So we get hundreds of emails asking us about our advice on ______ subject or what we would do in _____ situation. One of the most disheartening e-mails we receive on a daily basis are ones that go along the lines of “a member has done something to me that makes me angry and consequently I have stopped going to church.”
Before I go any further into this post, I wrote up a relevant piece a while ago about the “Judgment mentality within the church” talking about how it does exist in the church and how we need to be aware of this so that we can stop making so many irrelevant judgments on others.
Now back to the topic at hand. All of us face our own fellowshipping/members issues. We will almost always find ourselves in various situations where we could choose to be offended by the actions of others whether intentional or not. I have found myself in plenty of these situations and sometimes I am the better man, realizing that it wasn’t intentional and move on. Other times I fall into the trap of letting it fester and build up inside of me. I really do try to give the benefit of the doubt to individuals who have offended me and almost always when I approach them to discuss the issue, it usually turns out to be a simple issue of miscommunication.
That being said, I had one particular case where the High Councilman in the ward chose to intentionally humiliate me in front of the Elder’s Quorum. In his words “You are young and need to be taught a lesson and sometimes public humiliation is the only way to get through to someone like yourself.” I had served a mission, was going to college and was a functional young adult yet he was treating me as I was a Sunbeam (and even if I had been, it was still no excuse to publicly humiliate me).
For those who know me, I am probably the most even keel person there is. My wife literally has never heard me yell at her or any of our kids (though there are plenty of times that I feel like doing so). I’m probably one of the easiest going individuals out there and had he just corrected me in front of the quorum (even though he was factually wrong) I would have been a little peeved but would have probably just let the whole thing go. But yet there I was in a situation where the High Councilman felt that it was appropriate not only to belittle my opinion but belittle me as an individual.
I have never been as angry towards an individual as I was during those few months as I struggled with this particular issue. I tried talking to him. I brought the issue up with the Bishop and even offered to “let bygones be bygones.” However he was too stubborn to admit that any of this was on him and refused to apologize as that would have “defeated the lesson I was supposed to learn.” It was hard going to church because when I saw him, all of my pent up anger and feelings came right back as if it had just happened. Even now, if I choose to dwell on it, it starts to bother me where I felt that I had been wrong.
Then one day I realized that I was playing the victim in the situation. I was allowing him to dictate to me how I felt going to church. I was allowing his actions dictate how I was living my life. As the famous quote goes
“When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen”
Even to this day he has never apologized or shown any remorse for what he did but I have chosen to move past it. From this experience I have learned to refuse to allow the actions of those around me affect how I choose to live my religion or my life. It was a lesson in forgiveness that I had to learn the hard way. I have learned that forgiving an individual even though they don’t want to be forgiven or necessarily deserve it, is still the right course of action because I deserve the peace it brings.
So when you are facing an issue where someone else’s actions are affecting yours, do what you can to resolve the issue. Talk with them because more than likely it wasn’t intentional. I’m convinced that the vast majority of being “offended” situations are usually misunderstanding issues.
However, this is not always the case as demonstrated in the aforementioned story. For these situations, ultimately you’re going to have to forgive them and move forward in your life and not allow that individual to dictate to you how you should feel going to church, how you feel at home or how you feel as you live your life. Ultimately the only person that ends up being hurt is you. I’m not just trying to give a pep talk and say whatever it is that you are going through is not a big deal. What I am trying to say is that allowing someone else to dictate to you how you feel in your life is.
I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to say there is a certain way to move on with your life but however you do it, whatever means or resources you need to utilize to do it, it’s something that you ultimately need to do. Utilize the resources within the church, your Bishop, your friends in the ward and most importantly, utilize the Atoning power of Christ to help you overcome any of these ill will feelings that you may have towards someone else and live the life our Father in Heaven has intended for you to live.