Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Deal With Offense and Contention

It has been my experience that when people get offended it is due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Also, when we face strife and contention pride is a major component.  If we can learn to exercise patience and humility, if we strive to harbor understanding, then we can leave behind much of the pain, suffering, and sorrow of our day-to-day lives.

This post will focus on offense, but the principles are universal and can help us with contention as well.
I've given quite some thought to this.  More than that, I've tried to apply certain principles to my own life.  Mainly I ask myself some questions at times when I could be possibly offended.  Usually the result is that I come up with several harmless alternatives for the reasons behind the offense.  I can forgive the possible fault and move on.  Often in the course of this I experience a moment of wry humor in the recognition of what I like to call the "human condition."  Basically, we are all human and thus we are all prone to mistakes.

We've all said or done something that we've regretted. Or we said or did it in a way that didn't convey our intentions as well as we would have liked.  What one person may consider an unpardonable slip in speech or action may be a weakness of another.  Also simple differences in our nurture and our environment instill in us differences of opinion and expression.  Misunderstanding comes quickly when we assume that we  know the thoughts behind a person's words or deeds and that our judgement is perfect.  Simply remembering that there may be more behind an action--things that we do not or cannot see, or a simple mistake--should be enough to help us pause.

When we pause in our judgements, let us use a few simple mechanisms to evaluate the perceived offense.  These mechanisms, expressed in writing, take the form of a list of questions.  However, by force of time and habit they become more a part of our character than an external checklist.
  • First, could I see myself making the same statements or doing the same thing under any conceivable set of situations, even those beyond what I have experienced myself?
  • Now, what are some other possible explanations for the offending act or word?
  • Is this simply a case where the person could not find a better way to express themselves?  Or did they perhaps forget the expression that they wanted and had to make due with a less-effective substitute?
  • Has the potential offender ever been in this situation before?  Could that affect how they might act?  Could that affect the possibility of being misunderstood and giving offense?
  • Did I expect the person to be offensive in that way? And do I really, honestly think that they were intending to be offensive?
  • Have I ever been misunderstood?
  • Have I ever inadvertently given offense?
  • And, not least of all, does it really matter?
  • Is it worth getting offended over?
  • Is it worth a reaction on my part?
  • Would it be beneficial take up a defense, to criticize, or to correct in response?
  • Is there another, more appropriate response that I could give, rather than to become offended?
  • Basically, what is the truth behind the statement or action?  Was the truth spoken?  Am I the one at fault for being out of line with the truth?
Premeditation on how to avoid or prevent offense and on how to promote understanding is also worthwhile.  How can I make sure that I don't get offended? (Whether or not offense was meant to be taken.)  What can I do when I do feel offended?  Why do I usually get offended?  What are some causes of offense in general?

My answer to that last question is where I started this blog.  Misunderstanding and pride.  The same approach applies perfectly to resolving both misunderstanding and pride:  What led to the conflict?  Was it meant that way?  Is it worth it?  Am I in opposition to the truth?

There is a principle of humility and meekness in the ongoing effort to evaluate and understand offenses and contention.  This is especially true when we are willing to ask "Am I at fault?" and to confess, if only to ourselves, our own guilt.  Since humility and meekness are opposite of pride and unbridled passion, then as we cultivate the former the latter will fade.

Of use may be an address given by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled "Come What May and Love It."  He applies a set of principles to enduring trials in life.  The same can be used in the context of what we have been discussing here.  Portions of the address were used to create the following video which highlights the main points.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Marriage (and Life) is REALLY About

I recently ran across Seth Adam Smith's post Marriage Isn't For You. Thinking that this was another of those worldly denouncements of all that is good in life I almost didn't read it. Well, I'm glad I did. Especially when I read a response article on another website. This other post sits on the edge of what I had feared the first to be. The author takes Seth's realization to an extreme and basically calls it detrimental to marriage.

So, what am I getting at with this post?

First, ideals are worth living for whether they are obtainable in this life or not. And I believe that the best ideals are more realistic and more obtainable than society gives them credit for being. Our society is losing the vision of living for ideals and the grace of allowing others to do the same.

Second, marriage is a thing of faith and work. No, you will not have all the answers before you get married, even if you wait until you're 99. And, no, you will not magically understand everything about marriage and families once you are married. You've got to move forward despite this lack of knowledge. It'll take work, hard work, but it'll be worth it.

Lastly, living for ideals in your marriage is not stupid or blind or any of those things that the world will tell you. Why can't family life be happy? Why can't couples never argue? Why can't each spouse place the other's concerns at the forefront of their lives? Why shouldn't spouses sacrifice to be at home more? Really, what is wrong with any of this? Just because it is hard, doesn't make it impossible. Just because too many families in the world are marred by sadness, abuse, contention, or selfishness, doesn't mean that the family you raise has to be. Happiness is a choice. All people can choose happiness or misery: life or captivity.

I cannot believe in any other way of living. If I don't have hopes, dreams, and ideals, then why would I work every day to be a better man than I was the day before? Why bother? Without vision, life isn't worth living.

So find a vision, however dim, of what you want your life to be like. Then never, never, give up on that vision. You may make mistakes along the way. It might be three steps forward and two steps back. You might be on top of the world one day and in the dumps the next. WHATEVER happens, always turn back towards your goal and try again. Because in the end you either make the effort or you don't. It's your choice.

Choose happiness.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Same blog, new name

For those who may have noticed, or didn't as the case may be, I've changed the name of this blog. I figured that since completing my mission and returning home, things have changed slightly. I am no longer set apart as a full-time missionary with the special commission to "go... into all the world... and preach the gospel."  I am however still a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I will continue to let my light shine and "be an example" in everything I do and say.

Just as I am no longer called "Elder," my blog also has a different name reflecting my current position in life. I hope you'll stick around and share your comments as I share my thoughts on living the gospel and being an example in all things.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Standing For Something: 10 Virtues

In light of my return home and the things that I've learned (and hopefully become) on my mission, I want to start a series of posts based on President Gordon B. Hinckley's book "Standing For Something."  These posts will hopefully serve as a successful transition from my full-time missionary work to my personal life at home.

These posts will touch on faith, hope, charity and love, service, and becoming, among other virtues.  My hope is that these posts will bless you, the reader, and help you strive for and obtain the best within you.

The virtues that President Hinckley writes about are as follows:
  1. Love
  2. Honesty
  3. Mortality
  4. Civility
  5. Learning
  6. Forgiveness and Mercy
  7. Thrift and Industry
  8. Gratitude
  9. Optimism
  10. Faith
President Hinckley also discusses two gaurdians of virtue: Marriage and the Family.

It has been a little while since I have read the book, so I ask for your patience as I work on these posts.  As I finish each post I will add links to them from this post.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What I've Learned on My Mission

I want to start with a "Thank You!" to everyone in New York!  Thank you for two wonderful years in your service.  I hope our friendships can continue on and grow, even as we are miles apart.

So, what have I learned during these 24 months away from home?

Several things stand out as of prime importance.

First, we must develop faith, hope, and charity as Paul has taught.  If we have nothing to believe in, no hope for life after death, then our life becomes dark and we are inclined to cynicism.  Such an attitude does not lend itself to the Charity and love that should fill our souls.  "Believe in God; believe that he is... believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend." (Mosiah 4:9)  "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life." (2 Nephi 31:20)

Second, selfless service is paramount in putting off the natural man, becoming like Christ, and becoming fully converted to His gospel.  Conversion comes as we honestly and consistently live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The central doctrine of His gospel is His Atonement and selfless sacrifice for us.  This sacred service to us would not have been possible if Christ weren't who He was.  When the selfish natural man in each of us would have turned inward, Christ always turned outward.  For example, despite the pains, abandonment, sorrow, and persecutions of His suffering in the Garden and on the cross, Christ still spoke to the Father on behalf of the Roman soldiers who had treated Him so cruely: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)  If you or I were in such a situation we would be more likely to curse our enemies than to bless them; or at the least not spare a thought for them as we focused on our own recent troubles.
   So how do we change our nature and come to love our enemies and pray for those that despitefully use us? (see Matthew 5:44)  We turn outward as the Savior did and serve without thought of personal reward or gain.  As we lose ourselves for the gospel's sake and for Christ's sake, we will find ourselves. (see Matthew 16:24-25)  We will not find ourselves if we set out to accomplish it.  We will only find ourselves as we lose ourselves in others; and we won't be looking for it to happen.

Third, ultimately it is only the gospel that can solve all our problems and save us.  There are so many problems, so many heartaches and troubles in this world.  Society runs around looking for new and novel ideas to problems that humanity has been faced with since the fall of Adam and Eve.  There is no greater or more powerful answer to all our concerns than the very answer that was given to our First Parents.  Christ and His gospel remain the only way to fully solve every social, civil, and personal problem.  In the gospel we not only find the virtues that are the basis of a sound and happy life, but also the principles of righteous living that bring the blessings of God to us and our families, nations, and world.

Lastly, I know that God the Father is our loving Heavenly Father.  He knows us each individually and desires our happiness and salvation.
   I know Jesus Christ is His Son, our Savior.  His Atonement can cleanse and heal us from the deepest sins and wounds, if we are willing to change what we need to and live His gospel.
   I know the Spirit of the Lord can speak to each of us.  He has spoken to me from time to time.  We can know what we need to know and do.  We can be comforted and encouraged in our daily struggles.
   I know that the church and kingdom of God are on the earth again.  God has restored everything necessary for the salvation of all His children.  We have again among us living prophets and apostles who speak the mind and will of God.  There is consistency and safety in their words because they are God's words.

   Study the scriptures.
   Pray with full sincerity of heart.
   Keep God's commandments.
   Selflessly serve others.
   and Believe.

Then you will recieve what you ask for, find what you seek, and doors will be opened when you knock.  I promise, in the name of Jesus Christ, that this is true.