Tuesday, December 18, 2012
You Were Born Naked
Posted by Shawnie Cannon
Or - Three Major Things I Learned This Year.
2012 has been an eventful year. As it comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on where I was roughly a year or so ago. There are three principles which have sunk into the deeper crevices of my soul this past year.
None of them are new to most of us, and all of them I've always known. But it's one thing to understand something intellectually based on principle, learning or doctrine - and it's quite another to have the fibers of your being saturate in a certain understanding and see the majestic of it with new eyes.
I came across a couple of verses in James, chapter 1 this morning. They're not earth-shattering nor quoted too much. However for me, they carry a deeper message now than they ever have before. Here's the quote:
9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.
11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (James 1:9-11)
I won't expound too much here as I've already blogged on this topic several times this year. Perhaps, just the really short version today:
1) We were born naked and we will leave this world the same way - with nothing.
OK, there's a little more. The statuses of the world (i.e. wealth, education, position) do not go with us and they disappear the day we die if not sooner. All we take with us is our soul which is comprised of the character we forged by every day choices. And in this, no one has the advantage or disadvantage over another. The Gospel is a great equalizer. In short, we take with us our relationships, our kindnesses rendered, our efforts and sacrifices for others, our love and the closeness of our will to the Lord's...or we take the lack of these things.
On the other side of the veil (Mormon jargon for the life after this one), anyone can be a super star in the Lord's eyes, and the poor and the meek of this world often surpass the supposed elite in regards to eternal stature. None of us ever needed life's advantages to win this mortal race on the highest of terms.
Furthermore on the topic of status and worth, the "least of these, thy brethren" is whomever you personally think the least of. And here's the really tough part - how you treat them carries the same weight as if it were Christ himself. We will be judged heavily on how we treat these seemingly lesser souls around us. (Matthew 25:31-46)
The second lesson of 2012 is found in Matthew 18:15
15 ¶Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone(as in don't spread it among your circle of friends): if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
2) Go straight to my brother.
My habits have profoundly turned a corner here over the past year or so, and it has greatly changed my level of peace and social confidence. I no longer take polls among my circle of friends about how offensive or out of place someone's words or actions against me personally were. I now go directly to the person and don't worry about their response (i.e whether they think I'm right, retarded or ridiculous).
I have found that once I express how something they said or did made me feel or how it affected me, I've laid the burden down and it loses all it's agitation power. Here's one of the surprises. Whether they apologize or scoff doesn't ruin the peaceful outcome of this habit. Even when they have an adverse or disrespectful response, you are no longer an easy target and they're more careful to not get another "visit" from you in the future. I certainly didn't intend it this way, it just is.
It's amazing, because taking the Lord's advice was initially very scary. Now I wonder why I didn't internalize and practice this way of handling people long ago.
The other surprising discovery? Taking a brother aside is love and respect for another. It is love to keep another's shortcomings to yourself and allow them the chance to clean up their train wreck. Often meaningful relationships are unexpectedly started or strengthened from such encounters.
And the last lesson of 2012 which found it's way deeper into my heart came from the George Albert Smith lesson #21 on Kindness.
3) Kindness is ALWAYS a great choice.
There is not enough of it in this world and each of us has the capacity to create so much positive energy which wasn't there before.
Kindness rules, especially when responding to a difficult person or situation. And even if the kindness is merely biting one's tongue and NOT saying what you feel you have every right to say - in the end, when all is said and done - it is the more savory choice.
This is a spiritual re-awakening which happened recently. After reading my very recent blog responses to the Mormon Feminist's "Wear Pants Day" - it's probaby pretty obvious to anyone kindness has a ways to go with me before I can claim I've internalized it.
But at least the process of awareness and deep desire to own such a quality is started. I've had a few successes as well. Recently, while driving down the road, hands gripped on the wheel and with tears pouring down my face, I pled with the heavens to help me find the strength to bite my tongue.
Sometimes that can be quite a feat for me - to just keep those lips together.
I was unwillingly about to encounter someone who had crossed my child that day and this has happened with this same person more than once. It wasn't the most serious offense ever, but it found it's way deep under my skin. Along with every other irritating thing about that particular person.
Have you ever been there?
If I could do just that much, bite my tongue and temper my response. Perhaps this account does not convey how in that moment, it was highly unlikely I'd be able to hold my sentiments back. But I was in trouble.
Happy to say it was a triumph! The heavens saw fit to save me from myself. Circumstances changed and intervened enough to give me some repose. I need a few more of those victories. Looking back, I am so grateful. So grateful it didn't turn out to be another episode I'd have to mull over and over and justify to myself.
I've keenly realized, as I reflected on some of my finer moments through the years (among my many not-so-fine moments)...ten years later I never, ever regret the effort and the decision to be kind instead of right or justified. No matter who it was. No matter how hard the situation was. There is a peace which pervades for years after when we conquer and temper our response and our interactions with others.
Not only that, we never have to think back and expend limitless mental energy telling ourselves they deserved it and we were allowed. In case you haven't noticed, that's an endless loop. Kindness on the other hand is peace forever after.
This does not suggest we subject ourselves to abuse, or become anyone's quiet victim. Those situations are absolutely meant for us to change and deal with and sometimes some people are dangerous and have to be avoided. However, in our treatment of any difficult person afterwards, not giving way to the justified ill treatment, or being unkind ourselves feels awesome years later. We can be civil. We can at least be civil. We may not be able to influence or combat how troublesome people act, but we are full masters of ourselves. Hope this makes sense.
More kindness needs to be coming from my soul towards my fellow human beings. Hopefully 2013 will be the year this solidifies and makes its way into my heart to stay.
Thanks to you who have shared this year with me, it's been awesome.
Hope 2013 is full of spiritual re-awakenings and healing for all of us!
at 10:23 AM