"Study to learn how to respect your brothers and sisters and to come together by precept, reason and persuasion rather than sharply disputing and wrongly condemning each other causing anger." -
The Lord said to study to learn how to respect our brothers and sisters. Study what? What is it we need to study so as to know "how" to respect our brothers and sisters and to come together? The phrase implies we don't have a skill, and don't have a level of understanding that would bring greater respect and lead to respectful disagreement.
I've begun my study with scripture, and some very interesting ideas originating from the ancient teachings of other cultures.
Here's an idea I read about that comes from ancient Toltec Wisdom. It's titled: "Don't take things personally". Taking things personally, according to this Toltec idea, is an example of "personal importance". Personal importance or taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about "me". It's not. The idea goes further to say nothing other people do is because of you. It's because of themselves. It's their reality, their beliefs, their mind, their heart, their dream. Everyone is living in their own reality, they are in a totally different world from anyone else. They can't truly say something personal about another because they have not lived in the other persons world with their past, and their experiences. Each persons point of view comes from their own life, not anyone else's. The things we say and do are projections of our own minds, thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. The good and bad others say to you, the Toltec idea is don't take it personally. It wasn't about you. If we make it a practice to not take things personally we avoid many upsets in our life. Our anger jealousy and envy will dissipate. Because it wasn't always about us. Our own anger, fear, and jealousy is very much about us however. And that we must take responsibility for.
Another idea from this Toltec wisdom is to stop making assumptions. The issue with assumptions is we believe they are the truth. If we don't understand something, it's better to either let it go, or ask and be clear, rather than assuming.
On another note a few scriptural examples have come to mind about disagreements. We have plenty of examples of how not to disagree with each other, but what about the successful ones? Those can easily go unnoticed. It's a little like social media. It's common to post things online that go terribly wrong. Or contrarily, show off how amazing your life is, or some fun vacation, or some expensive something or other. But how many posts do you see where someone describes a financial sacrifice they made to stay on a family budget? About an argument they didn't have with a spouse because they chose to be humble and avoid anger. The good examples are often lost in the mix of the loud or distracting messages. The good examples often do not draw our attention. But they are there, humbly outside the spotlight.
This next scriptural example has gotten some attention. It's good though. Moroni and Pahoran's letter exchange. Moroni censures Pahoran, thinking he is being a lazy and idle and corrupt politician and has neglected God, the commandments, and his duties, and has thus caused enormous suffering for Moroni and his troops. Alma 60. Give it a quick read.
Pahoran does not take the censure he receives personally. Why? How is it Pahoran didn't take this personally? It's because he had a clear conscience. In his words: Alma 61:9:
"And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free."
"My soul standeth fast int hat liberty in the which God hath made us free". He had nothing to hide, had no evil for which to defend. He had repented. His desires were righteous. He didn't need to defend them because he seemed to have had that unique knowledge that the course of life he was pursuing was pleasing to God. Imagine the inner freedom that knowledge gives you and the offense you thus never need to take? Thus, Moroni's censure did not trigger anger in his heart. His heart was right with God.
Disagreeing in 2017
A few thoughts about practical 2017 disagreements and showing respect. We all have hopefully heard the stats about how it's not what you say, but also how you say it. Online communication makes this an enormously big issue as we have no body language to help us, and can so easily project our own feelings and thoughts onto someone else's words. One study I read shared surprising data that people are more likely to interpret online comments more negatively than the authors intended, as compared to the same message written on another platform or other medium. Online can be potentially messy.
We sometimes have very very poor communication habits which are full of contempt, judgement, and condemnation. Especially towards people who's names we don't even know. I suppose we feel safer behind a keyboard and out of view.
A few ideas
A few ideas on my mind regarding respecting each other through our inevitable disagreements, and not accusing or wrongly condemning each other.
1. Who likes being grouped with people who do or say things you disagree with?? How fun is it to be labeled as if you held or participated in things you do not? It's no fun. Yet our communication does this to each other time and time again. We label, and group people unfairly sometimes. One easy step is to stop speaking for others. Taking care of when using the word "we" unless you know for certain you can and do speak in behalf of whomever "we" is.
2. They say a mark of maturity is the ability to exercise self restraint. In both word and tone. But just refraining from condemning or judging others when you speak (or type) still leaves the issue open as to what was in your heart that caused you to even have the condemning thought or idea or tone in the first place. Ideally what comes out of our mouth stops defiling us, as Christ taught was what defiles a man, but instead is a natural expression of our changed heart. I believe we should care more about our own hearts, and what's in them, than whatever it is we perceive is in the hearts of others. As it may just be a projection of our own.
3. When the scriptures say someone is "slow of speech" I don't think that means they had a speech disorder. It' was something else.
4. We all know our families pretty well, and while yes we may have disagreements with them, sometimes frequently, sometimes intense, yet at the same time we often will show high loyalty to them, and forgiveness when asked. Because we know them, understand them and their weaknesses, and yet still love them. We've seen the good in them. So another practical idea is we can get to know people better, and as we learn about their life, we understand them, and then we can avoid some of the anger and disputes as we see more of where others are coming from, and the good they posses and the good they intend to do. We need to get to know each other.
5. Sharp or soft? The only times the scriptures say we are to use sharpness is when reproving by the Holy Ghost. But even in those cases, the scriptures say to show forth an increase of love. Disputing sharply just adds wounds to a person who is likely seeking healing, nor more injury. When we have a broken bone or injury, our natural reaction is to protect, and guard it. To protect against further injury until the issue is healed. We are all wounded, from head to to according to the A&C. Broken bones are sensitive. Even if covered by layers and layers of a bandage or hardened cast. So are broken people, even if covered by layers and layers of hardened mental or emotional walls.
Precept, reason, and persuasion
Precepts are general rules to guide and direct behavior or thought. Having correct precepts, and agreeing on them is how I believe everyone can begin to come together, and show respect for each other. The A&C says to use the scriptures and whats found in them to govern our conduct. Applying precepts to ones self, not others.
Reason. Sometimes We want to use intellect and ideas to compel the heart. But in lots and lots of cases that does not and will not work. Coming together involves reasoning through ideas and concepts, but also the feelings those ideas and concepts provoke, which will be different depending on the person and their past. We as a culture are sometimes terrible at languaging our feelings in healthy ways, let alone reasoning through them. Because we tend to be unskilled in solving the impasse of two peoples differing feelings, we unfortunately resort to anger and bitterness. But if the heart/feelings could come together, the mind would catch up very quickly.
Persuasion. Can't persuade without love. Love is very persuasive, but requires longsuffing and sacrifice. Enduring abuse, returning good for evil. Until at some point, you break their heart. And then the truth is evident or can be accepted.
That's it for this phrase from the A&C. Hope it prompted thought. So much more could be said. This is just my first attempt to begin thinking through this phrase fro the A&C.