Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One heart and one mind, part 2

I've been thinking about Beth's comment on the previous post, and Sam and I were talking about it last night, and I think that we came to kind of the same conclusion, i.e., that the key to achieving unity must start with finding what we have in common (for example, that we are all trying in our own ways to follow God) and focusing on that. It seems like President Hinckley was always saying that.

And the way we feel towards others is an important part of it, even more than what we think of their viewpoints, maybe. In other words, if I can feel empathy and love towards someone I think has weird ideas ("What she's saying/doing doesn't seem right to me---but then again, think how many times I've been wrong about something I was sure of, and also how many times I've done the wrong thing even when I knew what the right thing was---so she is probably just trying to make sense of things just like I am. I know how that feels.") then I am less likely to set myself apart as "better" than others. I think one of the most harmful attitudes to have is this one (which I find myself falling into all the time): "Sure, I'm not perfect, and I have my problems, but at least I don't do _____!" (Or, "at least I'm not as bad as _____ is!") I think the whole point of all the scriptures on charity and love for your fellow-men, is to emphasize that we all are in exactly the same boat: no matter HOW good we are, NOBODY is "good enough" without Christ, and we all need His atonement equally. I think I used to have the idea that we all needed the atonement, but some people sort of needed it less than others. Now I think that's wrong. I think we're all (really, all, even people like Joseph Smith or President Monson) equally lost without the mercy of God.

So, back to unity, I'm starting to think that simply being able to say to several different viewpoints: "Yes, that's a good point; that's a good point too; yes, I can see your point too" is not really enough to strive for. I mean, that's fine, and it might help you get in fewer arguments, but maybe the main thing is to find love or understanding or sympathy towards the person themself. And worry less about if you disagree with their politics or their views on polygamy or whatever. (And so does that mean that you just avoid any touchy subject? Only talk about things you DO agree on? Maybe so, at least sometimes. I was thinking maybe that wasn't truly being "of one heart and one mind," but maybe if it makes you feel more charitable, it's a good start.)

The other thing I think is involved is that just like in a marriage, how both partners have to give 100% for it to work---for true unity, probably everyone has to be making the effort, and if everyone isn't, it may not work quite as perfectly. But I assume that if even half of the people, or 20% of the people, in the church tried harder, things would be noticeably better. [And I think I am talking mostly about unity in the church, here. I'm taking for granted that we need to be able to get along with other faiths and people who don't believe in God, and we need to make our voices heard on public policy so we don't support things we think are morally wrong, etc etc etc.---but what got me started on this whole thing was just thinking that even within our own church, it seems impossible to achieve unity. But it must be possible, because we're supposed to try for it. Right?]

I've been trying to think of people I know who seem to have this kind of benevolent attitude towards other people with different views (my teacher Leslie Norris comes to mind, as does President Hinckley, and some people in the ward I grew up in) and many of them were older when I knew them, and maybe they had just had more life experiences that taught them this very thing: that everyone has their struggles, and you can't really feel superior to anyone because you are just as foolish and vulnerable and dependent on God as the next guy. I feel like maybe when I have fewer of my own insecurities (or have learned to deal with them better), I won't feel so defensive and so anxious for other people to agree with me. (Because a lot of times we say we just want other people to "respect our views," but I think often, we really want them to do more than that---we want them to actually agree; to think we are right.) And maybe as we get older and wiser and see more of life, we will be content to look at other people, and even if we don't feel totally in unity with what they think or what they do, we will feel unified in that we are all flawed and human and we all need love and we all need God.

Can we do anything to hasten ourselves towards that attitude, I wonder? I think I'm closer to it than I was ten years ago, but I still wish I was much better. I guess we can just work on getting into those thought patterns, of generosity towards others---giving them the benefit of the doubt---remembering your own mistakes and flaws---etc.

4 comments:

  1. OK now I feel like my last comment was pretty obvious. I totally see what you're saying here and I agree. I think it's definitely more about how we feel towards each other, and how we treat each other than necessarily agreeing on everything. I mean there's no chance everybody's going to agree on everything period.
    My family is a good example of this I think. We're pretty unified and all get along pretty dang well for a family I think. But there are big differences of opinion between us on some things. Not necessarily the fundamentals, but just things on how we live our lives. And it's not necessarily and issue of one is righteous and one is not or one is better. It's totally opinion.
    I think we come that way on purpose. I don't think we're meant to end up as a church full of stepford wives or something, but people that can work together and use their differences to an advantage and really have a rich existence.
    Does that make any sense?

    Thanks for making me think. I need to think more :)

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  2. Narilyn ( hope you don't mind me calling you Narilyn) I've enjoyed these last two posts and I've just been thinking about them and formulating my comment for the last couple of days. And here's what I think. It may sound very Barney-ish or any of those other PBS Kids shows-ish, but its really about love. I learned this on my mission, it doesn't matter if your companion is a pompous bufoon who offends everybody in the ward and makes you hate her every time she opens her mouth--if you don't love her then its all over. I seriously had this companion who reduced our teaching pool to nothing in one week and who yelled at the ward mission leader in the foyer "I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY! LEAVE ME ALONE!" after Sacrament Meeting. I hated her. I did. But then the spirit left. The work stopped. And I felt so dark and depressed all I could do was cry. The mission president met with us and said he wasn't sending either of us home and he wasn't transfering us. We had to figure it out. I decided that what Christ, or President Hinckley, or anybody with anything good in them would do would be to love her. So I told her that I loved her. It was the hardest, most amazing, most transforming event of my life. I'll never forget it. Going from absolute hate to Christ-like love. And I took that love with me the rest of my mission. I was able to love all the crazies I met, all the branch presidents that hated Americans, all the old ladies who kept bouncing in and out of activity. I loved them all.

    We're not all supposed to be the same. But we're supposed to love each other. Its hard. Oh it's hard. But if we can love each other despite our sins and annoyances, there is power. But don't confuse love with acceptance or agreement. We don't have to agree with all the sin and crap in the world but we can love everybody in spite of it.

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  3. And I put my kids to sleep and shut all of our doors. But i can still hear them cry... so then I put in the earplugs.

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  4. Look at me checking back on comments! I like this discussion, it's really interesting.

    And I just wanted to say I TOTALLY agree with Megan. That's actually what I was going to say before I got off and said a bunch of other things. The Savior loves everybody. No matter what they do. He doesn't always love what they do, nor would he agree with what they do. But it doesn't matter. He loves us all.
    So that does seem like it just might be the key. As my good smart brilliant friend Megan said.

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