fallen mortals to let the snide remark go?  To prove the unfair judgment wrong with a greater exercise of love and patience rather than to try to argue that unfair assessment away?  Why is it so hard to serve patiently instead of ridiculing or ignoring until we think we're ready to deal with someone or they're ready to deal with us?  Why is it so hard to refrain from criticizing or correcting others in their faults or missteps?

Because people are awful--or rather, they're just as awful as we are.  Most of the people around us are just as flawed as we are, but we expect them to be as good as we are in our strengths, and then we're impatient with them in their weaknesses.  There are people in life we have to maintain distance from because they are toxic--there are those individuals who are either so malicious or so conspicuously selfish that they poison the people and relationships around them--but those people are the exception, not the rule.  And sometimes, its OK to allow a little distance, to keep efforts at a minimum, because the challenges are big enough and numerous enough that you have to acknowledge that, at the moment, you simply don't possess the tools to build or mend that relationship.  But again, for the most part, those are exceptions.

The only thing, ultimately, that will heal relationships, that will grow relationships, is love.  Not the wishy-washy childish love that says, "I love you because you make me feel good", but the grown-up, mature, Christ-like love that says, "I choose to love you, when its easy, and when its hard.  I choose to see you as a child of God, my brother or sister, worthy of my effort and attention, my patience and my affection.  I love you, even when you hurt me or make me angry."  When we really start to love someone, really see all the things that Lord sees in them, is when we can be hurt and angry and still not say that terrible thing we want to say, because our desire not to hurt them back is bigger than our anger.  With enough effort, with enough understanding and grasp of Christlike love, we can even get to the point that we don't even think that terrible thing.  We can reach a point where we aren't so much hurting for ourselves, but for the one who is angry or mistaken--we are disappointed not by what they cost us, but by what the rob themselves of.

Christlike love is not blind to faults--I would say quite the opposite, that Christlike love can perceive faults in their most complete context:  the circumstances, choices, people in our lives and innate characteristics that created those flaws, or led to those mistakes.  That more complete understanding of the individuals in our lives can help us to be patient with them, to be more patient with ourselves, as we work our way through those challenges and, ultimately, past them.  Christ does not serve us--love us--because he doesn't see our sins and weaknesses;  he serves us because he can see what we are capable of being, beyond our sins and weaknesses, and is determined to help us find that joy.

He conquered sin, pain and death, through the infinite love of the Atonement.  We cannot hope to change anything about people in our lives in regards to their nature, character or certainly disposition towards us, through explanation or argument.  The only way to influence the way that people treat us, respond to us, see us, is to show them His love shining through us.

When we have people in our lives that, for whatever reason, just don't seem to want to like us, or that we just can't find anything to like about, relationships that just don't seem to work, we ought to pray to Heavenly Father to help us to see that person the way that he sees them. I have had that experience more than once, where I found love for someone, and always it started with the Lord providing an opportunity to serve that person.  I know that there are times when my kids drive me crazy, there are traits and personal challenges they have that make me a bit batty now and then (or at least bewildered), but I always feel tremendous love for each of them, can see so many wonderful things to love about each one of them.  I'm quite certain, then, that a perfect and all-knowing parent can show you how to love one of his children if you sincerely ask.  Chances are that every individual in your life that you struggle with, or that seems to struggle with you, has many more good qualities than bad ones, more successes than failures.  There are a diversity of gifts--try to recognize the gifts in others, and express your appreciation of those gifts.  There are also a diversity of weaknesses.  Be willing to extend to others the patience that you would like for yourself in your own flaws, even--perhaps especially--when they seem unwilling to extend that patience back to you.

At the end of each day, the fact remains that you have a Savior who loves you enough to cover all your flaws with the Atonement.  You have a Redeemer who suffered terribly so that you would not have to.  And he did all that for everyone else in your life, too.  Sometimes, you have to be willing to accept an apology you did not receive, because the debt has been paid and that person is indebted to the Savior for that forgiveness and redemption, not to you.  Maybe they're self-righteous, or rude;  maybe they're not as smart as you, or spiritually clueless;  maybe they're abrupt;  maybe they're angry or judgmental; maybe they're emotionally immature or socially challenged.  Chances are, you are one of those things, too, or something equally as offensive.  Be willing to see past those things to the good in that person, because Christ has forgiven all those things in you.  He sees you perfectly as you are, and sees you just as perfectly as you could become through his love;  seek his help to see others that way yourself.

We do not change people's minds by talking about ourselves, we don't change their hearts by arguing.  Contention is wholly a tactic of the adversary.  We extend Christlike love to people, over and over again, especially when they behave as though they "don't deserve it", and in so doing, we help them to become more lovable.  We talk of Christ, we preach of Christ, we rejoice in Christ.  Everything else matters little if we don't.  And we serve people in the same way that we lead them, "by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness and pure knowledge.. .without hypocrisy and without guile. . ."

It is relatively easy to love those who love us, who show us that love in word and action.  Much of the work of life is in striving to develop and demonstrate love for everyone else.  

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