We each want to feel better about our self. As hard as we strive to be humble and unassuming, we often feel the need to look good in the eyes of our friends, neighbors and co-workers.
If a person lives in a neighborhood where most houses are similar and he wants his house to stand out, he has two options.
He can collect several paint samples and compare colors for eaves, window frames, etc. then spend several days in the sun painting. He can then plant flower bulbs that will come up in the spring, sun loving flowers for summer, and hearty plants for late autumn. He can plant beautiful bushes and shrubbery he can trim and sculpt. He can maintain a manicured lawn with sharp edges and uniform-blades of grass.
It’s a lot of work, but surely, after such time and effort his house will stand out.
His other option requires much less effort. He can simply gather a bucket of rocks from his yard, a few eggs from the fridge and a couple cans of spray paint. Thus armed, he makes his way through the neighborhood smashing windows, splattering homes with eggs and spraying slander on every door.
There’s no denying that both options will make his house stand out. The first option makes his house stand out because of hard work and diligence. The other makes his house look better by comparison. In reality, his house has not improved at all; it’s an illusion.
These two options are used everyday by people wanting to look better in the eyes of others. Some of us work hard on self-improvement while others wander through life throwing rocks and painting slander.
Self-improvement is hard work and takes time. It demands a lot of thought and evaluation. It requires remodeling and on occasion complete renovation. It demands forward planning to assure that what we plant today will come up as desired in the spring.
It’s much simpler to shatter the windows of a neighbor. Spreading gossip is easier than spreading compost, but in reality, your hands become much dirtier.
Sadly, meanness has become popular and a sign of success. One can hardly turn on a radio without hearing a talk show host mocking someone. We popularize reality shows that embarrass and belittle people.
American author John Steinbeck said:
“It has always seemed strange to me the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
We are in danger of becoming a society that admires sharpness rather than kindness, aggression over meekness, and pride before humility. Sometimes, in an effort to improve ourselves, religious people can forget the teachings that are at the core of our religions. In an effort to appear faithful, we can begin throwing stones at others to make ourselves look better by comparison. Throwing stones can temporarily make one look good, but in reality, when we all start throwing stones, we all lose windows. It’s a much better use of our time improving our own lives by planting a few flowers in the neighborhood.
Video: Go and Sin No More (3;22, Source: Mormon Channel)
Jesus Christ teaches about compassion when confronted with a woman accused of adultery.
Audio: The Candy Bomber (58:00, Source: Mormon Channel)
The Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen, shares memories of bringing joy to children in worn-torn Berlin after World War II.
LAYING IT ON THE ALTAR
There is a common story in situation comedies. Susan finds out her friend Janet has run into tough times financially. Janet is not going to be able to pay all of the bills that are coming due. It is clearly a very stressful thing for her. Susan, because she cares about Janet and doesn’t like seeing her in such a tough situation, offers to give, or loan, Janet some money to get her out of the situation. The scene usually plays out something like this.
SUSAN: Janet, can I ask you something?
SUSAN: Is everything OK?
JANET: What do you mean?
SUSAN: I couldn’t help but notice you’re being extra frugal lately.
JANET: (Feeling a little uncomfortable) Umm, …what are you saying?
SUSAN: I’m just wondering if you are having money problems.
JANET: (A little defensive) I’m fine.
JANET: I’m fine. Why would you even say that?
SUSAN: Well, I didn’t want to bring this up, but I saw you squeezing ketchup packets into hot water and calling it soup.
SUSAN: So, I’m just saying if you need anything I’m here for you.
JANET: Thanks, but I’m fine.
SUSAN: OK. I’m just saying…
JANET (Interrupting) I’m broke! OK. There, I said it. I’m broke.
Then Susan offers to give Janet money to tide her over. Janet refuses, but eventually agrees to accept it if they can call it a loan. The next day a mutual friend informs Susan that she saw Janet coming out of a very expensive spa.
SUSAN: Hmmm, that’s interesting.
FRIEND: Why is that interesting?
SUSAN: Because this morning I saw her with shopping bags from Bloomingdale’s.
Susan decides, against the advice of the mutual friend, that she will have a talk with Janet.
ACT II – Hilarity ensues.
What makes this situation work in any sitcom is the fact that Susan feels that because she has loaned, or perhaps given Janet money, she has the right to decide what Janet should do with that money.
MAKING AN OFFERING
When we lay a sacrifice on the alter, we must then walk away. Once that sacrifice has left our hands, we have no say in what will be done with that offering. If we attach strings to any offering, it is not a true sacrifice. If you tithe to your church, you do so because you want to do something good, not because you want to control what that church does with your offering. You make a good faith offering and then walk away.
How many times have you heard, or even said yourself, that you should not give money to people on the street? Common statements are;
“He’ll probably just buy booze with it.” Or,
“He probably makes more money per year than you do.” Or,
“He won’t be grateful for it.”
Maybe he will buy booze. Maybe he won’t be grateful. What if we each had only those things we are grateful for? We would each be in a pretty bad way.
There is a joy that comes from sacrifice. Whether that sacrifice be a financial donation, or an offering of your time, it can give one a sense of peace. When we question our donation, or second-guess those who are receiving it, we rob ourselves of that joy.
Next time you feel like giving money to someone on the street, do it without questioning his intent. Say to yourself, “Whatever he does with that money, I hope it makes him happy. And if it makes him happy, then I’m happy for him.”
"The Coat" (Source: The Mormon Channel)
LIFE’S FOUR CATEGORIES Everything can be put into one of the following four categories: Fact, Truth, Opinion, and Fantasy. The color purple is the most beautiful of all colors. – OPINION If I want it enough, but never practice I can become a professional basketball player. – FANTASY Snow is cold. – FACT Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem. – TRUTH OPINIONS are just that, opinions. They don't need to have a basis in fact. They don't need not be true, but they are not necessarily false. FANTASIES can be confused with opinions, but the difference is, while opinions CAN be true, fantasies are not. Fantasies are often not based in rational thought or logic. FACTS are truths that can be verified with tangible evidence such as data, visual confirmation, etc. TRUTHS differ from facts in that they cannot be confirmed with tangible evidence. THE WORLD IS A TOUGH PLACE One of the plagues of any society is the bully. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They sometimes grow out of it, but more often than not they don’t. There are bullies on playgrounds. There are bullies in schools. There are bullies in boardrooms, in churches, and, sadly, in homes. Helping children deal with bullies can be a difficult and often heart-breaking struggle. Understanding these four categories can make it easier for children (and adults) in dealing with bullies. When your daughter comes home in tears because, “Billy said my shirt is ugly.” It can ease the pain a bit if she can understand the difference between fact and opinion. If she can understand that Billy’s favorite color might be blue and so he thinks anything that is not blue is ugly, then she can learn to understand not only the difference between fact and opinion, but she has learned a valuable lesson in tact and how we should care about the feelings of others. CHURCH BULLIES Some of the worst and most hurtful bullies are church bullies. Church is a place that should feel safe. It’s a place where we should each feel comfortable being ourselves. Church bullies sometimes set themselves up as the morals and values police. Because they have appointed themselves to a lofty position of authority, as they suppose, they start exercising unrighteous dominion. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:39) They decide it is their right and duty to keep others in line and to point out the shortcomings of those around them. These self-appointed officers of order place insignificant rules, traditions, and social norms above the feelings and welfare of people. Bullies tend to see every single one of their own opinions as facts or truths. In a recent General Conference address, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints quoted a bumper sticker he had seen. “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” When we judge others we are announcing that we are sinless. Our lives are in such perfect order that we are in desperate need of a hobby, and the hobby we have chosen is bullying. All judging is a form of bullying. In fact, judging is the bully’s favorite weapon. It may not be one of the 10 Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, but not judging is still a commandment. We should each be kind whenever possible, and remember, it’s always possible. SELF-TEST In the same Conference address, President Uchtdorf suggested the following questions as a self-test:
- Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
- Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
- Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
- Do you secretly envy another?
- Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
________________________________QUOTES ABOUT KINDNESS “If you were my earthly friend, you would win my heart by being kind to my children. God loves his children more than any earthly parent, so think what your kindness to his children means to him.” – Henry B. Eyring “Kindness, love, patience, understanding, and unity will increase as we serve, while intolerance, jealousy, envy, greed, and selfishness decrease or disappear. The more we give of ourselves, the more our capacity to serve, understand, and love will grow.” – Carlos H. Amando “We love him, because he first loved us.” – The Holy Bible, 1 John 4:19 RELATED MATERIALS: Video – “The Merciful Obtain Mercy” – General Conference Address, April, 2012, Dieter F. Uchtdorf