And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.
Every missionary has that one companion where personalities clash. Every member of the church has painfully experienced coming up against someone’s grating idiosyncrasies. Each of us is different, making clashes inevitable.
It isn’t a matter of if someone will offend you (or you will offend someone), it’s when.
So what do we do when we are supposed to have charity for everyone? Even that person who wrote you that angry email, detailing all of your flaws? Or that person who gossiped about you? Or that person who treated you as an outsider in a faith that is supposed to welcome all of God’s children? How do we find love in our hearts for these kinds of individuals? How do we respond to unkindness with kindness?
I don’t know.
Before we proceed discussing what I do know, it is important to note a distinction: If someone is abusing you in any way, leave the situation and let someone know. It is NOT okay for someone to purposefully harm someone else —that is abuse and should be addressed.
However, there are lots of ways we manage to hurt each other as we bumble along this path of life, struggling to become more like our Savior. Again the question arises: How do we treat someone with kindness and charity who has hurt us? How do we act as we should, even when our hearts are not yet fully healed?
I decided to take this to my daughters for a family discussion. I read aloud Doctrine and Covenants 12:8, then asked:
“I want the Lord to be able to entrust more to my care. How can I be temperate, meaning acting calmly and peaceably, in interacting with someone who has treated me badly?”
13-year-old: “Just ignore them.”
This will just make the situation more tense! Yeah, but it’s better to ignore them than to respond with anger—that just makes the problem worse! True, but if you ignore someone for too long, then that creates problems too!
16-year-old: “Find out more.”
Sometimes there’s something going on that you don’t know about. If you ask, you might find out they’re dealing with something really painful and then you can understand and love them.
13-year-old: “Pretend that you’re fine.”
Even if you’re not? I guess I can see how this would work. Sometimes faking until you make it does help. It helps me to act the way I should. While I’m acting, I can pray and fast to heal my heart, eventually, my perspective will shift. I come to realize that we are all works in progress, so patiently do what is right. Eventually, I will feel what is right.
Then my sixteen-year-old hit me with, “God always loves us. However, loving us and trusting us are two different things. God always loves us. When we are sinning, He can’t trust us to serve others and to listen to the Spirit.”
When I am sinning?!? Wait a minute, I said when someone else has hurt ME. I didn’t sin, they did! Against me!
Oh. Wait a second, I see what happened there. True, maybe their actions hurt me, to begin with, but my choice to focus on that pain, rather than on what the Lord would have me do is when I started to sin. When my focus left the Lord and focused on myself, then I stopped being available for inspiration to help others. Oh.
My job is to love so that God can trust me to caretake his sons and daughters here on earth. He needs willing hands to serve those who are struggling. The Lord needs hearts willing to have the compassion to forgive unkind behavior. If I want to be useful to the Lord, I need to find a way to have charity and love.
Perhaps I’ll need to fake it at first, while I pray for true charity to come into my heart for this child of God. Do what is right, even while I don’t necessarily feel what is right.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.