Unity is a beautiful thing. Harmony, synchonization, choreophraphed movement and sound….unity is what we all strive for. The best and most heart rending compositions have times of great dissonance followed by a glorious resolution. This interplay of division and unity makes music interesting.
Life has moments of unity. Family, friends, hugs, and shared experiences. Then life can be full of conflict, anger, disagreement, and frustration. These moments can set us up for a glorious resolution. But how is a resolution possible? In our families, our wards, our nation? How can we find a path to Zion, that heavenly land where we live with one heart and one mind?
My area of expertise, if I have one, is my boys. They fight constantly. Last night we walked our dog Pepper to a friend’s house. This friend adopted one of Pepper’s litter mates. As soon as we came to the door, Pepper found her brother’s scent! The siblings greeted and then immediately launched into a lively play fight, which lasted probably ten minutes. They were jumping, rolling, yipping, and biting, growling at times, tails wagging, each wanting to dominate the other. As I watched them I thought of how my boys fight. Sometimes its play, sometimes it’s bullying, sometimes it’s showing love. Sometimes I have to intervene, but a lot of times I just watch and listen and encourage them to talk to each other. Sharing feelings is easy to do when you practice it. When my boys talk after a play fight has gone wrong, what I usually find is that there is no trust. “Layne took my toy and he won’t give it back!” says an angry Welsey. “Did you ask him to give it back?” I respond. “No, I know he won’t give it back. He’s mean!” Wesley doesn’t trust Layne. When I address those trust issues with them, teach them how to build trust with one another, and praise efforts to earn trust and be willing to trust, I’m teaching them important conflict resolution skills.
The fundamental reason our country is divided is trust. Why don’t conservatives trust liberal lawmakers not to take their guns? They don’t trust them. Why do liberals not trust conservative lawmakers to deal appropriately with the difficult situations women are in when they have an unwanted pregnancy? They don’t trust them. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. Both major parties have lost the trust of their opposition. You can be opponents and still have trust. Two soccer teams can play a game and there is trust that rules will be followed and the rights of everyone will be respected. Those games are fun for everyone. We learn to be better players and better people when we build, earn, and have the courage to trust others.
How can I build trust? As I have opened up about my own story and my challenges, I have found others have shared theirs with me also. I had no idea how many incredibly strong and resilient people I know! I know two women who lived through experiences so much worse than I ever had, and have dealt with them and come out as wonderful mothers that serve in the church and bless other’s lives. They manage their symptoms and have good ideas for me to help with mine. I have a profound respect for them as the heroines of their stories.
As I have opened up about my story on my blog and shared my experiences, I have seen a different response in some others. Its awkward. I find myself wanting to hide from them. I don’t know what they think of me. I’ve shown them my deepest parts of myself. What if they think I’m a bad person? I chatted with a friend last night and she had some awesome advice. She said, just tell people that they don’t have to agree with you. I first thought, “of course they know that, right?” After thinking it over, I thought. No they don’t! They don’t know why the heck I’m writing all this stuff. They don’t trust me that I’m not going to talk to them for a few minutes at church, and then turn around and write some blistering blog post about them.
It is to this group that I am writing this post. You can disagree with me! You can see things differently. You can have any feelings you experience when reading my blog and I won’t judge you for it. I do have a few rules I would like you to consider.
1-Own your choice to read the blog. I don’t have a lot of warm fuzzy stuff on my blog. It’s uncomfortable. If you can’t handle the raw, I get it. We can still be friends if you don’t read my blog.
2-Respect my right to my experiences and my choice to share them. This is an important tool in my recovery and it’s not up for discussion.
3-Own your feelings. If you read something that makes you angry. Think about it. Why are you angry? Anger comes when you feel someone has crossed your boundaries, accused you unfairly, or put you down. If I make you angry with my words, I welcome questions. I promise you, I have no intention to hurt anyone with my words, so maybe there is a miscommunication. Ask me a question.
Example: “Bridgette, when you compared members of the church to the pharisees, I was angry. I see loving leaders in my ward that volunteer their time and talents to help others. I’m a leader in my ward and I feel weighed down by responsibility and people complaining all the time. I wish there was more gratitude and less criticism. I think criticising our leaders just leads to discouragement and bitterness. Why do you think it is helpful?”
I love this comment because she owns her feelings. She disagrees with my decision to share uncomfortable experiences I have in church. When I liken our faults as faithful saints to those of the Pharisees, she sees it as insulting. That’s understandable. No one wants to be like a Pharisee. I totally understand where she is coming from and why she feels angry. I appreciate her courage to ask me about my motivations. If she hadn’t posted, she might carry this resentment toward me into our face to face interactions. Because she did, we can resolve them. Also, others who read the post and feel similarly, will have their questions answered as well. This might be my response.
“Thanks for your comment and taking the time to read my post. First, thank you for your service in your ward! Every calling is a burden to carry. It isn’t easy to serve imperfect people, especially when they are prone to complaining. I totally agree that expressions of gratitude to our leaders are important. I’ll consider doing a blog post on that very thing in the next week or so. In writing about church members and pharisees, I’m not trying to discourage or insult anyone, just to invite introspection, both in myself and in my readers. When I walk out of a meeting and see an unfamiliar face, how does that person see me? Do I look inviting? Do I see them as my Lord would see them? Am I a saint, or am I going through the ritualistic motions like a Pharisee would? I’m likening the scriptures to my life to help me be a better Latter-Day Saint and sharing those thoughts in an effort to inspire others to do the same. I definitely don’t want to encourage bitterness or fault finding. Thanks again for taking them time to read and respond! Hope to hear from you again.”
As I’ve pondered and prayed this week for my ward family, I know that others have been doing the same. Miracles can happen. Hearts can soften. The Savior wants us to come together and approach him in humility. Right now, I don’t have a lot of trust in my church leadership. I feel they don’t understand me and the unique challenges I face with my mental health and the incredibly difficult journey I have taken in my recovery this year. Mental health stigma is real. It is ingrained in our culture and extremely difficult to overcome. Our leaders don’t have the training to get a complete picture of what my needs are. Some are hostile to mental health and think they know better than my therapist how to solve my problems. They are in a difficult position, but so am I. We need a lot of humility and grace to navigate this situation. Humility is not staying silent and avoiding conflict. Humility is not allowing yourself to be mistreated. Humility is submitting your will to the will of the Savior and then acting on his promptings.
This week has been an uncomfortable week of dissonance. I hope that it will be followed by a glorious resolution. My ward has the power to change our town. There are so many strong and amazing people in this ward! There is so much good. I know several of our sisters have been praying in the temple this week. There’s no doubt in my mind that they put my name on the prayer roll even if they think I hate them. (I don’t) To them I say, thank you. The good that you do matters to me. I love you and it’s okay for you to feel however you feel about me and my words. We are all imperfect people, and I am not your judge. I’m your sister, and I hope I can earn your trust and we can come together at the feet of Him who is Mighty to Save, to heal, to unite, and to bless. I know he will lead us to Zion!