This past week I was reminded that the Lord has a lot to teach us. Yet, how often we think we already have the answers and/or we stop asking questions. So, why would the Lord want to come teach us if we don't want to learn or too prideful to be corrected if we are in error.. The truth is, we really don’t know very much, and what we think we know is probably messed up. Until He comes again to teach us, we should be found loving one another and have charity for each other.
This upcoming Sunday is Father's Day. How many of us only pay tribute to our earthly father? May I suggest that each of us let our Father in Heaven know of our love from Him.
A few months ago I watched a documentary called Gleason. It is about the professional football player Steve Gleason who was a defensive back for the New Orleans Saints. He was diagnosed with ALS,(Lou Gehrig's Disease.) and this documentary was created by him to be a video diary for his unborn son. If you have not seen it yet.. I think it is a great movie to watch this weekend as we pay tribute to Fathers.
Here is the trailer:
Here are a few great quotes from the movie:
"It is not how we act when thing are great, but how do we act when things are difficult."
"I am going to be around son until you are able to stand on your own.
"That is what Dads do.. they pass the best of themselves to their kids."
"That is all that matters. is me passing myself to you."
HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
One more thing... in addition to the above recommendation to watch this weekend.. I highly recommend reading the below blogpost:
INSTITUTIONAL SHELL SHOCK: The Lost Art of Disagreement:
Coming from a religious institution that tightly controls almost all facets of one’s life, there is little room or tolerance for disagreement or differences of opinion of any kind. In such settings, if any such differences arise, they are quickly swept under the rug and settled by a deference to an authority figure who makes a judgment call. Additionally, since decisions come from the top down, by the time the layperson could possibly have a say in the matter, "the thinking has already been done”. This system works well to keep things neat and tidy and moving forward, and the ends are more important than the means. Thus, in such institutions there is little chance to openly discuss and debate issues of real importance, unless you sit in the inner circle at the top of the hierarchy or find yourself perching on one of its mid-level echelons. Instead of a reliance on the spirit, exercising persuasion, unfeigned love, and gentleness, and viewing one another as equals, such institutions resort to a reliance on authority, rules and handbooks, knowledge, history/tradition, seniority, "unwritten orders of things", myths, and all sorts of rubrics to sort things out. It is much easier to automatize the process of decision-making, rather than to muck it up with the personalities, problems, weaknesses, opinions, and egos of real people. In such polished institutions, disagreements and differences of opinion are therefore viewed as “bad”, “contentious”, or “of the devil”, and in violation of the "unwritten order of things." If you speak up, you are at risk of being “out of line with the brethren,” which can place your very own salvation in jeopardy.
When a person exits from such a system, they often carry the institutional baggage and scars gained from their experiences therein. For example, in a new found environment, where choices do actually need to be made andopportunities for disagreement do arise, how does one share their deeply held opinions on topics of religion with another person and work through differences in point of view without deferring to an authority figure, rules and handbooks, history/tradition, etc? Or, if presented with an opinion that differs from your own, how do you maneuver through the discussion without automatically labeling such a person as “contentious”, “bad”, and “of thedevil”, or "out of line with the brethren", or violating some sort of "unwritten order of things"? Have our years inside such institutions atrophied these kinds of skills and abilities to the point where we no longer posses them, if we ever possessed them in the first place?
On the one hand, have we lost the art of how to respectfully disagree with one another and still come away as friends, even if we disagree? Do we know how to put forward an argument for our point of view in a way that is non-combative, allows room for discussion, and is more of an invitation to dialogue? And then do we know how to listen, consider, evaluate, persuade, reflect, ask questions, and respond in a sincere and respectful manner? An don the other hand, are we programmed to throw down the field flags of “contention”, “jarring”, and “strife” as soon as someone offers an opinion that differs from our own, cutting off the discussion and perhaps more significantly, cutting off the warm hand of friendship? Do we take disagreements personally, viewing them as a personal attack on our beliefs and who we are?
As individuals trying to work together towards real unity, does that mean we simply sit around smiling at one another and agree with every idea that comes out of every person's mouth when inside we might have significant disagreement? Is that charity or is that a lazy way to create a sort of false unity, or does it depend on the situation? Or, do we work towards true unity by hearing one another out, really listening and trying to understand, asking questions, and then exchanging our own point of view in a loving, kind, and open way that allows for dialogue and discussion? Can we be unified if we don't agree on every topic? Many believe that in an effort to keep the peace and “avoid contention”, the best thing to do is to simply put their head in the sand and wait for the gray clouds of possible contention to float on by. However, are opportunities for greater unity lost when we do this? Are opportunities for greater unity also lost when we dominate in conversation or use leverage to silence another's opinion, refusing to be persuaded or consider another point of view?
Are all of these perhaps some of the symptoms and manifestations of institutional shell shock that we must cure from ourselves if we are to rise above our current state and become one?
There is a scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants that describes why, in part, the early saints failed in their efforts for Zion (D&C 101:6): “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” What really are these attributes manifested by the early saints? How do we know if we are falling into the same patterns? Here are some definitions from the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary:
1. Strife; struggle; a violent effort to obtain something, or to resist a person, claim or injury; contest; quarrel.
2. Strife in words or debate; quarrel; angry contest; controversy.
Jar (as in jarrings):
1. To strike together with a short rattle or tremulous sound; to strike untunably or harshly; to strike discordantly; asa jarring sound.
2. To clash; to interfere; to act in opposition; to be inconsistent.
3. To quarrel; to dispute; to clash in words.
Envy (as in envyings):
1. To feel uneasiness, mortification or discontent, at the sight of superior excellence, reputation or happiness enjoyed by another; to repine at another's prosperity; to fret or grieve one's self at the real or supposed superiority of another, and to hate him on that account.
2. Rivalry; competition.
3. Malice; malignity.
4. Public odium; ill repute; invidiousness.
1. Exertion or contention for superiority; contest of emulation, either by intellectual or physical efforts.
2. Contention in anger or enmity; contest; struggle for victory; quarrel or war.
To me, collectively, these words describe an open, often public, vitriolic, mean-spirited, angry, personal, caustic, biting, ferocious interchange or quarrel that rises above the level of a disagreement or a difference of opinion.
In my profession, I am constantly engaged in debate and discussion with others. We all have different perspectives, experiences, and knowledge. Therefore, it is only natural for us to have differences of opinion, and therefore we should expect that to be the norm, not the exception. In such cases, I do not ask or expect others to share my opinions or convictions, and my goal is not to change others’ views so they accord more nearly with my own. I want to learn and share, plain and simple, and perhaps we can both come away from the exchange for the better. Any time I engage in debate and discussion with another person, for me, it is outside of who that person is, it is not personal or about them. Although any discussion has the potential to rise to the level of contention, jarrings, and strife, that is up to the people involved to regulate themselves. Therefore, discussion and debate and differences of opinion should not be feared, and on the contrary, they should be welcomed. Why? Having different perspectives on issues and challenges can be enormously helpful. They can help us to make our own thinking and ideas clearer, and most importantly of all, we ourselves might be in error. In my profession, there is a maxim that holds true for me in all of life, and it sort of goes something like this: It is not a matter of being right or wrong, it is a matter of determining the degree to which you are (or I am) wrong. In other words, I just assume I am always wrong to some degree. I lack the full picture, all the pieces of the puzzle, all the cards in the deck, etc. I lack full truth. I gather intelligence from as many sources as I can, I compare and contrast ("by proving contraries, truth is made manifest" - Joseph Smith), and then I use the mind and heart that God gave me, along with whatever degree of inspiration I can gather, to help me sort out how off I am and determine the best path forward. And with all of that, I still make plenty of mistakes and errors in judgment, huge ones sometimes, so I thank God for the atonement.
However, I try not to let disagreements become personal. I try to distinguish the person from the person’s opinion, and I try to differentiate between a healthy argument and a personal quarrel. Sometimes it is important to agree to disagree and just move on, but it is important to not fear someone who holds an opposing view. If we are comfortable with our own standards, we can be accepting and tolerant of variety and differences of opinion. As Irespect the opinions and views of others, I genuinely feel that in most cases they in turn respect and better understand my own. Often, I am pleasantly surprised by how my own views are improved by a healthy discussion with others who hold opposing views. This mutual respect can transcend a mere difference of opinion on a minor issue, but can lead to friendships with people quite different than yourself…you can truly be one with a variety of individuals without having to agree on every topic. Just because you listen to another's opinion, that does not mean you have to act on it, and of course, there may come a point, or there may be some topics, where you do not want to listen anymore for various reasons, and you have the right to walk away or discontinue the conversation.
A near Zion-like society is described in the Book of 4th Nephi the prophet says that there was no contention among them four times:
2 and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
13 And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.
15 And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
18 and there was no contention in all the land.
Certainly these people were in harmony on many things, but does this also mean there were no differences of opinion or disagreements among them? Obviously their hearts were filled with the love of God, so might this mean that the people also loved their brothers and sisters so much that they learned the importance of listening to one another respectfully, considering differences of opinion, asking each other questions, and engaging in the art of respectful disagreement when needed?
There is no need to waste time hating people with whom you disagree. We can try to focus on the fruitful nature of such disagreements. How they have helped you to shape your own views of what you are doing, or who you are, or why you are doing something. We can be magnanimous and generous in accepting others’ failings. It might be the case that sources of disagreement and differences of opinion can be an important vehicle for arriving at greater unity.