Sitting in my office chair on my lunch break, I was suddenly numb. Could this news article even be real? It must just be a coincidence that the name and profession matched the person I knew. There was no way that someone who had helped me so much could have been a part of something so terrible.
Quickly I did what any reasonable investigator would do: I turned to social media to look up the name to see if it matched the face. After all, I didn’t actually know their last name for sure. Shock suddenly enveloped me. No, not my friend! It couldn’t be?! A person who had been an anchor during a difficult trial was suddenly all over the news for having harmed someone else in an inexplicable way.
Denial was the first emotion I experienced. I began praying for the individual that there would be evidence to prove it wasn’t true. I begged God to bring to light the innocence of the person. However, as I prayed, while I felt peace, I also felt confirmation that the truth was already out. This person had in fact done the deed. The further I researched the situation, the more appalling it became. Somehow at the exact same time this individual was helping me, they were hurting someone else.
The experience shook me to the core. Was I really that bad at judging someone’s character? How could one individual harbor so much goodness and so much evil at the same time? Honestly, I had looked up to this guy and thought he was extremely kind and had a giving spirit. The truth is, I may never know the answer to my questions in this life. In Alma 37:11 in the Book of Mormon, Alma teaches us that we don’t always have all of the answers yet, so we need to forebear — or, in my own, words endure — until we can have complete knowledge.
My heart aches for the child who has been hurt, but also for my friend who done the hurting. Both of their lives are changed because of an extremely poor choice or series of choices. Dieter F. Uchtdorf explained it like this:
“You have agency, and you are free to choose. But there is actually no free agency. Agency has its price. You have to pay the consequences of your choices” (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “On the Wings of Eagles,” Ensign, July 2006).
In this situation, the consequences will be intense for both individuals. My friend who chose the wrong thing is affecting myself and others too. The price of his choices are hard to calculate.
Sadly, we can’t go back and change this situation, but we can stop to evaluate our own lives and our situations. We can ask ourselves where our choices are leading us. Satan tempts all of us each day. How would we feel if our mistakes were broadcast for all the world to see in the newspaper? What if people we loved and trusted would have to handle the effects of our choices? Is there a compelling story there that if the media found, they would want to broadcast?
This is obviously an extreme example, but I believe that all of our choices do affect other people. They uplift and enlighten others’ lives, and sometimes they bring sadness and sorrow. Please don’t misunderstand; I don’t believe any of us will live a blemish-free life. I do believe that we can live guilt- and shame-free by making good choices and owning up to the mistakes that we make.
Thankfully the Atonement of Jesus Christ erases our daily news headlines. Our Savior is our number one reader and He helps us to change and become something better. He can turn tragic headlines of sin and sorrow into beauty in the ashes of our lives. Because of the sacrifices He made, all hope is not lost. As crazy as it might sound, I believe the Atonement can even help my friend who messed up. I don’t think it can erase the consequences, but I do believe it can heal the hearts of everyone involved.
Ashley Dewey is extremely talented at being single. Hobbies include awkward conversations with members of the opposite sex, repelling third dates, talking to boys about their girl problems and to girls about their boy problems. In her spare time she also has a very fulfilling school life, work life, and social life. Besides being a professional single, Ashley is also a BYU graduate with a degree in linguistics (Aka word nerd). She enjoys studying other languages, particularly American Sign Language, and finds most all of them fascinating. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Teaching English as a Second Language. Ashley works most of the time and has often been accused of being a workaholic. Currently she works full time as a merchandiser and supervisor in a retail store, and part time doing social media work. On her day off she works (really it doesn't feel like work) in the Provo LDS temple. The only kind of work she finds difficulty focusing on is house work. Her favorite activities in her free time are reading, writing, creating social experiments, and spending time with great friends and family. Specific activities with those family and friends include: going to concerts, plays, dance recitals, BYU basketball and football games, and watching sports on television.