Sunday, November 1, 2009

Confessions on a Sunday

Last week in Target, I needed was obvious. Nothing major, I had simply misplaced my car keys. Two women walked past, looked at me, then turned away...pretending not to notice. It wasn't a big deal. I understand people are busy, and it was just car keys. I was appreciative when a lovely young lady walked up and asked if she could help. She was tattooed up one arm, down the other, and everywhere in between. She had streaks of bright green all throughout her jet black hair. Oh, and she had a nose ring too. As the young lady walked away, Princie said, "Mommy, she is so beautiful."
"Yes," I replied, "she certainly is so beautiful."

I know there are people who would snub the beautiful young lady who saved my day. There are those who would criticize me for encouraging Princie's opinion that this stranger was beautiful. You wonder what I'm teaching my daughter, how I'll feel if she's 17 and gets a tattoo. You think I should have responded to Princie's remark with something along the lines of: "Well yes dear, her helping us was beautiful, but she certainly wasn't dressed appropriately, and you know we shouldn't have tattoos. She acted beautifully, but we don't like those piercings." I confess. If you are one of those people, I judge you. You irritate me. I may even like or love you tons, but you irritate me. Yes, I clearly understand where our church stands. I also understand that most importantly, we are not to recognize a tattoo or nose ring. First and foremost, we are to recognize that the worth of souls is great.

I confess. I judge judgemental people. I'm highly critical of people who criticize others. I'm unbelievably aggravated by people who feel they are superior because of their religion or spirituality. I'm beyond annoyed by those who are so caught up in the letter of the law, they miss the boat completely when it comes to following the spirit of the law. And, I feel kinda bad about it. I'm going to work on this issue of mine. Because my behavior isn't helpful. And as I mentioned to a friend, I don't want to simply "tolerate" people. I want to find commonalities. I want to love those who are hard for me to love...the judgemental, holier-than-thou, critical, self-righteous...they are hard for me to love, but I desire to love them and I should. I want to fulfill God-given responsibilities that were placed upon me many years ago...that I "shall
not look upon the faults of mankind nor judge anyone", and that I "shall see in fellow beings that which is beautiful and pure".

Now don't get too excited. No matter what I do, or how hard I try, the snark can not be removed from me. Seriously, a girl can only handle so much. And there are times when OH. MY. GOSH., a person had better take a stand! But, the following article reminded me that I want no part in the rampant decline of civility in our societies.
(I must admit I was thrilled to see that "rigorous debate" gets a green long as it remains "rancor" free.)

SALT LAKE CITY 16 October 2009
The political world is astir. Economies are faltering. Public trust is waning. Individuals feel vulnerable. And social cohesion wears thin. Meanwhile, stories of rage and agitation fill our airwaves, streets and town halls. Where are the voices of balance and moderation in these extreme times? During a recent address given in an interfaith setting, Church President Thomas S. Monson declared: "When a spirit of goodwill prompts our thinking and when united effort goes to work on a common problem, the results can be most gratifying." Further, former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley once said that living “together in communities with respect and concern one for another” is “the hallmark of civilization.” That hallmark is under increasing threat.

So many of the habits and conventions of modern culture — ubiquitous media, anonymous and unsourced online participation, politicization of the routine, fractured community and family life — undermine the virtues and manners that make peaceful coexistence in a pluralist society possible.
The fabric of civil society tears when stretched thin by its extremities. Civility, then, becomes the measure of our collective and individual character as citizens of a democracy.

A healthy democracy maintains equilibrium through diverse means, including a patchwork of competing interests and an effective system of governmental checks. Nevertheless, this order ultimately relies on the integrity of the people. Speaking at general conference, a semiannual worldwide gathering of the Church, Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asserted: “In the end, it is only an internal moral compass in each individual that can effectively deal with the root causes as well as the symptoms of societal decay.” Likewise, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton emphasized that the virtues of fidelity, charity, generosity, humility and responsibility “form the foundation of a Christian life and are the outward manifestation of the inner man.” Thus, moral virtues blend into civic virtues. The seriousness of our common challenges calls for an equally serious engagement with reasonable ideas and solutions.
What we need is rigorous debate, not rancorous altercations.

Civility is not only a matter of discourse. It is primarily a mode of engagement.
The technological interconnectedness of society has made isolation impossible. Of all the institutions in the modern world, religion has had perhaps the greatest difficulty adjusting to the reality of give and take with the public. Today, and throughout its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continuously encounters the legitimate interests of various stakeholders in its interaction with the public. Rather than exempting itself from the rules of law and civility, the Church has sought the path of cooperative engagement and avoided the perils of acrimonious confrontation.

Echoing this mode of civil engagement, President Monson declared: “As a church we reach out not only to our own people but also to those people of goodwill throughout the world in that spirit of brotherhood which comes from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Speaking of civility on a personal level, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught Latter-day Saints how to respond to criticism: “Some people mistakenly think responses such as silence, meekness, forgiveness, and bearing humble testimony are passive or weak. But, to ‘love [our] enemies, bless them that curse [us], do good to them that hate [us], and pray for them which despitefully use [us], and persecute [us]’ (Matthew 5:44) takes faith, strength, and, most of all, Christian courage.”

The moral basis of civility is the Golden Rule, taught by a broad range of cultures and individuals, perhaps most popularly by Jesus Christ: “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). This ethic of reciprocity reminds us all of our responsibility toward one another and reinforces the communal nature of human life.

Similarly, the Book of Mormon tells a sober story of civilizational decline in which various peoples repeat the cycle of prosperity, pride and fall. In almost every case, the seeds of decay begin with the violation of the simple rules of civility. Cooperation, humility and empathy gradually give way to contention, strife and malice.

The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics. As the Church operates in countries around the world, it embraces the richness of pluralism. Thus, the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement.
It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.

Furthermore, the Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible. As the Church begins to rise in prominence and its members achieve a higher public profile, a diversity of voices and opinions naturally follows. Some may even mistake these voices as being authoritative or representative of the Church. However, individual members think and speak for themselves. Only the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles speak for the whole Church.

Latter-day Saint ethical life requires members to treat their neighbors with respect, regardless of the situation. Behavior in a religious setting should be consistent with behavior in a secular setting. The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing. In his inaugural press conference President Monson emphasized the importance of cooperation in civic endeavors: “We have a responsibility to be active in the communities where we live, all Latter-day Saints, and to work cooperatively with other churches and organizations. My objective there is ... that we eliminate the weakness of one standing alone and substitute for it the strength of people working together.”


{Jamie} said...

Beautifully said. I too am LDS and feel the same way as yourself! I'm so glad that you speak your mind so often! You are inspiring!

karen said...

Thanks for that post. I couldn't agree more. So many times we miss the mark by not exercising common courtesy and concern for our fellow human beings. Are we too busy, too afraid of what the other person will think? I just know that when I'm able to forget my self consciousness, I'm inevitably rewarded for reaching out to those around me - especially if they're strangers or different than me. Common courtesy and kind word and deeds are never wrong or out of place.

Sue said...

Amen to the timely quote from!

And another Amen about not judging the tattoo-wearer who lends a helping hand when no one else could be bothered. I think you are teaching Princie exactly the right lessons.


SnarkyMama said...

I love starting a Monday morning with a sermon from Snarky...yep! I like it! Can I get an "Amen!"

This could actually prompt me to write a Snarky Mama post...or at least highly consider the possibility. I certainly don't want to take ANY credit for Snarky's words, but I will proudly stand at the head of the line knowing I might have influenced her thoughts on the subject.

I have always said just about the only person I cannot tolerate is someone who is intolerant!

So many thoughts flooding my mind right now. I imagine for one to fully understand they would have to experience raising a child who, by the nature of their existence, "zigs" when the rest of the world seems to "zag." And with every one of those moves some self-righteous person anxiously awaited every opportunity to point out their every move.
Or better yet, in my case, raise three of those independent thinkers...people who just don't typically follow the status quo!

Of course, Princie thought she was beautiful...Nana probably would have, as well. I think you are teaching her exactly what you be able to recognize goodness and kindness even if the wrapping appears a little odd or unique.

After all, suits, shirts, ties, pearls and pumps, what we all expect to see) can be very deceiving...why one would never know if I just described general conference or congress! :):) I'm just saying...we all need to learn to recognize goodness. Pretty much what our grandmothers always said "Don't judge a book by its cover." Oh, wait a minute...I think someone else said that whole, "Judge ye not, that ye be not judged" line.

People haven't really listened very well have they???

Great post, Snarky....loved it and love you!

KC Mom said...

We were just talking about this very subject in a meeting yesterday at church.
I also love that the church sets the example of working together with society. Our church just donated a LARGE sum of money recently to the renovation of a cathedral in SLC...not of our own faith. It is a beautiful structure and it is a witness of our commonality.

Em said...

about 6 months ago i found out that my mother in law pulled out a wedding invitation to sean's cousin (her neice) b/c she is lesbian. i was horrified. thank goodness tara is freaking awesome and was totally cool about the entire thing. she even said she knew it wasn't us that didn't invite her. i told her we would get married again just to invite her. she smiled. i love that girl and her little wifey;-)

MammaWarrior said...

I just wanted to say this one thing to you Mrs. are the most beautiful spirit!! Your kind and considerate. Your soul is amazing!

Lindsay said...

I am so glad you reinforced to Princie that yes, she was beautiful.
This post was a breath of fresh air.
I try to be very thoughtful or polite in public. I've picked up something a child dropped out of the shopping cart and had the parent take it from me and turn their backs.
I dress tastefully and I keep my hair pretty normal, but you know I have loads of tattoos. The funny thing about them, is you can't take them off. In a way it is being judged by the color of your skin because even though you decided to put it there, you can't wash it off. We don't always think very far into the future when we're 18 and mad at the world. Though I love most of my tattoos, I regret a few, but I can't hate myself for what I can't change. I choose to love myself regardless and I refuse to walk around ashamed in public with my family. I'm fairly certain that Jesus loves me tattooed or not. Too bad there aren't more people like you, who realize that the worth of souls is great.
I can be a great friend, and I'm good in a pinch. It's sad to me that many people (including members of my own family) can't get past the flowers and butterflies on my skin, to find that there is a loving person underneath it.
LOVE this post...Love you ;)

Fiauna said...

Oh how I admire you. I truly, truly admire you.

TuTu's Bliss said...

Can I be honest and say I loved your post more than the article. The moment you shared captured everything in the article only better.

P.S: I wouldn't have stopped and helped you. Your frazzled search would have reminded me that I left my own keys on top of the car with my wallet and I would have ran back. But I would have at least sent you a look of compassion. Does that count for something?

Jill said...

I think I don't judge people because deep down I want a sleeve of tatoos not just one, a whole sleeve and my nose pierced. If I wasn't told by the prophet not to, I'd do it. But alas, my skins is bare as it should be.

One time I was in a conversation with my whole family at a family vacation. My brother-in-law who is very Bull headed and a bit self-righteous in some sorts of ways was having a go at homosexual people. He was just flipping out because I was in college and I had a gay friend, and that was wrong because I was tolerating what we do not believe in, blah blah blah. And it was one of those situations where I came up with something good later which was, "well if I'm not allowed to be around or befriend anyone who has gone against the commandments, then I must not excuse myself from the presence of everyone in this family--because every last one of you got busy before you got married--and that, as the scriptures state--is a sin."

But of course I didn't think if it until later. I've just learned not to bother with him. Some people are just too stuck.

p.s. I need your mailing address so I can send you a Christmas card. E-mail it to me at:

jen said...

Hmmmm. Interesting.

While Brad was in law school, we lived in a very intellectual ward in Chicago where everyone was always busy pointing out our differences and how diverse we all were. And where did that get our RS? Divided into students, life-long residents, black, white, educated, uneducated. Finding that level of basic human decency and kindness is where we can all be the same.
You gave me something to think about, Miss Belle.
Off to ponder (before I fall asleep from exhaustion!). . .

Karen said...

What a lovely story for Princie, I learned that lesson when a friend was injured in an accident and his dad called everybody in his address book to come and visit him. When I got there and met his dad he was the scariest motorcycle guy - long hair, piercings (this was before it was mainstream) and lots of tats - he was just worried for his son and was the sweetest guy. I learned alot that day!


Jess said...

I truly admire that you not only teach your daughter, but also show her by example, how to be a follower of Christ. Christ was always kind to others, but He also told it like it was (and how it needed to be) when the situation called for it. I love that you are so forthright in your opinions and beliefs.

Em said...

So excellent.

"Similarly, the Book of Mormon tells a sober story of civilizational decline in which various peoples repeat the cycle of prosperity, pride and fall. In almost every case, the seeds of decay begin with the violation of the simple rules of civility."

Absolutely. Why are there so many of us seeing the signs, and so many who are just happy to ride the party bus until it crashes into the wall?

Princie sounds like she's got her head on straight :-) Good job Mama.

Melanie said...

I love your reply to Princie. I don't 'see' all those things about people. I don't see black, gay, etc.----I see Americans and people. My son is 15 and he has such empathy for people and he doesn't like for people to be treated badly or differently. I think you are doing a great job with the kids. You are amazing. I wish I could get out my thoughts like you do. And I love the snark in you.

Krystyn said...

It is so easy to "judge a book by it's cover!" I love that your daughter, in her innocence, was able to notice this girls true beauty.

And, what is it with people and their manners these days? It's awful!