A number of years ago, my husband and I had a difficult time getting along with one of our neighbors. Not even quick fixes, like cookies at the door, seemed to solve our grievances (although the cookies didn’t hurt J). To make matters more difficult, we were in the same ward, and the wife and I were serving in the same organization. Needless to say, we frequently felt offended and angry with one another.
Eventually, our bishop called my husband and me in to talk with him about the situation. After listening to our side of the story, we discussed possible solutions, including “cookies-at-the-door,” but ultimately, he said something like, “Read the scriptures, and when you find your answer, tell me about it.”
Several weeks later, I found my answer in Doctrine and Covenants 38:27, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
Prior to this, I knew I needed to turn the other cheek and love my “enemies”—Isn’t that what the cookies were all about?—but when I read that scripture I realized I had to do more than try to show love; I had to become united with my neighbors or I wouldn’t belong to Christ. That knowledge stung. Worse, how could I accomplish it?
Although I’m still working on becoming “one” with others, over the ensuing years, I’ve come to know that being offended has nothing to do with the offense or the person who committed that offense. Instead, it has everything to do with ourselves and how we handle the situation. I’ve also learned there are four truths—albeit personal assessments—I’ve had to make on my continuing journey to become one with Christ.
1) 1) Am I choosing to not be offended? In a recent conference address, Elder Bednar stated: “To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else.
"In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. . . To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.”
2) Is my testimony based on Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and His church—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—or on some other thing or person? If it is, then I must keep these truths from 3 Nephi in mind: “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
3) Am I striving to become like Christ? Again, from Elder Bednar: “The Savior is the greatest example of how we should respond to potentially offensive events or situations.
“And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men” (1 Nephi 19:9).
4) 4) Do I fully trust Christ? While sometimes I might forget I know I can trust Christ, the truth is, I do know that I can. A few years after the event I mentioned at the beginning of this article, my family and I faced another, even more difficult challenge which involved lawsuits, large monetary loss, and great fear and distrust. After several years of trying to resolve the issue, I felt very angry and bitter. I knew these feelings were wrong, and yet no matter how hard I tried to get over them, I couldn’t do it.
One day, as I was folding laundry and feeling overwhelmingly upset, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, please help me! I can’t do this on my own.” Suddenly, just as the people of Alma had their burdens lightened so they could not feel them (Mosiah 24:14), I, literally, could no longer feel the burden of my anger and bitterness. I then knew the Lord was carrying that burden for me while I worked through my feelings. Christ does visit us in our afflictions.
A final note. I believe life is a laboratory, where each person has the opportunity to become more like Christ. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, that fact, we often find our own wills and weaknesses at odds with the wills and weaknesses of others. While such experiences may hurt us, they also provide the challenging friction that adds to our refiner’s fire and offers the double-edged opportunity to be saviors ourselves. I mean, through what other experiences can we better develop love and forgiveness for “enemies” who are, in fact, our beloved brothers and sisters—people we once, desperately, wanted to bring back home?