You know the saying, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. I didn’t get along with my siblings growing up. We were the poster children for sibling rivalry. My mom would always try to get us to like each other and to get along. I didn’t understand why it mattered at the time.
Now that I am a mother, I do understand. I see Lucy reaching out to her sister to share and tell her she loves her and Emma will turn up her nose and say “I NOT love you.” I see Emma struggle to do something simple because she is so little and hear Lucy say something like “I can do that better than Emma, I’m better than her.” I see my girls fight with each other and compete with each other and it breaks my heart. I love both of my girls so very much and I love them each for their differences. And they are VERY different.
This morning I was listening to the broadcast from a few weeks ago about Building up a Righteous Posterity. Sister Lant, the Primary General President said “You know, there’s so much talk in today’s world about “are my needs being met?” You hear that so much…Yes, “my needs aren’t being met.” And I think if we could just get to the point where we are thinking about someone else’s needs, our needs are met. That’s the best way to get our needs met, if we are looking to take care of somebody else.”
Now I am not saying that it isn’t important for a mother to have some time to herself to do something that replenishes her spirit. But I spend way more time doing those kinds of things than I really need. I find that the more time I spend doing things that only benefit myself, the more irritable and demanding I become. Yet again, Satan takes a good thing (a little bit of “me time”) and turns it into an idol in my life. I feel like if I could just have a little more time to myself, I would have more patience and would be more cheerful. When what actually happens is the opposite. I have found that there are days when I have done nothing but meet the temporal means of my family and spent the balance of my time doing things that I like to do. I spend the whole day thinking of myself. And what is the result? I am short tempered and angry. On the other hand, I am much happier when I spend my days meeting the spiritual needs and desires of my family rather than my own.
I think that the same thing can happen within our wards. We show up to church on Sunday thinking about filling our own spiritual needs and desires. We sit in sacrament meeting and expect other people to edify us and we get caught up in the petty disputes that are very similar to something you would find in a jr. high school classroom. We leave feeling angry and slighted, frustrated that “nobody understands me”.
The church draws the ward boundaries based on geography. People who live in a certain address are assigned to attend a certain ward or branch that belong to a certain stake and on and on. We are lumped in with other people who live within the boundaries whether we like them or not. You know, kind of like a family.
When we have little rivalries within our ward, I’m sure it breaks our Father’s heart just as it breaks mine when I see my children fight. When someone chooses not to sustain someone in their callings or when we choose to complain or be rude to someone in our ward we may as well be turning our noses up at them and saying “I NOT love you!” When we gossip about another, all we are doing is saying “I can do that better than her, I am better than her.”
In his talk to the priesthood in the April 2003 General Conference; President Hinckley said, “I have long felt that the greatest factor in a happy marriage is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. In most cases selfishness is the leading factor that causes argument, separation, divorce, and broken hearts.”
Selfishness is not only the cause of those things in a marriage. I believe it is the cause of anger, contention and all negative feelings in any and every relationship we have.
I am not without fault. I have been on the receiving end of attacks on my character and have felt anger at the people responsible. I have gossiped and murmured about people and institutions who frustrate me. I am cynical and have been known to even make fun of people who make angry. James 3:10 says “Out of the same mouth, proceedeth blessing and cursing; my brethren, these things aught not to be.”
What right have I to stick out my tongue and say “I NOT love you” to another one of Heavenly Father’s children? I haven’t any right. I am not perfect, and if I were, I would have no desire to do those things that I have.
I know that people are different from each other, and that it can take more effort to like one particular person over another. But it IS possible.
When I was a young teenage girl, the air force base within our ward boundaries closed. The young women’s organization went from 30ish to 5 or less young women. We were spread apart like we are where I live now. There was one other young woman who went to my school and she lived down the street from me. She was a year older than me and we did not get along. My father was their home teacher and one day, I went home teaching with my dad and asked the girl if we could go for a walk. I said “Look, I know that we haven’t gotten along very well in the past, but we are all we have anymore. We need to be friends whether we like it or not.” She agreed.
From that point on, we were best friends. I didn’t like everything she said or did, nor did she always agree with my actions or me. But we were all each other had. We chose to have a mutual respect and figured out ways to get along with each other.
We are the primarily responsible for the nurture of our family in our homes. I believe that it is also our responsibility to nurture the family that we have in our wards. Growing up, I didn’t get to pick who my sisters were. As members of a ward we don’t get to pick with whom we worship. We are called sisters for a reason, and as sisters it is up to us to support each other in our callings and respect each other regardless of whether or not we agree with each other’s choices or lives. We are a family and we are all we have. It is a choice. We are not so helpless that we can’t control our thoughts and feelings. As Elder Oaks said, “The Lord didn’t tell us it would be easy, but He has assured us it would be possible.”
I think that women in general, though we have a greater ability to love, also have a greater ability to hate. As women we have tremendous power over the people in our lives. We should be using that power for good instead of evil. And make no mistake, “minor” contentions and gossip ARE evil.
I feel like it would be so easy for us to get along with each other if we could just forget ourselves for one minute! When Christ told us to be like little children, I’m pretty sure he did not mean it in the “stick your tongue out, whiney ‘I NOT love you’, you have to do what I want to do or I’m going to throw a tantrum, the world revolves around me” sense. And yet every day, I see people acting like that… and every time I think “Boy what a baby, why don’t you grow up,” I am being an “I can do that better than my sister, sticking my nose up I am the princess of the whole castle and you are the slave, I am so perfect” child myself. Sheesh Courtney! Cast out your own beam for crying out loud!
What would the world be like if we only thought about the thoughts and feelings of those around us. What would the world be like if we truly loved our neighbors as we love ourselves. How much better would our lives be if we were like children in the “judge not, quick to forgive, faith proceeds the miracle, finding joy in the little things” way that Christ asked of us. How much better would our lives be if we thought only of the expectations of our Father and truly had our eyes single to the Glory of God?
And how much better would my family be if I actually lived what I write?