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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kindness Begins With Me

Primary Songs have always served as a good reminder to me of the beautiful simplicity of the most valuable truths.  I remember playing He Sent His Son when filling in a few months ago when the usual pianist was away and how powerful of a reminder it was of the role and love of our Heavenly Father and our Savior and their kindness.  This is just one example of the ability of Primary Songs to carry the love and truth of our God to the heart of the listener.

The concept I want to focus on, though, is the two line 'jingle', Kindness Begins with Me.

I think it's appropriate to assume that everyone in our lives has moments where something just clicks, something huge; those moments where our perspective does a permanent, pivotal shift to something so far outside our comfort zone that we are either forced to acknowledge and accept a permanent change in our nature and behavior for the better or live a lie.  Sometimes those shifts come more gradually, but I have had several of them since I served a full time mission and more since I have been married to the love of my life.  Each time, something about the truth of God's Plan of Happiness and the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes much clearer and much more real to me.  In the last year (ish) I have come to realize something that I would have argued against adamantly before I was married.

I have always found good answers from the words of modern prophets and the words of Elder Neal A. Maxwell are no exception: "Especially helpful are the memories of those individuals and friends who are exemplars for you and me by the manner in which they strive so steadily and unapologetically to wear the whole armor of God."  However, I clung to that concept so tight for a time that I would allow it to override and even oppress the equally vital idea of which Elder Oaks so eloquently reminded the world. "Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious."

These two seemingly contrasting ideas are actually not as opposing as they seem, despite the easily assumed mentality that the coexistence of these two virtues are ironic.  They actually work in perfect harmony together the same way that, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, eternal laws of justice and mercy complement each other for our good.  On exceptionally rare occasion I say (verbally or in writing) something that I look back on and think, "Did I just say that?"  I don't consider myself to be any kind of professional of expert with words of wisdom, but once in a while something pops out of my mouth that shocks me.  One of those times was today, when I told someone "I'm not very good at discerning what will sound offensive or not, but I believe that we can be bold and unapologetic in our declarations of truth and still be intentionally conscious of speaking to someone on their level so that they understand and see us as their friend without offending.  That kind of approach doesn't make us spineless [and doesn't] dilute the truth, it just makes it so that it can touch their hearts more easily and still be just as effective."  I say moments like that shock me because I am so far from where I need to be relative to an expert conversationalist like the Savior that when I do say something "just right" it's like, "Whoa! Wait a sec, is the world going to blow up?".  The only explanation I can think of that fits is divine intervention.  I'm just not patient enough to come up with just the right wording on my own.  Seriously, I'm just no good at it right now.  It's always God telling me what to say when I happen to say something super amazing.  It's not me.

But the point is that those two contrasting ideas, working together in perfect unison, can and must eventually become a part of our nature if we want to become like and be cleansed and perfected through our Lord.

Look at how the Savior handled the situation when that woman was brought to Him, caught in adultery, and her accusers tried to trick Christ into violating either the law of justice or the law of mercy.  His response to the accusers and the woman was brief, kind, blunt and completely effective on all counts.  He starts with "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."  Short, to the point, no labeling or pointing fingers at anyone, just instructing in the truth and letting the truth speak for itself in the hearts of the listeners.  So they leave and the woman and Jesus are there alone.  He says to her "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" She responds with, "No man, Lord." and then the perfect response once again from Jesus, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."

That is so amazing!  The message is basically, "I will pay for this sin myself and I'm her eternal judge, not you, so you don't have worry about this.  Let me handle it."; and then regarding the sinner, "I love you and my Atonement will pay for this.  In order for that payment to take effect, be on your way" and then a firm but loving commandment, "and don't do it anymore."

This is just one example of many where the Savior handled people in process of a sinful act perfectly, with the perfect amount of love, mercy and judgement.  Another is from Elder Orson F. Whitney's dream about the Savior, 

“One night I dreamed … that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. … I stood behind a tree in the foreground. …Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, He passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed … : ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was [turned] toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with His great sorrow. My whole heart went out to Him. I loved Him with all my soul and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or scolding, asked them if they could not watch with Him one hour. …"

Again, amazing!  He was in the process of suffering and overcoming the full weight of the sins, weaknesses and pains of the entire human race and when He finds His number three most faithful followers at the time sleeping, opposite of His request of them, He responds with perfect kindness and power at the same time!

That kind of balance is, indeed, a very difficult thing for us mortals to achieve, but if it was impossible, Christ wouldn't have commanded it, and He did.  His gospel is a gospel of love, joy and peace to those who choose to follow it and it should be presented as such when we teach it to others or encourage them to follow Him.

I'm not where I want to be yet in this respect, but I know that God will strengthen and change me as I work to find this balance so I can be at peace with everyone, especially and most importantly, with my Heavenly Father and His perfect Son.

Let's all work to be a little less afraid, speak the truth more firmly and fearlessly and be more loving and kind in the process.