Saturday, January 23, 2010

Looking Good vs. Fixing Things

One of the problems with Mormon culture is that we tend to live in a world of looking good instead of fixing problems, we tend to hide them. Now I'm not condemning "the church" what I'm saying is that we may not really understand the point here. We may not be emotionally or spiritually mature enough to put into practice what we preach, it happens. It's a by product of imperfection on the pathway to perfection.

When I was serving as the secretary of the stake young men it always amused me how much effort we put into the dress code for stake youth dances. Now I'm the first to state that yes modesty is important, but I think sometimes some adults really believe that sticking a boy in a tie and a girl in a dress that goes under her knees is going to prevent them from having sex. I often thought that trying to dress the youth up like little adults wasn't really helping. Well they looked good but were they good?

I remember also the discussion about boys and earrings and passing the sacrament. The rule stated that the boy needs to take the earring or whatever the piercing was out before he could participate. In the back of my mind I kept wondering if the boy had understood why he shouldn't have had the piercing in the first place this wouldn't have been an issue, is just taking it out so he can put it right back in really the answer? And I'm not judging the kid, I'm just judging the reasoning.

I remember going to a number of Christian rock concerts were the youth were a little less well dressed, still modest, but they didn't look like little junior executives and how much they were enjoying themselves, even more none of their parents had to force them to go. It was amazing, yes they were feeling the Spirit without a tie on.

Looking good sometimes helps us feel better when things aren't really good. Lets face it, we are striving for perfection and none of us really understands what that means. We say we believe in repentance, we say we are grateful for it in testimony meetings, we may even cry about it, but we shy away from it at times because the process may be to painful. I have a feeling that the chapel is full of lots of people in the church who want to come forward, who want to "do the right thing, make things right with God" but who don't because they feel what people will say if they do. I know because I've been there.

Some could say they are leading double lives. Yes, the church is full of two camps those who are Saints and those who are pretending. But it's not really that simple is it? I think this is only half of the story. None of us are perfect. And that's not just an excuse its more of a fact. None of us are presently complete or we'd not be here trying to learn how to be. I honestly believe that most people are good and most people want to do the right thing. We can't even begin to understand why people do things they do, the feelings that are real and that motivate others to do things we would never think of. We've all been there I think.

I fear also that it also allows us to judge others who may also be struggling. This is because we don't really know how to deal with it in person. It's like the uncomfortable awkwardness a lot of us face when we meet a handicap person. We don't want to admit it, but its true. We don't want to say the wrong thing and hurt their feelings. And yes some of us may be ignorant about that persons personal struggle or our feelings may be fueled with anger, guilt, misunderstanding or any number of things.

I've often wondered about those who have been confessed, been through the process been excommunicated never come back. I understand why some may leave the church when they no longer feel their beliefs are inline with the church, but those who have submitted to this as part of the repentance process who then don't come back breaks my heart.

I know that I've been taught that church disciple is supposed to be restorative and not punitive. But I also know that a startling number of those who have been through it don't come back. Those who have voluntarily endured it as part of the repentance process, who then stumble and fall are the most tragic because it took great faith to humble themselves to it.

This is where I hope I can be better. Maybe I need to worry less about understanding and more about loving because loving can lead to understanding. Maybe the key is that to love doesn't always mean to understand but just to love.

I think this is an area that the church needs to help teach its members to understand. This is why I think a lot of these good people don't come back, they feel alone, isolated, judged and ostracized. Pondering this I realize however that the church can only teach correct principles, its up to me to put them into practice in my own life. I need to do it myself.

Dancing with the Bears

A wise man once wrote that there is a great definition for rationalization, it's legitimizing impropriety. He compared this to dancing with a bear noting that its easy to waltz our way into circumstance that we think we can control, when in fact just the opposite occurs and these circumstances end up controlling us.

Personally I have noticed in that in my life when I'm on the dance floor with the bear, it's these times that I become acutely aware of the "gray" areas. Those areas help me justifying being there. Yes, I've been taught right from wrong, black and white, but as I dance with this bear, and as I move further and further from light to darkness, it seems like those dance moves cut off the input of the Spirit. I feel safe because I'm still in the gray, technically the light and I can still feel the light. When in reality, I'm finding it harder and harder to tell the difference. These are also the times when if called on it, I will tell you that things aren't always black and white.

I think everyone has situations, personal "gray zones" so to speak, where we know in our hearts we can't be trusted and that we need to avoid. But then the opportunity presents itself and we begin to legitimize it.

Hyrum Smith, founder of the Franklin Institute and author of the book "Pain Is Inevitable, Misery Is Optional" said that "I am firmly convinced that sin and transgressions are in almost every circumstance a result of some sort of self-deception."

There is a great deal of truth to this.

That's the hard part, being able to not just say it. It's easy to warn others, to preach and to tell others not to do stuff. But its harder to do it yourself. I've found in my life that if I took most of the advice I've given I'd be happier. And I think at times there is a lesson there. It's why we should blog and keep journals so that we can later go back and read it ourselves.

That and admitting I'm not a very good dancer or at least I need to dance with the lights on.