Influence and Persuasion- Personal Example #3

When I was nineteen I served a mission for my church, proselyting the gospel in the Caribbean. There was a great diversity of religious opinion where I served. Hinduism was most prevalent, but Christianity and Islam were not far behind. A healthy dose of Rastafari as well, and numerous smaller theologies sprinkled on top, to say nothing of the many different sects within each larger religion-umbrella.

Because of the nature of my work there, I entered into many theological discussions with members of other churches, some of them positive and some of them not. I met more than one person who was angry at me for “being wrong,” and who would seek very aggressively to convince me of that wrongness.

And while those experiences left a strong distaste in my mouth, I have actually come to agree with some of the points they made, but many years after and not because of their hostile approach. For example, only recently I came to the realization that I misunderstood grace. I said I believed in it, but I was still trying to win my own salvation. This was something that others were able to see amiss in me, but their antagonistic methods only delayed my willingness to see the truth of the matter. I wasn’t convinced until much later, when I met others who genuinely cared for me, and as a friend helped me to see more clearly.

I’m glad to say that I also had very positive experiences with members of different faiths on my mission. In particular I remember a long conversation with a Hindu Pujari (temple priest) in his home, where he patiently explained all the concepts of their religion that I had questions about. He helped me to see the misunderstanding I had on concepts like reincarnation, nirvana, and karma.

Now I did not convert to Hinduism, but I did open myself to seeing the very real good that this religion and culture has to offer the world. For example, the emphasis that it gives to connecting with one’s physical self and caring for it; this is something that many of us Christians have a lot to learn about. I have even added the practice of yoga into my life because of the good I have seen it bring me.

Indeed, whenever I meet a soul that is intent upon being a friend, and not merely a corrector, I have found something to learn from them. No matter their religion, philosophy, or personal beliefs, no matter how many other things they think that I disagree with, there is always still something for a friend to teach.

Dealing With Failure- Summary

This has been a very helpful study for me. Actively striving to be more Christ-like has been a wonderful experience where I have seen found real growth and increased happiness. Many behaviors have organically improved all on their own, far more easily than I ever would have thought possible.
But while there have been areas of quick growth, there have also been other areas that are far more difficult to grow in, and behaviors that have proved far more resistant to change than I had expected. And in response to those complications I have seen the rise of my old, familiar inner critic.
Through this study I have found some important lessons for how to deal with these growing pains, and having this understanding has already brought me a greater sense of peace. I guess this was just another area I needed growth in! Here are the main points that stood out to me from my study.

Keep Pressing Forward)

I have never had a time where I didn’t want to improve myself, but there was a period where it was more of an idle wish than an actual intention. And even that idle wishing was incomplete, because only some flaws did I care to improve on, while others I just didn’t care about.
Eventually I was woken up to my desperate need for God and a path to follow. I realized that my existence was lifeless, and would remain so unless I was actively chasing for a better me. And at that same time I realized that if I was going to give myself over to this journey, it needed to be all the way. Now I knew that I must improve myself in every area.
It simply wasn’t going to cut it to overcome lust and deceit, but leave myself a guarded recluse. Nor would it do to only build meaningful relationships, but not improve the way I cared for my body.
And the outcome of this is that I can take glory in the failures I experience, because it means I’m actually trying. It means I’m no longer accepting a half-lived life. Friction, after all, is not felt until one starts moving.
Luke 9:62- And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Ephesians 5:14- Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Be Direct, But Kind)

One of the most surprising epiphanies that came to me through this research was that the healthy way to treat someone else when they let me down is the same way I should treat myself when I let me down. It seems such a simple concept that I’m honestly embarrassed to say that this was a revelation, but really it answered so many of my questions and frustrations.
Or to put it another way, the golden rule flows both directions. Yes, I should do unto others as I would have others do unto me…but also I should do unto myself as I would have others do unto me!
If I do something to let someone else down, I would not want them to scream at or hurt me. Nor would I want them to deny that it was wrong of me, either. I would hope that they could be honest about their frustration, express it without hate, give clear direction as to which of my behaviors is causing the pain, and still reassure me of their unconditional love.
It takes effort to do that. It can by very hard to get into a mental state that can be so vulnerable and kind. And I am sure that there will be many who never treat me that way. But at the very least, I should.
Doctrine and Covenants 121:43- 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;
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.

Ask For Help)

The final takeaway from my study was the need for surrendering. My default behavior is to believe that I have to do things myself. I am reluctant to ask for help, or to accept kindness when it is offered. Even when I was at school and didn’t understand a difficult concept, I was more likely to beat my head against the wall trying to figure out on my own instead of raising my hand and asking a question.
It seems a simple logic that if I got myself into this mess, I should be able to get myself out of it. If I was able to do the behaviors that led me here, I must also be able to do the opposite behaviors to get myself back.
But that just. Isn’t. True.
Yes, some steps can be undone, but some make you fall down a hole that you don’t have the gear to climb out of. And it isn’t a question of if this will happen, Adam and Eve set the pattern for this Fall and each of us will follow it. We will all be down in that pit in life, in fact we’ll be there several times.
So I will do my best, my absolute, genuine best. But then, as always, I will rely on grace. For there are many parts of my heart that are too deep for me to reach, and only God can change them.
Psalm 55:22- Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
1 Corinthians 2:5- That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
2 Nephi 25:23- For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

The Family of God- Galatians 3:28-29, Malachi 2:10

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?

COMMENTARY

Have we not all one father? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?
For ye are all one in Christ Jesus
We love to make divisions. For some reason we feel this need to put ourselves as better than others. There are the obvious criteria of segregation: race, religion, sex, and age. Thankfully many of us today have accepted that discriminating on these terms is entirely inappropriate.
That is good, but I don’t think that any of us are still entirely in the clear. If we keep listing out other metrics by which people judge one other, I believe sooner or later each of us will feel a twinge of guilt. You might think less of others because of their education level, or what sort of car they drive, which political party they most frequently vote for, their physical or mental handicaps, their success or their failure, their resting facial expression, their parenting style, which words they use, what clothes they wear, their weight, whether they have clear skin or not, whether they had things handed to them on a silver platter, their choices…we could go on, but I think you get the point.
Somehow we get the notion that some people are “less” children of God than us. To be sure, there are choices people make, and some truly do make poorer ones than others…. But not one bit of that makes a person any less God’s child than another. Your testimony that you are a child of God is important, but it is incomplete until it includes a fervent belief that so is everyone else.

Service to Others- Summary

This study has been extremely beneficial for me, I do hope that it has been helpful for you as well. I very much enjoyed this approach of both researching and practicing, it is something I think I would like to incorporate more in future studies.
There is a principle of the gospel that I think needs stressing at this point: understanding the reasons behind what we are taught is important, but doing the things we are taught is more so. By reading the scriptures I found things I had never considered before. By trying to act on their instructions I found even more.
I am always amazed at just how much there is to learn. You think I would be used to finding so much depth to the gospel, yet I continue to be caught by surprise. I honestly feel I could linger on this topic for twice as long and still not be finished.

We All Need to Serve

Many of us feel a twinge of guilt when we hear lessons about serving others. The fact we feel guilty, though, means we really do know in our hearts that it is a true principle. At our cores we are made to serve, it is baked into our human DNA. Most commonly we think of basic needs in the form of things that we need to receive: food, and rest, and love. But we also have a need to give, and we do not feel complete until we embrace it.
And so we want to serve, but simultaneously we do not want to. We are mixed beings, composed of both the spirit and the flesh. To ever serve, then, requires that the spiritual part overcome the carnal. If you find yourself hesitating to give freely, don’t feel ashamed, it is an entirely normal way to be. But also know that you can grow past this common weakness, and give full expression to the generosity that your spirit yearns for.
Moses 7:32- And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another.
Galatians 5:13- For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

We All Need to be Served

Service is a beautiful principle in how it meets two needs at once. For we not only need to care, we also need to be cared for. Our modern culture pressures us to be independent, to need no one. A message which can easily lead to a state of perpetual emptiness.
Now, to be fair, it is of course possible to leech off of others or become a helpless codependent. These are not the same as receiving service. To receive service is to receive that which you truly cannot give to yourself. Things like knowing you are a priority to another person, receiving their attention, their care, to have them listen to what you say. These are food for the soul.
John 13:6, 8-
Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet.
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.

Service is a Divine Act that Binds Together

The need to serve and also be served connects us to one another. It makes us form societies rather than spread out as individual hermits. It pushes us towards the better part of our natures, giving freely, acting kindly, helping our fellow man.
But the divine binding does not end here. For some of our needs to serve and be served cannot be answered in any mortal. We need to serve God, and we need to be shown tender mercies by Him. Perhaps some things were made to stand alone, but neither a man nor all mankind were. As individuals, and as a composite body we need our Father. And there is nothing shameful in that, it empowers us to be more than ourselves.
Romans 12:5- So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Galatians 6:2- Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.


Service to Others- Matthew 5:38-41

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
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.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

COMMENTARY

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth
Our carnal tendency is to give as we have received. Not to give as we would like to receive, such as the golden rule recommends, but only to give as we have already received. As such, we have no mortal motivation to show a kindness to another unless they have already shown a kindness to us first. The problem with this approach is that then no kind act can ever be performed, as it requires an initiating factor. The whole pattern must be begun by one who does a kindness without reason, having received no kindness of their own. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.
What is conceivable, though, is an initiating unkindness, a moment where someone takes advantage of another for their own benefit. This would then start a toxic chain of retaliation unkindness through all humanity, and there could never be an end to the series because it requires a terminating factor. The whole pattern could only be closed by one who receives an unkindness and then, without reason, chooses not to retaliate. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also
So would acting charitably mean giving unfairly and forgiving where it isn’t deserved? Quite frankly, yes. And that is the ultimate ambition. It is just that sort of charity that brought our Savior to lay down his life for us, even though we did not deserve any such kindness. And so charity is a principle in direct contrast to that of an eye for an eye. It is an uncomfortable principle, one that goes against our natural sense of indignation. But it is the only way to ever end a dance of abuse and counterattack, and the only way to ever start a dance of benevolence and generosity.

Service to Others- Matthew 25:34-40

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

COMMENTARY

These my brethren
I like this set of verses from Matthew…but I didn’t always. Most often I would hear people quote this passage, and then preach a message about it that rubbed me the wrong way. That message went along the lines of “so that’s why you should do kind acts for others, because really you’re just doing them for Jesus.” And I would hear that and think “well shouldn’t I really be doing service to others for their own sake?”
I mean, I would personally feel a bit hurt if someone did a kindness to me and then said “actually, that was for Jesus.” Gee, thanks.
So instead, I prefer to put the emphasis on these my brethren. Here Jesus is telling us how he views these people and testifying of his love for them. “These are my brethren, my kin, my people.” He isn’t trying to tell us to put his image over their faces, he is telling us to put his love over them. He wants us to see how important to him they are, how worthy of being helped, in and of themselves.

Ye have done it unto me
I am a father, and I can attest that any time I see someone do a kindness to my little son, I feel that a kindness has been done to me as well. I love people just for their willingness to give my son their attention and hear what he has to say. But I wouldn’t if they were doing it for me instead of for him. If they were listening to him only to please me, I would feel offended at their insincerity.
So yes, Christ feels served when we do service for others. But I am convinced that he wants us to do that service by making his brethren our brethren. By doing our kindness to them for their own joy. That he will derive joy from the service as well is simply a divine dividend.