Saturday, June 6, 2015

Meme and Forgiveness

Being nice to someone you have an issue with doesn’t mean you are fake…it means someone taught you how to be polite.
I saw this meme on Facebook a while back and it troubled me.  Are you being fake if you are nice to someone you have an issue with? I think it comes down to how you treat that person when you are not in their presence.  Do you talk badly about them behind their back but are polite to their face? Are you struggling with something that has happened with them or because of them and are you working on resolving that issue?
I had a friend tell me of an instance when they had been in the presence of someone who had been talking about someone else in a very unkind manner.  That person then came into the room.  The “offender” was then incredibly polite to the person who they had just offended.   My friend truly felt like the “offender” was completely fake. 
I put myself in that same situation and as I did so realized that I wouldn’t be able to trust the “offender.”  What about me?  What if they had an “issue” with me?  What if they were only polite to me to my face but disrespected me behind my back?  I can see why my friend felt the person was being fake.
I then thought about what the solution was to a situation like this.  How can you not be fake when you are struggling with another person’s actions or intent?  If you show two faces you become untrustworthy.  As I pondered all the questions that came streaming at me, a talk by Pres. Uchtdorf came to mind.   In the April 2012 General Conference he gave a talk titled “The Merciful Obtain Mercy”.  He states, “Forgive everyone, of everything, all the time.”
If we are striving to become like the Savior we treat others how we want to be treated.  If we are striving to become like the Savior, we forgive so we may be forgiven.
In the Savior’s words, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matthew 6:14-15
And, “Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.”  Doctrine and Covenants 64:9
Forgiveness is a difficult subject.  I have heard some people say that they are not ready to forgive someone who has committed something against them.  I can understand that.  Sometimes we hold on to the pain in our heart because it seems wrong to let it go, or it is too painful to deal with the feelings, or somehow we feel we will become less of who we are if we forgive the offense.  Sometimes we withdraw in order to not be hurt again and we subconsciously exhibit disdain for the offender.
So how do we forgive when it can be so difficult?  I recently attended BYU Women’s Conference and two sessions where the subject was forgiveness.  They had some great suggestions on practical ways to help us forgive each other.
The first was a session titled “Help Me, Dear Father, to Freely Forgive” presented by Bonnie Peterson and Scott D. Peterson.  They gave us a tool they use when our thoughts become negative about an offender.  Every time we begin to have those negative thoughts, we can say in our mind, “I’m sorry for the things in me that have caused this problem. Please forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.”  Sometimes this little thought process will need to happen several times a day, or hour, or minute.  Sometimes this discussion needs to happen with the person that has offended you.  That can be difficult, but it needs to be a matter of prayer to know if and how that should occur. 
Our Savior has said that we should go to those who might not know they have offended us and work it out with them so that the wound that has been created does not get bigger and then becomes almost impossible to heal.  Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” Matthew 18:15 Using, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you,” will help in this very difficult task.
The other session I went to was titled “That Ye Should Not Be Offended” given by Brenda Larsen and Amy Baird Miner.  The one presenter stated that most of us are very aware of the steps of repentance but that she could find no steps for forgiveness, so she made her own.  If we are truly trying to forgive someone of their offenses, then we:

Stop talking about it
Stop looking for evidence that supports the offense
Stop avoiding the person
Stop attributing malice to them
Stop filtering experiences through the offense
Stop making future decisions based on the offense

We should ask ourselves, “What would I be doing if the offense had never happened?”  And then we should do those things.

I am not saying that any of this is easy, but I am saying that it is possible and worth it.  If we are truly trying to become like Christ, then He will help us on our journey.
Again, Pres. Uchtdorf, “Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven?  Is this difficult to do?  Yes, of course.  Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart. But there is good news. This “mighty change” of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives.  How is it done? Through the love of God.  When our hearts are filled with the love of God, something good and pure happens to us. We “keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”  The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.”  [link] 
I have had moments in my life when I have, all of a sudden, been in the presence of someone I have had an “issue” with.  It is really hard to describe the feelings that welled up inside me when it happened.  I remember three distinct instances of this occurring.  I had immediate uncomfortable emotion, but I didn’t know why.  In all of the situations I recognized the person as someone I knew but could not place how I knew them.  I eventually remembered how I knew them and why those feelings came upon me.   I hope that as I use these tools, the next time I am in their presence, I can feel only love for them and not the uncomfortable and harmful feelings that come with feeling offended. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hypocrisy



I don’t know any hypocrites.  Oh, I’m sure there are hypocrites out there; I just don’t know who they are.  According to the Bible dictionary the use of the word hypocrite “generally denotes one who pretends to be religious when he is not.” [link]
I have heard several people describe anybody who is not perfect in their integrity, anyone whose actions fall short of what they say they believe is right, as a hypocrite.  In October 2013 General Conference, President Uchtdorf stated, “If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites.”   [link]
So how do we determine if a person is a hypocrite with the first definition, or the second?  The second definition makes us all hypocrites because, “all fall short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23), but that doesn’t seem to be how the term was first used.  Christ clearly did not label everyone He came in contact with as a hypocrite.  In fact, Christ is the only one I know who has any authority to label anyone has a hypocrite because He is the only one who can see into a person’s heart and know their intent. 
If you are like me then at some point in your life, you have been judged and judged wrongfully.  Someone has decided what you meant about something you did or said, and their conclusion wasn’t even close to what you had intended.  I don’t like to be judged like that; sometimes it is very hard for me to put into words how I feel about something.  I want to be judged according to my heart and not according to my fallible nature, which most of the time seems to overwhelm how I desire to be.  Since I want to be judged according to my heart and Christ is the only one who can see into my heart, then I conclude that Christ is the only one who can judge either me or you. 
It is easy to label or judge someone else as displaying hypocrisy if they attend church, proclaim the gospel, and worship in the temple, and then you see them do something or say something that is not in line with what you (and you think they) believe is right.  A conclusion can then be made that they must be a hypocrite because they say one thing about what they believe and then do something else entirely.  I have been like that, but not because I didn’t believe what I said I believed, or because I was not trying.  I make mistakes because I am still learning how to be a Saint.  Becoming a Saint is difficult when my nature is to give in to the natural man.
As I have tried to overcome personality flaws I usually have good intentions and then fail to live up to those intentions when a situation presents itself.  Pride, shame, or other feelings take over so quickly that I begin doing that which I do not want to do.  When I realize I’ve messed up – again – I try to acknowledge my fault and then recommit to my hoped for change.  I have prayed for a reminder from the Spirit to not do what I don’t want to do.  And the Lord, eventually, blesses me with that reminder.  And then sometimes I listen.  And then sometimes I do not. 
I think this is the challenge of our life: to let go of our pride and bring our desires in line with the Lord’s.  Eventually, if we continue to try and don’t give up, we conquer whatever we are working on.  Sometimes it takes years and years.  I guess this is why we have this life as a probationary state, so we can work on all those things.
Pres. Uchtdorf said, “None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be. But we earnestly desire to overcome our faults and the tendency to sin. With our heart and soul we yearn to become better with the help of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” [link]
It seems strange that most of us who do not want to be judged ourselves will freely judge others.  It is sometimes hard to remember to give people the benefit of a doubt.  Sometimes I remember to do that, sometimes I don’t, and sometimes my children remind me that I should.

Friday, May 16, 2014