Friday, June 23, 2017

APPRECIATIVE PRAISE

“Marriage teaches you
  • loyalty, 
  • forbearance, 
  • self-restraint,
  • meekness,
  • and a great many other things you wouldn’t need if you had stayed single,” jokingly quotes Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, Professor of Family Life for the University of Arkansas,
    in his book Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage
    (2007, p.129, bullets mine).

“The truth is different,” Goddard teaches. “We need those qualities whether married or single ….”

My spouse, David, and I both love cantaloupe.

If one of us slices and peels it, cuts it into bite-sized chunks, and places it in the frig ‘ready-to-eat,’ we both enjoy it.

It is quickly consumed.
If not, sometimes the fruit spoils before it is eaten.

Recently, while pressed for time, I sliced off the end and ate it, but did not prepare the remaining fruit, except to remove the seeds and the pulp surrounding them. My husband, seeking a quick snack, opened the refrigerator and complained that it wasn’t prepared.

I reminded him it was seeded, and teasing him mildly, 
suggested he thank me for seeding it.

He did.

Dr. John M Gottman,  professor of psychology, bestselling author, and founder of the Gottman Institute, calls my husband’s kind response, and subsequent actions, a ‘repair attempt.’

“I feel lazy today,” David said. “I don’t feel like cutting a whole slice.”
But then he cut a slice, and ate it. I felt like he gave me a small gift.

In his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman asserts that successful repair attempts are one of the “primary factors in whether [a] marriage is likely to flourish” (p. 27) and one of the most “important findings” from the “Love Lab,” in Seattle.

When we look for good, or accept influence from others, we are “open to considering [their] position” (p. 184-185). 

In other words we show charity toward them.

REJOICE IN WHAT’S RIGHT

If we have “trained [our] mind to see what is wrong, what is missing,” we fail to notice or “appreciate what is there,” and it is virtually impossible to “rejoice in what’s right with [our spouse]  or [our] marriage” (Gottman, p.283).

Dr. Gottman spells out that this “reflects what goes wrong
85 percent of the time in marriages. … You are always on the lookout for what is not there in yourself and your partner …
and overlook the fine qualities that are there—those we take for granted.

The bowl of cantaloupe in my refrigerator provides a simple example.

Later that day, I peeled and cubed the melon.

Dr. Goddard quotes Elder Marvin J. Ashton, a Latter-day Saint apostle of Jesus Christ, as he describes how to best effect charity:
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.
Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down (p.110).
Elder Ashton continued
Charity … [is] resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped.
Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone [including self] who has hurt us.
Charity is expecting the best of each other (April, 1992).
“Irritation can be our friend,” teaches Dr. Goddard. “It alerts us to the risk … that something we are doing (or feeling, or saying) is creating a sore” similar to having a pebble in our shoes (p.75).

It alerts us that change (and perhaps repentance) is needed.


 Dr. Goddard emphasizes,
  “We cannot fix our partners,”
  “We cannot even fix ourselves!
  "But we can make ourselves humble” (p.143).
  “We must have divine help” (p.142).

GRIDLOCK

When relationships have the same battles “again and again,” and nothing seems to have changed; when “neither of you” seem to have “humor, empathy, or affection” as you discuss touchy topics; when you draw ever further apart as you become “increasingly polarized;” and when “compromise” feels like your “core …beliefs, values, or sense of self” are critically threatened; then gridlock, a symptom of issues which are unlikely to be resolved, may be occurring (Gottman, p.237).



Gridlock results when “certain types of negativity … run rampant” (Gottman, p.32). 

4 SPECIFIC NEGATIVITY TYPES

Complaints, defined as concerns about “a specific behavior or event” become (or are interpreted as) criticism—a more global critical evaluation of overall “character or personality” (p.33). Complaints are “specific requests for change,” but “there is no such thing as constructive criticism. All criticism is painful” (p.282).

Chronic criticism generally has “two sources … an emotionally unresponsive partner, [and] self-doubt,” the persistent inadequacy which plagues people “from within” (p.282).

“Sarcasm … cynicism …name-calling, eye rolling, mockery, and hostile humor” are manifestations of contempt (p.34). It rears its insolent attitude of “superiority over one’s partner” next, to not only prohibit diverse viewpoints, but to also categorize disparities as “moral deficienc[ies]” (p.35).

As unpleasant interactions intensify, “defensiveness in all its guises … escalates the conflict.”

Its finger-pointing shifts blame away from self and any personal responsibility to “back down or apologize” (p.37, 164).


Stonewalling … acting like an impassive stone wall … arrives later,” as partners turn away from one another, and begin to not only avoid conflict, but also each other (p.38).

Am I turning toward my spouse? 

Or am I turning away from, or even against, him or her?

ANTIDOTES

Real antidotes to toxic behaviors exist.

Quoting psychologist Daniel B. Wile’s book After the Honeymoon, Gottman indicates “When choosing a long-term partner … you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with” for the duration of your relationship (p.139).

Research by Gottman indicates that a 69% “majority of marital conflicts” are perpetual, but happy couples have learned to “live with [marital conflict] and approach it with good humor
 (2015, p. 137-139).

President Ezra Taft Benson, thirteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1985-1994), taught:

"You do change human nature, your own human nature,
   if you surrender it to Christ. 

"Human nature can be changed here and now. 

"Human nature has been changed in the past …. 

"And only Christ can change it" (As quoted by Goddard, p.128).

All can be healed through Christ. 
He can heal the sick, and even raise the dead (John 11:1-2,5,11,14,43)
The Raising of Lazarus, by Carl Bloch

We have been married 35 years.
Gridlock has not been foreign to us.

At one critical juncture (when I was hurt and angry), our Bishop counseled me to look for something to thank my spouse for, every day for one month. I agreed.

I began, grudgingly, but I kept that promise.

Each day I added one or more items to a list I kept to prove that I was keeping my promise. When I again visited with the Bishop, I asked if he wanted the list, half-hidden in my hand by folding it neatly into a small square.

The Bishop, in turn, asked if I needed to give it to him.
I didn’t. I was changed.

Gratitude to my husband did not initially change him;
it altered my thoughts and feelings.


I was surprised.
I decided to apply the exercise to myself.
What was I doing well?

GRATITUDE

Dr. H. Wallace Goddard suggests that appreciating “little habits and eccentricities” aids us to understand and accept our spouse [or others] “as a total package” (p. 106).

Dr. John M. Gottman extends the same concept to forgiving ourselves. He teaches, “The best thing you can do for yourself and your marriage is to work on accepting yourself with all your flaws” (p.283).

Thomas S. Monson, modern prophet of God and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked all listening to his April 2017 General Conference address to “examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable.”

One of the kindest, most loving, and charitable accomplishments in all relationships is appreciation—simply saying ‘thank you.’

“If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues,” avowed President Monson, in his October 2010 General Conference address titled, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.”

President Monson encouraged all, “We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude” (October 2010).



  REFERENCES

Goddard, H. W. (2007). Drawing heaven into your marriage: powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub.
Gottman, J. M., and Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

President Thomas S. Monson, “The Divine Gift of Gratitude.” October 2010, retrieved 20 June 2017 from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/the-divine-gift-of-gratitude?lang=eng

President Thomas S. Monson, “Kindness, Charity, and Love. April 2017, retrieved 20 June 2017 from  https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2017/04/kindness-charity-and-love?lang=eng

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

INVENTORY INITIATIVES (LIVING IN LOVE)

“Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God” (D&C 109:8).
Each spring my storeroom is almost empty.

SPRING INVENTORIES  

The cycle of harvest is about to again fill the freezer and the empty jars lining storeroom shelves. It's a continuing cycle of living and loving.

As fruits and vegetables from the garden or nearby markets become available what do I need to do?

Washington cherries mature soon, followed almost immediately by apricots, and then peaches, plums, pears, and apples. How many jars or packages of each should I prepare and store?

How can I know?
It is time for inventory.

As the months march along, bottles and shelves are depleted
unless constantly refilled.

What resources are available and which are depleted?
First I need to clean, wash and dust; sort and organize; and if necessary dispose of outdated products.
Invariably, it seems, a dated jar has been lost in a corner or accidentally mixed with newer goods.
Yesterday, I found two jars - of what? 

They are dark in color with a somewhat reddish-purple cast, and labeled July 2012. Labels can help. I should have also identified contents! In July I am usually canning cherries but these are a puree and a juice of some type. I am sincerely puzzled. Whatever they are, they are seriously out of date, of little or no value, and best dumped into the compost. 
I also found 2 dated cans of fruit cocktail! WHAT?

How did those get out of rotation?

We didn't like this brand.
Some of the fruit seemed woody,
and other parts quite tasteless.
Lesson: Try different things! 

ESSENTIALS

Inventories can also help us understand our relationship “storehouse;” what has been, what now is, and what focus is needed for the future.

My spring inventory may focus on family home production and storage, but relationships need balance in all aspects of well-being: family finances and education, health and employment, and especially spiritual strength (see “Catching the Vision of Self Reliance,” lds.org).

Imagine the storehouse of your marriage, or other vital relationships.

What is essential?

Water is essential emergency storage.

PLENTY OF PRAISE

Patterns of daily diligence, kind consideration, and appreciative praise—when repeated persistently—repair, refill, replenish, and restore essential resources.
“Those who consecrate themselves to their marriage by bringing their whole souls …to the everyday events of a relationship are building a storehouse of sweet memories. They are building an eternal relationship …” teaches Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, Professor of Family Life for the University of Arkansas, in his book Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage (2007, p.104).
 “[H]appy marriage partners throw open the doors of the storehouse and give kindness, help, and goodness” (Goddard, p. 102).
When my husband observes that dirtied diapers make me gag, and offers to take over—all the time—because it doesn’t really bother him, he is replenishing our relationship. I am so grateful! I wonder what I can do to help him that would ever equal such a gift.



Goddard pointedly asks, “Have you … given your whole heart to your spouse? What can you do to make a more complete offering? … Are you willing to invest your whole soul in the hope [of] … eternal joy?” (p.106).

He teaches there is a better way than “the inevitable score-keeping” accompanying attempts to equalize shared responsibilities.

Seeking equity encourages people to think about and value their own contributions, [and] … under-notice and under-appreciate the efforts of others.
      We can gladly offer our best efforts.

      We appreciate all that our partners offer.
      We give gladly and we receive graciously” (p.102).


ROTTEN

Sometimes a nasty smell emanates from a store room. The offending item (or items) must be carefully investigated, and disposed of properly.


Have you ever smelled a rotten potato?   You’d rather not!
Sometimes a jar may ferment or spoil.
It is dangerous. Its contents can kill.
In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2015), New York Times bestselling author Dr. John M. Gottman proposes there may be destructive habits or practices in relationships that cause stress, trigger damaging interactions, or scar emotions (p.157).
Thorough inventories, although at times uncomfortable when feelings or customs are involved, may  reveal what is outdated, or perhaps ‘rotten,’ and help to determine ‘cleanup’ procedures.
In previous generations physical punishments such as spanking were common. While raising our family, a Marriage and Family Relations course was offered in our local ward (congregation in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

It helped us inventory our relationship habits and expectations.

CLEAN-UP
Our older children experienced some of the poisons of compulsion, but we decided spanking is an outdated toxic practice. Our younger children escaped the coercions of corporal punishments. We learned better options. Nevertheless, fallout from the past remained.
Even when relationships move past problems, Dr. Gottman teaches, “emotional injuries” may be causing “residual damage.”

If these are not “addressed” they “become constant irritants—like a stone in your shoe” (p. 157).
“The past is never dead. In fact, it’s not even past,” quotes Gottman from William Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun (p.187). “Negative emotions hold important information about how to love each other better” (Gottman, p.157).
Every store room is different, as is every relationship.

Gottman reminds marriage partners that “some difficulties are inevitable,” but just as we can avoid aggravating physical ailments such as a “trick knee, bad back, irritable bowel, or tennis elbow” we likewise can foster “strategies and routines” that alleviate relationship difficulties (p.139).

PACKAGE DEALS
Dr. Goddard emphasizes that different opinions and viewpoints are not “wrong or bad, they are just different from our [own] experience and preference,” and although such differences may cause frustrations or become irksome, it is possible for the “more spiritually mature” to accept their spouse [or others] “as a total package” (p. 106)

Issues are more about how things are handled than any specific action, lack of action, or circumstance. Gottman explains, “No one is right. There is no absolute reality in marital conflict, only two subjective ones.… Acceptance is crucial” (p. 157).
Saying “I’m sorry,” is a courageous start. One day, my husband took a public stand on Facebook against corporal punishment, and we apologized to our children, publicly and privately.
When another “person understands, respects, and accepts” someone “for who they are” with all their feelings, including those that are not positive, they facilitate freedom to change, forgive, and return compassion with “fondness, and admiration” (pp. 157-158).
It is also possible to learn to “mellow about …faults,” and “although … every emotion in the spectrum [is communicated], including anger and irritability, disappointment, and hurt … [a] ‘warts and all’ underlying regard and acceptance is also conveyed (pp. 158-159).

LOOK AHEAD

Elder Boyd K. Packer, a Latter-day Saint apostle, directs attention to an often overlooked Book of Mormon declaration that we “are instructed sufficiently that [we] know good from evil” (2 Nephi 2:5). Packer instructs:
It is critically important that you understand that you already know right from wrong, that you’re innately, inherently, and intuitively good.

When you say, ‘I can’t!
I can’t solve my problems!’

I want to thunder out, ‘Don’t you realize who you are? Haven’t you learned yet that you are a son or a daughter of Almighty God? Do you know that there are powerful resources inherited from Him that you can call upon to give you steadiness and courage and great power?’…
When you have a problem, work it out in your own mind first. Ponder on it and analyze it and meditate on it. Pray about it. I’ve come to learn that major decisions can’t be forced. You must look ahead and have vision … (See Proverbs 29:18).
Ponder on things a little each day, and don’t always be in the crisis of making major decisions on the spur of the moment. If you’re looking ahead in life, you can see major problems coming down the road toward you from some considerable distance. By the time you meet one another, you are able at the very beginning to take charge of that conversation.

Once in a while a major decision will jump out at you from the side of the road and startle the wits out of you, but not very often. If you’ve already decided that you’re going to do what is right and let all of the consequences follow, even those encounters won’t hurt you.
I have learned that the best time to wrestle with major problems is early in the morning. Your mind is fresh and alert. The blackboard of your mind has been erased by a good night’s rest. The accumulated distractions of the day are not in your way. Your body has been rested also. That’s the time to think something through very carefully and to receive personal revelation (1975/1978).

REFILL, REPAIR, REPLENISH

In contrast to the early morning peace described by Elder Packer, during the chaos of evening meal preparations, with multiple meetings and activities looming, if I pause (while working at the kitchen stove, naturally) to pray for patience when I notice my spouse or child hovering about or in the way, hoping for unidentifiable attentions, then I invite them to stir a bubbling pot, chop vegetables, lick a beater, or sit close enough that we can chat.
Listening, making meals, keeping a tidy home, and doing laundry or dishes may seem mundane, yet all store a harvest for future enjoyment.

A full storeroom after the harvest: photo by Mandy Court

Goddard probes, “Do we bring our greatest generosity and richest forgiving to our marriages?” (p.102). Do we “invite” (p.101), or demand? “No partner on the face of the earth can meet all our needs” (p.100), but “[w]e can follow Christ’s example and act to serve and redeem our partners” because “[w]hen we have the mind of Christ, there is no one we cannot fully love nor gladly serve” (Goddard, p. 101, quoting James Farrell’s The Peacegiver).
Goddard reminds us that marriage is “an ideal [place] to practice the law of consecration, giving “everything we have and are” and then asking “God to increase our capacity so we can give yet more” (p.102). 


References:

Goddard, H. W. (2007). Drawing heaven into your marriage: powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub.

Gottman, J. M., and Silver, N. (2015). The seven principles for making marriage work: a practical guide from the country's foremost relationship expert. New York: Harmony Books.

Boyd K Packer 1975 https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/boyd-k-packer_self-reliance/

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1978/04/solving-emotional-problems-in-the-lords-own-way?lang=eng

Saturday, June 10, 2017

WHO, ME??

“Pride affects all of us at various times and in various degrees (President Ezra Taft Benson, 1989 [i]).

Recently while visiting family members, my niece’s friendly, 14 month-old son taught us a valuable lesson about interpersonal relationships.

When we arrived, after a short period of getting acquainted, he accepted us as belonging: after all Nana, Papa, mommy, and daddy—everyone he knows and trusts—hugged us and seemed delighted to see us.

My sister, his Nana, and I look a lot alike. We laughed to see his eyes swiveling back and forth between us. That seemed to reassure him, and soon he allowed me to play with him and even carry him when he was a tiny bit fussy.

My husband, proud Papa to our own 19 grandchildren, began to play typical baby games including lightly touching a place he’d announce, such as “finger,” or “toes.” Encouraged by successes with “ear” and “nose,” he pointed to the baby’s chin while saying, “chin.” Baby’s eyes grew wide, and he turned away almost crying. We were all puzzled.

What could possibly cause the word ‘chin’ to frighten a child?

Not to be easily deterred, my husband soon tried again. He saw no harm in the simple game. The baby cried out, and I returned him to Nana.

She comforted him, and he quieted.

The next afternoon baby cut two, new bottom teeth.

None of us had realized his mouth, or chin, might be sensitive.


“Psychologists tell us … we all have limited facts and active biases. No human sees clearly,” teaches Dr. H. Wallace Goddard, Professor of Family Life for the University of Arkansas, in his book Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage
(2007, p.63). 

Goddard reminds us that pride causes us to be attuned “to our own needs as the standard of judgment,” causing us to “presume” what others think and feel. We then “define the problem—whatever it is—in terms of [them]” (p.64).

PRIDE

“Pride is the universal sin, the great vice,” said President Ezra Taft Benson, and then repeated, “Yes, pride is the universal sin, the great vice. (1989)

Sin?  What is sin? 

Youth in my Sunday School class in 2012 decided sin is anything that divides or separates us from God, and the great plan He has for our happiness.

Divides? Separates?

The youth (age 14-16) gave an example.

If we divide 4 by 2 we get 2.
Two is less than 4. 
But says the mathematician,
"now you have more pieces."


Exactly!  If we have a pizza, and cut it into pieces, each piece is separated into less than a whole pizza. (And if a greedy sibling cuts the pizza, and gets first choice, you can almost guarantee that some pieces will be bigger than others and you will get the smaller ones.)

So what is sin?

If dividing is less of something,
is sin less happiness?

We all could understand that it is.
Sin is choosing less happiness.


Sin is anything that diminishes real, lasting joy.

I want to be happy.
And I want happiness to last!
I want joy!

What about you?

The sin of pride, separates marriages, families, and communities from more happiness, by turning all into enemies—including God and self.

UNAWARE

President Benson taught that many may not even be aware that their "faultfinding, gossiping, backbiting, murmuring, living beyond [their] means, envying, coveting, withholding gratitude and praise that might lift another, and being unforgiving and jealous” are manifestations of pride. The scripture teach that some sin in ignorance (See Mosiah 3:113 Ne. 6:18Mosiah 1:3-7).

            Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

            The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition’ (Benson, 1989).

President Benson thoroughly explored how “Pride is a sin that can readily be seen in others but is rarely admitted in ourselves”
(See 2 Ne. 9:42).

Looking with envy at those who are richer or more talented can be as prideful as despising those with less.
                 
"Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child, employer and employee, teacher and student, and all mankind.

"Our degree of pride determines how we treat [others]” (Benson, 1989).

                  
Be a Little Kinder, taught President Gordon B. Hinckley.

Although in our mind we think we are harmless and without fault, in fact we may entirely fail to perceive truths or realities. Goddard explains:

The natural mind is an enemy to truth. Each one of us sees our own versions of ‘truth’ and imagines that no one in the world sees truth as clearly as we do … [thus preventing] us from connecting with others …. Humility is the friend of truth [which] opens us up to the experience of others and to truth from heaven.
(2007; p.63).
AN ANTIDOTE

Benson penetratingly asked if we follow the example of Jesus Christ to lift others, or instead give Satan power “to reign over us.” And he suggested an antidote: “humility” (Benson 1989). 
  •        Do we hate anyone giving us counsel, correction, or perhaps asking us to do our share? (Prov. 15:10Amos 5:10.)

    The proud defensively “justify and rationalize their frailties and failures” (Benson, 1989; See also 
    Matt. 3:9John 6:30–59).
     .   .   . 
    Can
     we get along and go along?
    can .   .   .
  •        Do we contend? “Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride … The scriptures tell us that “only by pride cometh contention.” (Benson, 1989; Prov. 13:10; see also Prov. 28:25.) 

    Can we make peace?
    .
  •        Do we give or take offense readily, nurse hurt feelings and grudges, or “withhold forgiveness to keep another in [our] debt” and “justify … injured feelings?”(Benson, 1989; 1Ne.16:1–3).
    .  .  . 
    Can
     we forgive and forget?
Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet, taught the people of the city Gideon

be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive. And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works. (Alma 7:23-24).

“The antidote for pride … is the broken heart and contrite spirit”
(Benson, 1989; See 3 Ne. 9:203 Ne. 12:19D&C 20:37D&C 59:8
Ps. 34:18Isa. 57:15Isa. 66:2).


HUMILITY

Becoming humble challenges pride. It may be difficult.  Elder M. Russell Ballard quips "Failure is only when you quit trying...if you keep working at a task and try to do what's right and honest, ultimately it works out."

Ballard reminds listeners: “Set goals that are well balanced—not too many nor too few, and not too high nor too low. Write down your attainable goals and work on them according to their importance. Pray for divine guidance in your goal setting” (April 1987).
  

Ballard also helps me understand family priorities:

When [you] make family and religious commitments
. . . societies at large are strengthened as families grow.stronger.

Commitments to family and values are the basic cause. Nearly everything else is effect.

. . .

So the bad news is that family breakdown is causing a host of societal and economic ills.

But the good news is that, like any cause and effect, those ills can be reversed if what is causing them is changed.

Inequities are resolved by living correct principles and values.  If we will devote ourselves to this cause, we will improve every other aspect of our lives”
(April 2012). 

Family and marriage relationships are work, but are critical to eternal happiness.

It is important to accept and validate feelings and feedback conveyed from all with whom we interact. Just like our niece’s baby really didn’t have a way to let anyone know he was going through a painful experience, our loved ones many not be able to send their message in a way we easily understand.

They may only be able to cry out, and we may misunderstand intent, desires, needs, expectations, and feelings. They need comfort.


Concern for, and consideration of others replaces the hatred and hostility of enmity with charity and compassion. Service and gratitude soften our hearts and theirs, promote patience, and foster the forgiveness toward others that (with inexpressible gratitude) we begin to recognize as necessary, and seek for self in submissive obedience to a loving Father; God, the Father of all. 

References:

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Keeping Life’s Demands In Balance,”157th Annual  General Conference, April 1987

Elder M. Russell Ballard, "That the Lost May Be Found," 1 April 2012, or  May Ensign, pages 98.

Elder Quentin L Cook, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Can Ye Feel So Now?” 182nd Semi-annual General Conference, 6 October 2012    

Goddard, H. W. (2007). Drawing heaven into your marriage: powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub.




[i] President Ezra Taft Benson delivered "Cleansing the Inner VesselApril 1986. And then reiterated and expanded his teachings April 1989 when he requested Gordon B. Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to read “Beware of Pride in his behalf.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

NURTURING NICETIES: MARRIAGE MATTERS

Is my spouse a jerk? Or are we friends?  Nurturing relationships begins with crucial understanding of basic truths.

He Is Risen; by Del Parson

First, and more important than character assassinations or evaluations, is surety that God is real, and that Jesus Christ, as His only begotten son, atoned for sin and error.

Dr H Wallace.Goddard
popular author, researcher, and Professor of Family Life for the University.of Arkansas, coaches companions in marriage to invite “partners to gaze with [each other] on truths.of eternity” where they “are more likely to find common ground,” and “open the door to love.”

This requires faith to “trust that God is working to rescue our spouses even as he is working to rescue us.”  (2007, pp.54-55).

Goddard tutors that when stress persuades us marriage was a blunder, to remember that most likely “God guided us to be together” and can use “our marital choices” to “bless and balance us” (2007, p.57).

Through faith, and fundamental gospel truths, all things are possible (see Mathew 19:26).

Basic truths are succinctly outlined in

                         The Family: 
           A Proclamation to the World:

Hands image from lds.org

Remembering that my husband has divine potential reminds me to look for traits and characteristics of his “eternal identity and purpose.” I also am a daughter of God, and therefore have “divine nature and destiny.”

HELP WITH HOW

Consciously choosing this point of view, regarding myself as a daughter of God and my spouse as God’s son, changes irritations to opportunities. They are an “invitation to better thinking and acting” (Goddard, 2007, p. 57).

I wonder how I can foster his divine character. How would a daughter of God respond to general crankiness or irritability, to doubt or pride, and other potential mortal imperfections? Without essential principles of Christian living firmly entrenched in our hearts our marriage would have failed many times.

Anciently, when church members at Corinth were arguing with each other, and battling in court, the Apostle Paul explained “a more excellent way”—Charity.

Paul Writing His Epistles; Attributed to Valentin de Boulogne  (1591–1632)

Paul’s warning reverberates through time into modern relationships.

Even if I “understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor … it profiteth me nothing.”

BE KIND

Paul describes some of the attributes of this more excellent way: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth[i] not itself, is not puffed up … seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil …  rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1Cor.13:2-13).

I don’t need to move any mountains, but I’d really like some kindness, patience, strength, hope and endurance.

Elder Joseph B. Writhlin, a Latter-day apostle (1986-2008) instructed that “the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring” extended to others in our lives. "Even when we make mistakes, we hope others will love us in spite of our shortcomings—even if we don’t deserve it” (2007).

Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women ….

Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.

Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years. … The things you say, the tone of your voice, the anger or calm of your words—these things are noticed ….

Nothing exposes our true selves more than how we treat one another in the home. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes (Wirthlin, April 2005).

PRAY … TO SEE GOOD

“Pray for the love which allows you to see the good in your companion,” instructs President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Pray for the love that makes weaknesses and mistakes seem small. Pray for the love to make your companion’s joy your own. Pray for the love to want to lessen the load and soften the sorrows of your companion” (2009).

CHANGE IS POSSIBLE

If warring nations can begin to make peace, surely it is possible in marriages and homes. 

In her May 2011 visit to Dublin, Ireland, Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, demonstrated a powerful example of the principles of charity, change (repentance), apology, forgiveness, and sacrifice.


“We can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all ... [With] forbearance and conciliation [we need to be] able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it." 

And with the majesty of her many titles, the longest reigning monarch in the world extended apologies and condolences to Ireland for her nation’s past atrocities.

Goddard claims “Marriage is God's graduate school for advanced training in Christian character" (2007, p.8).

“In real life, love is much more than a feeling, it is a long series of decisions to be together, and give to one another, a commitment to work together to build a shared life, a day to day involvement that changes who we are as people” (Goddard, 2008).

CLINICAL MATERIAL

Commenting about stress felt as we marry, raise families, and mingle together; Neil A Maxwell, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1981-2004), taught that in all our interpersonal relationships the people we interact with “constitute the sample of humanity” God given as “clinical material, and we make a mistake when we disregard that sober fact”(6 February 2000, February Ensign, 2001). 

Explaining further Maxwell quoted President Brigham Young as teaching, “There are … no two persons tempered alike; … we are tried with each other, and large drafts are made upon our patience, forbearance, charity, and good will, in short, upon all the higher and Godlike qualities of our nature” (in Deseret News, 6 July 1862, 9). 

“Our own spiritual maturity is revealed in how we respond to the weaknesses, the inexperience, and the potentially offensive actions of others” taught a modern apostle, Elder David A. Bednar. “A thing, an event, or an expression may be offensive, but you and I can choose not to be offended” (2006).

Maxwell (2001) instructed, “The eloquence of Jesus’ example of long-suffering and patience with each of us is surely something we must emulate—more than we usually do—in our relationships with each other!” He continued:

You are going to have days when people make a large draft on your patience, when they lay claim to your long-suffering that you may feel they don’t quite deserve. This is part of the chemistry that goes on in discipleship if we are serious about it …

It is within these circles of influence that you can strive to carry out all the dimensions of the second great commandment [to love others (Matt 22:36-40)] including giving praise, commendation, and occasional correction. It is good for us to develop further our relevant skills. Paul prescribed, however, ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Eph. 4:15).
We usually know if someone speaks “in love,” Elder Maxwell maintains, and we are more able to accept difficult course corrections and reproof when they are given lovingly. With love “there is a much greater chance that what we say will find its mark in the hearts and the minds of other people” (6 February 2000, February Ensign, 2001).

GIVE PRAISE

In the Book of Mormon Pahron, though censored by an angry Moroni, chooses not to take offense but looks at Moroni’s good intentions and commends him for his uprightness. (Alma 61:2, 9). 


Maxwell reminds us, “We too can give others ‘the garment of praise’ (Isa. 61:3). There are so many people with no such clothing in their wardrobes—or only a T-shirt. They shiver for want of a little praise. Meanwhile, each of us has far more opportunities for bestowing deserved praise than we ever use!”(2001).

PASS IT ON

How am I able to give admiration, approval, honor, and appreciation? 

Elder Maxwell advises that it is imperative to be able to “give and receive” corrective council as well as commendation. Paul counsels “not to reprove others too much, causing them to ‘be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow’ (2 Cor. 2:7), and President Brigham Young, directed that “we should never reprove beyond the capacity of our healing balm to reach out to the person reproved” (see Deseret News, 6 Mar. 1861, 1).

Brigham Young Portrait, by Kenneth Corbett

Again quoting Brigham Young, Maxwell teaches, “The principle of love within us is an attribute of the Deity, and it is placed within us to be dispensed independently according to our own will” (in Deseret News, 4 Apr. 1860, 34). We decide how we express love.” Interest in others is in our “own interest” to become more like our Heavenly Father (in Deseret News, 18 June 1856, 116). In all relationships “ …the mentoring, the tutoring, the commending, and occasionally the correcting” provides “ample clinical opportunities to develop our capacity to love.” Maxwell cautions us to beware least these ‘opportunities’ “pass us by unnoticed 
(see Morm. 8:39).

REFERENCES


And Nothing Shall Offend Them, David A Bednar (October 2006), Retrieved May 31, 2017 from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/and-nothing-shall-offend-them?lang=eng

Goddard, H. W. (2007). Drawing heaven into your marriage: powerful principles with eternal results. Fairfax, VA: Meridian Pub.

Goddard, H. W. (2008). Healthy Marriages: Facts and Fiction Part 2 retrieved May 31, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-k6aY_1zDs quoting Dr. Blaine Fowers, University of Texas Professor of Counseling Psychology, Education, and Research

Jesus the Perfect Mentor, Neil A. Maxwell, (February 2001). Retrieved June 1, 2017 fromhttps://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/02/jesus-the-perfect-mentor?lang=eng

Our Perfect Example, Henry B. Eyring, October 2009, Ensign November 2009, Retrieved June 1, 2017 from https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2009/10/our-perfect-example?lang=eng

“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 2004, 49; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102. https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng&old=true

The Greatest Commandment, Joseph B. Wirthlin, October 2007, Ensign November 2007 Retrieved June 1, 2017, from 


 https://www.lds.org/ensign/2007/11/the-great-commandment.p1?lang=eng


[i] boasting or bragging excessively (Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved June 1, 2017 from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/vaunt).