Disclaimer: I’m a Mormon. You can listen in if you want, but in this post I’m speaking to the Saints, as we call ourselves.
I realize that we are not, as a people, the only ones that get bent out of shape when others – especially others of our own faith – attempt to correct our vision. It’s a worldwide neurosis that anyone could be saying anything to us that might make us uncomfortable. I believe we should be better than that, given the number of places where rebuke is given in the scriptures. Is there any place you can think of where a righteous person took offense when someone falsely accused them? Contrast that with the many places where people said “hey, that’s not fair”, and are any of the speakers people you want to be?
On the subject of the viral Mormon Messages video that I won’t link to, but you know the one I mean (you have the Internet before you, therefore search it):
I’m a man, so I don’t get to have an opinion here (for reasons I find quite valid, actually), but the video falls under Internet Rule #4:
If it offended you, it’s not FOR you.
There’s another rule that applies here as well, not just to the Internet, and that is:
When faced with a difficult, even seriously unpleasant message, ask first: Is there anything I can learn from this to make myself a better person?
The message may be unfair. It may be unwise. It may be MEANT to be offensive. We, however, have the ultimate choice here. If there is anything that can make me better, I want it. If only one percent of a terribly unfair comment is accurate, I need to hear it. Before I protest, before I reject, before I complain to the entire planet that something someone said is Just Not Right, is there anything here I can do to improve?
And there always is.
All that said, it’s rare in my experience for so many people to so completely miss the point of something. Though it’s presumptuous of me, let me say this:
If you’re complaining about the message of this video, I wonder if you didn’t understand it.
I don’t know why the mother in that video didn’t have a husband to help. I don’t know why she chose to give in to her manipulative child (aren’t they all?). I don’t know why she had a to-do list. I don’t know why she cared if she scratched all the items off. I don’t know HOW she scratched them all off, either. I don’t know why she did her son’s science project instead of letting him fail. I don’t know what she was thinking when she agreed to watch the neighbor’s kid. I don’t know why she didn’t take the neighbor’s kid with her. I don’t know why she didn’t order a pizza. I don’t know why she didn’t take the unbaked casserole to the neighbors for them to cook. I don’t know why she didn’t at least call her cousin at the airport. I don’t know why, plans ruined but having a babysitter anyway, she didn’t go out for a beer (metaphorically speaking), since she had a free evening.
In every one of those instances – and I have both seen them and experienced them all (except for the beer) – I have made both the choice she made and a different choice on multiple occasions. I don’t know why she chose what she chose.
Here’s a secret: NEITHER DO YOU.
See, this wasn’t a video telling us what we should do, it was a video showing us what we do do, already. It wasn’t an exercise program, it was a diagnosis of a disease, with a prescription for medicine that will ease the pain of it.
We all have this in common, don’t we? We’ve all got to the end of a day where we have done the very best we felt we could, and still been hugely discouraged and disappointed in ourselves (and our results). If there is anything to get from the video, it is that this feeling is unjustified. We cannot know what our best was worth. We cannot know what the effects will be. We cannot know anything but whether we put in our best efforts and did what we felt was right. All else is hidden, though we often think we see it. We are wrong.
Not only are we not in control of victory or defeat, most of the time we do not even know which we are experiencing at any given moment.
If you don’t identify with the woman, exhausted and disappointed, on the couch at the end of the day, then go watch something else. If you do identify with her – and I personally did – hear the message: you don’t know all the good you did. Each life touches so many other lives. You, George Bailey, really have a wonderful life. This is the truth, and the discouragement you are feeling is a lie. See it. Recognize it. Rise above it.
Right now the Internet is filled with derision for the message of this short film. “Your needs are important,” say some, and “learn to say no,” call others and “those were your own choices” still others advise. Those of us on that couch, we do get that. Know what you’re saying to us when you give this advice? “You did wrong, and that’s why you’re sad.” That’s what we hear. But we didn’t do wrong, or at least, if we did, we did it with the best intentions according to the best information and knowledge and inspiration we had, to which you are not privy and which you cannot judge. And we’re disappointed and sad, and you are NOT HELPING. Exhorting us to greater selfishness is not wise. We already fear that we are too much inclined that way.
If I am to err, the scriptures are abundantly clear, I must err on the side of being kind to and serving others. I must, if I have to choose between equal claims of myself and others, choose them. WHEN I DO, I MUST NOT BELIEVE I HAVE FAILED. That is the dark side.
Know who is helping? President Hinckley. That’s why he gets to talk at the end of the video. He’s calling out the lie, pointing to it, shrinking it. He’s putting a jack under our flat and raising us up. He’s offering perspective. He isn’t saying that we did everything right – if you think that’s what this video is about then methinks thou dost protest too much – but he is saying that even we, who think we know all about ourselves, don’t know how to judge, and we should be willing to give ourselves some of the benefit of the doubt.
Much of the world didn’t hear that message. But some of us did. And some of us were profoundly grateful for it. Maybe it wasn’t for you. Maybe it was just for me. I’m glad; I needed to hear it.
Your message will come along, soon enough. Meanwhile, leave mine alone?