Dealing With Failure- Galatians 6:1

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

COMMENTARY

If a man be overtaken in a fault, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness
I spoke yesterday of how self-correction can be an act of love and protection, where I endeavor to preserve my delicate and spiritual nature from the more callous and worldly part of me. However I have also learned that rushing to the defense of the spiritual does not mean that I must become harsh with the flesh. When one shouts at oneself, one tends to shout at all of oneself, both the offender and the offended.
Yes, the flesh does need to be subdued and bridled. And yes, when I stand between it and the spirit, I must be firm and direct. But as this verse suggests, I can also have a spirit of meekness and compassion during that stance.
This might seem like a contradiction of terms, but it makes sense when I remember the times I have corrected my own children from a healthy, grounded state. A good parent will firmly enforce rules and boundaries to a child, but in the same moment will hold them, express love, and patiently explain the reasons for the rule.
Because in the end, my worldly, misbehaving self often feels like a small child himself. A young, naïve boy who is trying to get what he wants by misguided means. He is a manipulative boy, even a bully of a boy, but rather than be hated for it, he just needs someone to instruct and correct him. Firmly and directly, but also compassionately.

Dealing With Failure- Luke 15:20, Isaiah 54:8

And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.

COMMENTARY

He arose, and came to his father. And his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him
There is a great myth in our society that we cannot love a person unless we also sweep all their misdeeds under the rug. It is believed that if we call a behavior wrong, then by extension we must hate all people that participate in that behavior.
The parable of the prodigal son shows a father that loves his son perfectly, is eager to forgive, and accepts his son’s return without question. But at the same time, he never condones the boy’s wayward behavior. He never claims that sin is not sin. He is able to both disapprove of the boy’s mistakes and also retain his love for him.

In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee
I believe a major reason for the myth that we cannot be opposed to sin but still love the sinner is because anger is so often coupled with hate. As small children anger quickly becomes associated with things like neglect, cruel criticisms, and even physical abuse.
But anger, in and of itself, is not hate. And while hate is never a correct response to failure, sometimes anger is. When we let ourselves down it is possible to be upset with our behavior and call ourselves out for it, while also still immersing ourselves in self-love and care.

Dealing With Failure- Proverbs 3:12, Doctrine and Covenants 121:43

For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

COMMENTARY

For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth
Reproving betimes with sharpness
God is love. God is willing to forgive. God does not stop being a caring Father because of our mistakes, He still accepts the sinner, and seeks for the sheep that is lost.
But that does not mean that He does not correct us. Nor does it mean that He will just sweep our sins under the rug. When we do something wrong, it matters, and He expresses this in no uncertain terms.
This is a quality I’ve come to appreciate a great deal from Him. He does not beat around the bush, He does not speak in cryptic riddles. When I have done something that is offensive, He makes it known in clear and direct terms. When He corrects us it is extremely sharp. Not in the sense of harming, but in the sense of being very precise and direct.
I have realized that many times when I have been offended, and I try to express it, I tend to be very blunt. Not in the sense of being straightforward, but in the sense of being broad and imprecise. I try to hint at my feelings without actually being plain and vulnerable.
So, too, when I try to correct myself. I speak to myself in exaggerated, end-of-the-world terms, splashing criticism over a broad area, most of it landing far from the actual core of the problem. But I am learning from His example how to pause, collect myself, and then speak sharply (directly and precisely) to the heart of the matter.

A Surety of Truth- Proverbs 1:5, Philippians 4:18

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

COMMENTARY

A wise man will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels
Yesterday we discussed how even if we don’t know how to do everything perfectly, we are still meant to try our best. We should move forward with the definition of “good” as we understand it in the moment, and then be open to improvement and correction as we go. Not only this, but we should even seek out that improvement, looking for mentors to instruct and correct us along our way.
At first we may not feel a need to seek out mentors. We’ll likely find that we already have them by default. With the family we were born with and the friends we came by in our youth, most of us have already put together an entire council to direct us without any conscious thought on the matter.
At some point, though, we ought to take a look at who we are being influenced by, and ask ourselves whether they are worthy to that have power over us. They might be or they might not be. “I’m your father” or “I’ve been your friend since grade school” are not reason enough, they need to have something more.

Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
As I’ve chosen which mentors I will hold onto or let go of in life, I have found the qualities mentioned in the verse above to be an excellent guide. I do not just look for mentors that speak about these qualities (there are many who invoke these words without meaning), I look for those that actually live them. I want to be led by people whose good words are matched by the lives they are living. I want to be led by example, not just dictation.
When I find someone whose life is in complete harmony with their principles, when I find someone who has integrity through and through…then I know that I have found someone I can learn from.

A Surety of Truth- Colossians 3:23, Ecclesiastes 9:10

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

COMMENTARY

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might

We have discussed the inherent difficulty in being completely sure of our convictions. We all have our opinions of what we think is right, but we’re probably not 100% correct on the matter. But it would be wrong, because of that uncertainty, to paralyze ourselves into inaction. We do not have to understand all things perfectly before we begin to move forward. We can simply try our best, even if our best has some flaws right now.
Indeed, this is the pattern advocated for several times in the scriptures, including the two verses shared above. We are meant to act boldly and confidently, we are meant to live our convictions with a passion. Do the best that you know to do now. Do it wholeheartedly.
And then, during that, be open to learning an even better way later on. And when you receive that improvement, then do that wholeheartedly. Thus we are always moving forward, and doing so straighter and straighter the farther we go.

Evolving Your Beliefs- Jonah 4:4, 6-11

Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry?
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city,
And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.
But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?

COMMENTARY

Doest thou well to be angry?
So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city.
Yesterday we observed how Jonah became angry when God showed mercy to the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted them to be destroyed instead. God challenges Jonah with the question “doest thou well to be angry?” but Jonah does not respond. He gets up and leaves instead.
Sometimes we get angry with God because we, too, disagree with His methods. We think we know how things should be, and are hurt to have Him tell us that we are wrong.

And the Lord God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief
But God prepared a worm, and it smote the gourd that it withered
And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd?

When our pride has been stung we lash out. “Hey, don’t touch that! It hurts!” Which request God promptly ignores. He jabs His finger firmly into it! He isn’t going to just let this go. We have a festering blemish and He is going to lance it and it is going to hurt…. But He only does it so that we can finally heal.
So while Jonah is fuming under the gourd God reaches out and makes him even angrier! He kills the gourd, and when Jonah complains he brings back the still unanswered question: “doest thou well to be angry?
This time Jonah answers “I do well to be angry, even unto death.”

Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured
And should not I spare Nineveh, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons?

And now the Lord shows Jonah the contradiction that he is making. Jonah is sorry, and rightfully so, for the death of a gourd. But he is unfeeling for the death of an entire city. Even the densest of people should be able to see the misaligned priorities here. The Lord is stressing to Jonah that there is no pleasure in destruction. It is tragic for a gourd to fall, and it is tragic for a people to die. Perhaps Jonah already knew these things in his head, but needed God to break him down so that he could feel them in his heart.
I certainly have been emotionally tied to my own misconceptions as well, and like Jonah I built up walls to protect them. I said I was being “righteously indignant,” but I wasn’t, I was just being obstinate.

Knit Our Hearts- Luke 17:3, Matthew 5:39

Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

COMMENTARY

If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him
Resist not evil
There is a variety of opinions among the faithful whether we are justified in correcting those that are wrong or not. When we gently call out a brother or sister that mistreats us are we doing them a kindness, as I suggested yesterday? Or are we guilty of unrighteous judgment, of trying to take out the mote while a beam is in our own eye?
To add to the confusion is that both sides of this debate have verses to back them up. Consider the two I have laid out here. Are we supposed to rebuke another, or turn the other cheek?
However a closer reading of these verses will dispel any perceived inconsistency between them. If one looks at what is said, we will realize that these two different behaviors were prescribed for dealing with two different sorts of people.

  1. If thy brother trespass against thee…
  2. Resist not evil

The first verse is describing how disciples are meant to behave towards one another. We are supposed to love each other, and help each other become the best that we can be. That means encouraging, guiding, and when necessary, correcting. So long as our intentions are brotherly, all is well.
The second verse is describing how disciples are meant to behave towards evil. There are those in the world that have no positive intent when they interact with you. When they cast stones at the church they are purely trying to do harm. To these our counsel is simply to mitigate as much damage as possible. Do not provoke, do not return cruelty for cruelty, just meekly let their storm pass and move on.
With this clarification we can see that these two different behaviors are actually supporting the same basic principle: to be a peacemaker. We improve the world where it is possible, and we do no harm where it isn’t.

Knit Our Hearts- Matthew 18:15

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

COMMENTARY

If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault
Thus far in this study I have focused on our need for unity. This is an important message, but sometimes it is taken out of context to justify inappropriate behavior.
Sometimes we are so anxious to preserve unity that we are unwilling to acknowledge the harm that others are inflicting. We are afraid of “judging” them, or of rocking the boat. We stifle our complaints and scold ourselves for not being more forgiving.
But this passage gives us permission to stand up for ourselves when we have been wronged! Not by lashing out in anger of course, but by calmly and lovingly pointing out the error. How a brother or sister might respond to this correction is up to them. They might redeem themselves or they might degenerate themselves further. In either case, we can hold a clean conscience for having let them know that they hurt us.

If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother
Because, in the end, giving gentle correction is an act of love. When one person wrongs another, a rift is created between them, and so long as it remains the relationship is compromised. Even if you have not condemned your brother or sister, they are still just as guilty of having done wrong. There is nothing kind in leaving them in that dejected place, not when you have the opportunity to help them be restored.
Sometimes I have done wrong and not even known it. I have been grateful to a true brother who gave me the opportunity to see more clearly and make amends.
Sometimes I have done wrong and known it, but felt too ashamed to admit it. I have been grateful to a compassionate sister who showed me the depth of her wound, and by her vulnerability persuaded me to seek reconciliation.