What a wonderful world we live in. We have been given all the resources we need to thrive. With the Lord’s help, as well as the help of each each other, we have what we need to enjoy a happy and productive life. And the essential joys of life are available to all who are willing to follow the principles taught by Jesus Christ.
With all of the things we have going for us as “earthlings”, all too often we seem to find ways and opportunities to pick a fight. We see the awful behavior of tyrants and those who seek to influence with fear and violence. We see it in political discourse with accusations from all sides that seek to create contention and division, constantly highlighting differences as opposed to commonalities. The news outlets have been filled with claims of a “War on Women” or a “War on Religion”. We hear of divisions in society based upon race and economics. And society seems content to divide itself by what we wear, where we live, how we act, and other superficial measurements. Are you and Indy? A Goth? A gang member? A graduate of a particular university? An owner of a particular brand of pickup? Or are you a PC or a Mac?
If you read many online comments after news articles, you would think that everyone is either one extreme or another. Is anyone rational on these sites? Any attempt to respectfully discuss issues of the day seem reduced to a series of insults and accusations. Maybe comment boards don’t offer any real attempt to understand the other parties involved? Much of society seems content to be combative, as if every interaction must be an extension of the sporting arena or the battlefield. We somehow need to take sides and stand our ground without consideration of another’s ideas. Even our leaders seem to take this approach. And maybe that is where we develop our own behavior? Division forces the need to take sides and contend against each other. And sadly, division also results in the labeling of one another. Conservative. Independent. Liberal. Or worse labels like “racist” or “bigot.”
It is easy to quickly assign a label to someone, especially when we we don’t take the time to listen and understand their perspective. I appreciate the often used, yet wise phrases, “seek first to understand, and then to be understood”, and “God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we will listen twice as much as we speak.” Everyone starts a conversation from a particular point of view. I emphasize the word “start” because respectful and patient discourse has the power to influence points of view, to bridge gaps, to broaden perspective, and increase mutual understanding. These positive outcomes may not result in mutual agreement, but they can contribute to new ways to work together and unite around areas of commonality. Gordon B. Hinckley, past president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated, “Misunderstanding grows out of ignorance and suspicion.”[i] And suspicion and ignorance often times form the seeds of division and conflict.
I wish to reemphasize a point from a previous post. Jesus Christ taught us that we should seek peaceful solutions to our problems (see prior blog post on the Source of Peace). He taught us to love our enemies, to bless others by going the extra mile and, and by turning the other cheek when offended. We shouldn’t be naïve to interpret this instruction as a call to be someone’s punching bag. But, we can recognize that enduring the occasional unfair behavior of others and by learning to forgive one another can contribute to the softening of hearts which in turn can lead to greater harmony and unity. Where Satan is the father of contention and teaches conflict and division, Christ is the Prince of Peace and teaches us to love one another and seek for ways to be united. To be one.
We have more to gain in life by being united than being divided. I don’t suggest anyone roll over on important issues just to keep the peace. We must stand strong on issues that matter. But if our motivation comes from a place of love, then we are in the best position to promote a positive outcome. And this is especially true in our homes.
Over a series of future articles, I’d like to discuss three areas where the Savior teaches us to be one with God, in marriage, and in our families. By seeking to become one with God, we will be blessed with greater capacity to love and forgive, which will contribute to more peaceful solutions and harmony in our homes. And greater unity in marriage and in our families will contribute to greater unity in society as a whole.
[i] Remarks, National Press Club, 8 March 2000.