Former (but now deceased) LDS President, Joseph Fielding Smith, rocked my world recently. He said: “I believe it is our solemn duty to love one another, to believe in each other, to have faith in each other, that it is our DUTY to overlook the faults and failings of each other, and not to magnify them in our own eyes nor before the eyes of the world… (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, p256)
I felt that I was doing pretty good the last decade. I had gotten my ‘complaining pool’ down to a small group of a select few-a couple of close friends who usually don’t know the offending party…a sister who knows just about everything regarding me…and a husband who will always be in my corner. That’s ok, right??! I can rally a few people into my corner, right?
Well, I really hate to repeat it, but there it is …” it is our duty to overlook the faults and failings of each other, and not to magnify them…before the eyes of the world…’ No-it’s not ok to vent to other people if my intention is to marshall an army or vindicate my own hurt feelings by MAGNIFYING someone else’s faults to the world- which I am afraid is going to include my husband. Wow. This is hard. This is really, really hard. (Although it does remind me of part of the dialogue of the initiatory ordinance in the temple.) And I am not talking about discussing a situation with a trusted confidant so that I can get advice on how to handle it appropriately. I am talking about stirring up agitated feelings in others over a situation in my life so that I can feel justified in my less-than-Christ-like responses to them. It’s easy to fall into this trap especially if the offending party is hurting other people in our circle of family and friends.
I have actually tried to work on this particular natural man tendency over the last few years. Like I said, I have culled my complaining pool down to a few trusted individuals-thus keeping the damage to a bare minimum. I have also taken to the practice of reminding myself over and over again that the Lord loves so-and-so just as much as He loves me. That truth sort of hurts at times; but only the truth can heal me permanently so I like to remind myself of it. While this part of Pres. Smith’s admonishment is hard, I know that it can be done because one of my friends has done it. A hard situation came up in her family-one that she and husband usually dissect. However, when her husband mentioned it to her, she simply said, “We won’t discuss it now or ever. It doesn’t help.” I admire her tremendously for this because although discussing things with our spouse seems quite acceptable, eventually we even have to stop vilifying people to them as well.
Moving on. Let’s assume that we have stopped the flood (or trickle) of justification to others… now we must pick up this other piece of admonition that Pres. Smith gave us:
…It is our duty to overlook the faults and failings of each other, and not to magnify them in our own eyes...
I have long decided that I am still in the ‘safe’ zone magnifying others faults and vilifying them in my own mind as long as I didn’t speak my personal justifications out loud to others. Because, “Hey, I’m looking at people as they really are and I’m making mental notes that are verifiable and correct because these things really happened to me”. And let’s face it, some people are jerky, mean, inconsiderate, overbearing, passive aggressive, or manipulative. Of course I understand that I will be judged by my thoughts and that EVENTUALLY my thoughts must also become Godly in nature; but I felt that they were my last outpost-my clinging to the natural man in a very private (but very satisfying) way. And somehow this was ok because God understands that I am dealing with some very difficult folks. 🙂 In other words, I felt that I was making fairly good progress keeping my mean thoughts to myself even if I was still having them! But, Pres. Smith is pretty clear here-I shouldn’t even be magnifying others faults in my own mind! This is doctrine that will probably take me to infinity and beyond (thank you, Buzz) to master. Of course, it speaks to everything that Jesus taught about motes and beams (Matt 7:3) and forgiving everybody every trespass (DAC 64:10). It is is the embodiment of the commandment to love one another as Jesus loved us (John 13:34). But that doesn’t make it any easier to take this admonition and assimilate it into my actual life day by day.
But I am willing to try, starting right here with Camilla Kimball’s simple advice: ‘Never suppress a generous thought’. Instead of trying to beat the unkindness out of myself, I can start with this positive spin: just begin saying and doing the nice things that come to my mind each day for all of the different folks that cross my path. And perhaps over time, if I give more time to the generous thoughts, there won’t be any room for the not-so-generous thoughts until eventually I am only made up of goodness and light.
Like I said, to infinity and beyond…