Tuesday, July 11, 2017

You Are My Hands

Each one of us has personal Saviors who act in behalf of our general Savior for us. It is most common that these Saviors are within our own family, ward, or community. It is a total blessing for us to have someone right before our eyes, face to face, talking and listening to us and imparting the Lord's word to us for our specific situations. When we can share our hopes, dreams, frustrations, and true feelings with another person who understands us, supports us, and guides us, this interaction makes life better and more manageable, not worse.  We have a place to "lay our head." We have a personal Savior who is operating through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ who has our best interest in mind and heart.

“God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs.” ~President Spencer W. Kimball

There is a statue of Christ that was damaged in a war with missing hands and a sign at its base that says, "You are my hands."

“A story is told that during the bombing of a city in World War II, a large statue of Jesus Christ was severely damaged. When the townspeople found the statue among the rubble, they mourned because it had been a beloved symbol of their faith and of God’s presence in their lives. Experts were able to repair most of the statue, but its hands had been damaged so severely that they could not be restored. Some suggested that they hire a sculptor to make new hands, but others wanted to leave it as it was—a permanent reminder of the tragedy of war. Ultimately, the statue remained without hands. However, the people of the city added on the base of the statue of Jesus Christ a sign with these words: ‘You are my hands.’” ~Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf


When God allows us to be his hands, he gives us the opportunity to develop sustainable relationship of Amae with our family, friends, and community. These are like the covalent bonds we learn about in chemistry. If we all relied directly upon God for all our needs, we would not be able to establish bonds with each other. We would all bond directly with God but not with each other.


Family Bonding
Because we are all separated from God and his immediate love to a certain degree, we all have the need for Amae. Our spirits need spiritual nourishment to live just as our bodies require physical nourishment to live. God designed families as the primary way we receive both physical and spiritual nourishment. Functional families successfully provide this nourishment and thus bond with each other. Dysfunctional families struggle with the ability to provide it and that bond can't be formed. Most families fall somewhere in between totally functional and totally dysfunctional. Because we may not be able to provide the level of nourishment our children need or because our parents may not be able to do that for us, God provides back-up resources. Back-up Redeemers. 


The Fall
Sometimes the inability to provide Amae may be ascribed to purposeful negligence and abuse but other times it may be ascribed to objective random reality. The imbalanced relationship that results in dysfunction may only be a result of random circumstances. In other words, we can probably safely attribute the overall cause of dysfunctional conditions to the conditions of the Fall. Sickness, death, natural disasters, lack of maturity, generational neglect and abuse. The list of inherent weaknesses and misfortunes goes on! All of it can be categorized under the Fall. One dysfunctional condition causes another dysfunctional condition and like dominoes we all go down.   The Atonement of Jesus Christ redeems our AGENCY. It gives us the power to overcome the conditions of a dysfunctional upbringing. It provides us with Amae where we didn't have it. If choose him (and his back-up resources) as our Redeemer these Fallen imbalanced conditions can be corrected.


My Specific Adversity: What Happened?
What exactly happened to me as a child? As is the case for all of us, God primarily provided that needed spiritual nourishment through my family. That was my first-line resource growing up. Because that was dysfunctional to a given degree, I also had dysfunctional behavior BEFORE I learned to turn to my Redeemer for re-functionalization. Thankfully, part of the Atonement of Jesus Christ includes giving each of us Time to find Him and recognize how to turn to and rely upon his Redeeming love.


My parents divorced when I was really little. I barely even remember my dad. He thought it was best to completely sever ties with us so I didn't grow up knowing him. In my teenage years I had some positive interaction with him. He was very kind. But I never had that father/daughter belonging relationship with him that would fulfill the purpose of family for me.


I’m not sure why my biological father did what he did so I don’t want to go into that. I’m only sure that it was a combination of the Fall and his own choices. So he left our family early on. He left us to the care of my mom and eventually to my step-dad. My step-dad was born and raised in an abusive culture. I know he was verbally and physically knocked around a lot by his parents and siblings. So that was passed along to him and then to me and my siblings. 

From his family line, he learned that the solution to get children to obey was to force them to obey through physical pain or threat of it. The imbalanced character trait went like this: If children did not do what he said, he should increase their physical pain. In Behavioral Psychology--Operant Conditioning--this would be called Positive Punishment. Increasing or adding an undesirable stimulus like whipping a horse to get him to run faster. It is hitting a child after she has done something wrong in efforts to create a fear in her to not repeat that behavior again. If you consistently train a child like this she is going to assimilate those character traits, whether she would choose it or not.

These imbalanced methods of training children can indirectly promote other imbalanced character traits in a child when they are the primary methods by which she learns to make her choices. If she did not know she was doing wrong in the first place, punishment was used as a teaching method, and this training was repeated throughout her childhood, what would be the consequence? What would she learn? I know what I learned—a fear that whatever I did could possibly be wrong. No space for trial and error. No time to make mistakes without the hammer of swift and painful judgment coming down on my head. It was not okay for me to be imperfect in any way. I developed an ultra-self-correction mechanism almost like an auto-immune disease and major self-defensiveness against anyone who attempted to correct me. I will correct myself before anyone has a chance to punish me. That was my unconscious attitude. As I grew older, I grew angry. And this is probably the same exact process that put such intense and virulent anger into my step-dad before me. The results of the Fall--generational abuse and neglect. Lack of Amae.

Neglecting to Protect
The problem is not just in passing on dysfunctional love and character traits but it’s also in NOT passing on functional Amae and character traits. What does a child become when she is not protected by her parents? What happens if the very ones she should go to for safety, comfort, guidance, and support are the ones she has to hide from? How does she develop faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ? Where does the vital nourishing love come from? How can a child learn how to be merciful if she never was given it? And this is where she learns to protect herself. She learns that no one has her back. She believes there are no Back-up Redeemers. She learns to Turn and Revile Again.

I share this story knowing that almost everyone has experienced generational abuse and neglect to some degree. And if we see it in ourselves, we may be tempted to evaluate ourselves in Toxic Shame or to evaluate our parents in Toxic Blame. My goal is to objectively see these things as the product of ignorance and the Fall. When we recognize them as such, we can get to a place where we understand how the Atonement of Jesus Christ can be implemented to resolve the conflicts these dysfunctional relationships have created for us. These are the resultant conflicts that we are still struggling with today.


Back-up Redeemers
When the level of love and training our parents provide for us is not enough, the Atonement of Jesus Christ operates on our behalf. God knows what is going on. He works to put into place subsequent levels of resources that redeem us--compensate us. Our siblings may step in out of their own mercy and advanced God-given abilities for our next resource level. But since they are usually still learning and growing, as we are, and are receiving the same level of dysfunctional training, they often are not capable of playing this role for us. Yet mine did to a certain degree. My older sister was a beacon of light for me. She consistently read her scriptures, prayed, and went to church, which gave me a clue that these resources might be valuable to me as well.


We are all only required to do what we are willing and able to do. Love and Amae are about voluntary sacrifice, not forced sacrifice. We can't force people to love us. If we are willing, we can increase our ability to sacrifice over time in order to provide Amae for others through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But if a parent is not aware of this chance to improve or is not willing to develop his ability to sacrifice for his children, the Atonement kicks in. Others are called into action. Those others can be extended family members, friends, and members of our church. 


I had a few other Back-up Redeemers growing up. My grandparents, my best friend and her family, and my church, its programs, and many of its members. These resources retrained me in important ways to learn how to obtain my desires and resolve my conflicts using higher skills than I was raised with. I discovered for myself that the prophets, scriptures and personal prayers were a vital resource for me. But it wasn't until I developed the faith to really depend upon these resources, and specifically Jesus Christ who they all were pointing to, that my Amae needs were completely redeemed.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Born Again

In the past few posts, I've been telling the story about how the Savior has been changing me from someone who had the habit of Turning and Reviling Again to someone who Stands Steadfast in Him. While my entire life has been a training period to develop this skill, the level of training began to increase in 2005. That was when I finally had had enough of the way I had been living. It was when I stopped putting my trust in man and in the arm of the flesh and started putting it more in God. 

“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.” ~2 Nephi 4:34

In the beginning of 2005 I began to write my prayers down and take my communication with Heavenly Father much more serious. I felt prompted to read a book called Drawing on the Powers of Heaven by Grant Von Harrison, which my mom had given me a few years earlier. Thanks to my mom and this author, I learned how to see my life as one goal achievement process after another. I learned how to use my prayers to work with God on each one of them. My daily prayers were official meetings with Him to which I needed to come prepared. These meetings took place in my prayer journal. I wrote my goals down and made them the topic of each of my prayers. I believed these goals were in sync with the things he wanted me to work towards. Here's the list I wrote down in May of 2005:

• Health: Get Well 
• Weight loss
• Mother: be a better mother, patient, loving, steady, wise spiritual instincts in every situation
• Writer/Teacher: finish my book, teach others what I've learned about nutrition and balance
• Marriage: Fall in love with my husband again

Then I wrote down all the things I promised to do on a daily basis that I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to do. These were things I had personal control over.

• Read scriptures (personal, w/husband, w/family)
• Read parenting book
• Pray (personal, w/husband, w/family)
• No yelling at kids or husband
• If I'm upset, leave the room
• Attend all meetings
• Act upon every spiritual prompting
• Make schedule, stick with it or revise
• Sleep for 7-9 hours
• Exercise--walks

These things became my commitments--my promises to God. His promise to me was to help me obtain my goals. 

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:” ~Matthew 7:7

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.” ~D&C 6:14

Each day I would report on the commitments I kept. I would then write about the conflicts that came up in trying to keep them. I had questions about these conflicts so I wrote them down. In response, a scripture would come to my mind. Sometimes it was a song I knew or a story I had previously read. I realized he was answering me! And the method by which he was answering me was bringing things that I had read, heard, or seen in the past into my mind. So it was a good thing I had spent years reading the scriptures. He had a large volume of stories and key verses to choose from.

See another post on this topic: I Need To Communicate!

Whenever we repeat any process we become more efficient at it. It becomes an ability. A strength. So in the beginning of writing down my prayers, it took a little longer to receive the answers. And when they did come, it took me some time before I recognized them for what they were. More often than not he answered them through other people, their writings, teachings, conversations, and creations. As I continued this process, my faith increased incrementally. I was able to receive his answers much more quickly. In addition to the scriptures, songs, and stories, I started hearing answers straight in my thoughts--in an original idea or impression. I wrote them all down. So now he usually communicates what he's thinking through pure meaning almost like our minds are one. Then, when I write down what he 'thought to me' I use my own words to describe it.

“When it is for the Lord’s purposes, He can bring anything to our remembrance. That should not weaken our determination to record impressions of the Spirit. Inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. Recording will also enhance our ability to recall revelation.” ~Elder Richard G. Scott

See blog post: The Voice Inside My Head

Listen: When You Say Nothing At All by Alison Krauss

I began each prayer with, "Dear Heavenly Father..." and then continued with the rest of the prayer. In time I became more organized. We had an agenda for each meeting and it was important for me to stick to it as much as possible. 

I was forming a new relationship with God, a closer one. It was more personal than it had been before. It was like he was committing to accept me into his family as one of his children. He would play the father role to me and I would play the child role even though I was almost 36 years old and married with 4 kids.

“And the Lord said unto me: Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;” ~Mosiah 27:25

Listen: "Born Again" by Newsboys

When I started studying the Atonement of Jesus Christ more intensely, the agenda and questions became centered around him. I didn't just want to receive the blessing of the Atonement, although that was amazing. I wanted to understand the Atonement--what it was, why it was so valuable, how it worked. It was like I was trying to get a bird's eye view of it all and I couldn't stop until I did. I didn't just want to be a beneficiary. I also wanted to be an apprentice. The Master Apprentice is a post I wrote back in 2014 that describes the difference I'm talking about here.

Somewhere in the middle of my constant searching I noticed the answers to my questions were coming back using the pronoun I. I realized that Jesus Christ was taking over the meeting. Maybe he was always the one in charge of it anyway. I don't know but there came a time when I was sure he was the one talking to me. I felt that it was important to continue addressing the Father in my prayers to begin with so I kept doing that. But the more I got to know the Savior in my studies, the more I wanted to write letters straight to him. I wanted to have direct conversations with him more often. So in 2009, four years after I started praying like this, I asked the Father if I could. The answer was Yes! Of course there was much more that happened during that four years in the development of my capacity to sacrifice and receive training. I'll write about that in more detail in another post but here is a post I've already written about some of the sacrifices I had to make along that journey: The Opportunity Cost.

When I first started writing straight to the Lord it was awkward. I didn't know how to address him. I tried something really fancy: Most Beloved Savior of All Mankind. That didn't feel quite right. I used the same formal language that I use in my prayers to the Father: thee, thou, thine. The first thing He told me was that I could use the informal you, your, yours pronouns with him. That was a relief but I kept accidentally using the formal ones and then scratching them out. Kind of funny for me to look back on this journal where it's all recorded. The next time I wrote to him I addressed him as Jesus. That didn't feel right either! I can only guess it was because the name and title of Jesus Christ describes his relationship with the entire world. Christ, one of his official titles, means the anointed one. And Jesus is the name he went by during his mortal life. Many people use that name irreverently and obnoxiously so I didn't feel comfortable using it. I ended up praying about it and was told that I could call him Jehovah. And wow, that felt totally right!

So that's the name I've been using to address him for the past eight years. I'm going to start using this name more when I describe the role He has played in training me to become Steadfast in Christ. I feel most comfortable with that name and the story seems to flow more easily when I use it. While I also accept that I am a member of his Church and his Kingdom and in so being have a relationship with him as my general Savior, his specific role in my life has been my personal one-on-one Life Coach.

This might be better explained with a metaphor. A man may stand in the more personal husband/father role towards his family but may also serve in another more general role towards his church congregation, like a bishop. So his family members would interact with him as their husband/father in some situations and as their bishop in others.

Similarly the Savior stands in a priesthood leadership position to the entire world.

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.” ~Hebrews 4:14

But he also has the ability to interact with each of us in a more personal relationship. The best reason I can give for him allowing me to be apart of his personal family is a long-term progressive need for amae and training. I'm not saying all my family members have dropped the ball in my relationships with them. I'm saying that I have discovered my personal need for amae and especially my need for training is beyond what they have had the capacity to give. The best way I can describe how important my relationship with Jehovah has been to me is in the following scripture:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a [woman], seeking goodly pearls: Who, when [she] had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that [she] had, and bought it.” ~Matthew 13:45-46

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Amae--The Longing to Belong

In a previous blog post I described a scene out of my own life story. It was a Conflict. It was an illustration of a relationship that was not working. The relationship was dysfunctional. It seemed to be failing in its purpose. There were two people involved, members of the same family, brother and sister. They were children. One was a 13-year-old girl (me) and the other was a 12-year-old boy (my brother). The brother reviled the sister and the sister Turned and Reviled Again and then the brother Turned and Reviled Again. 

Functional Family Relationships
Years later, during my training, I had to learn what a functional family relationship was. And when I did, I was able to see how Conflicts between family members can be prevented or resolved before they get out of hand. So this is what I learned:  

Functional family relationships are relationships that work. They are successful in their purpose. The following scenarios show how to maintain functional family relationships:


Scenario 1:  Kindness Starts with Me
Siblings treat each other with kindness.


Scenario 2: Forgive, Repent, Recommit
A brother reviles a sister and the sister does not Turn and Revile Again. The sister would be previously trained to use one of the following levels of Conflict Resolution Processes given her maturity level:
Level 1: She ignores him and/or asks him to stop. 
Level 2: If the reviling hurt, she talks her own insecurities and needs over privately with a parent and learns how to resolve these personal Conflicts separately.
Level 3: She redirects his behavior.
Level 4: She treats him with continued kindness in return.
Level 5: She thinks about which of his needs aren't being met and/or wonders what adversity (or lack of it) he's experiencing that is causing him to revile others.
Level 6: She seeks for more long-term ways to meet his needs appropriately in order to balance his adversity level.

At any of these levels, if his reviling is continuous and the sister doesn't know what to do about it or have the endurance to implement it, she asks a parent to help resolve the Conflict. The parent implements the higher level Conflict Resolution Processes. The hope is that the brother will repent--say he is sorry for what he did--at any of these levels or that the parent will teach him how to apologize and recommit. Of course this is idealistic. It's the goal for children to work out their Conflicts with each other in this manner. They're not going to have any idea of what their roles are or how to do any of this if they are not trained. It's kind of like wild horses. They're just going to run wild unless they are trained.

Identify the Purpose
When relationships don't work, they don't fulfill their purpose. If that purpose was important to us then we want to fix the problem. We want to resolve the Conflict. So what is the purpose of a family? When it is functional as in the above scenarios, what is the result? What was God trying to accomplish by setting us up in families? These were my questions. In order to assess the answers the Lord had to explain the basic human needs to me. I wrote about this a little in the last blog post but I'm going to review it here.

Basic Humanity
It was a shocker for me to learn that every human being needs love. It seems like a no brainer but I had never really thought about it before--at least in the way the Lord showed it to me in 2006. I remember reading a book called, "The Belonging Heart: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family" by Bruce C. and Marie K. Hafen. It described our basic human need as amae, which is a Japanese concept that translates best into the English word belonging. There are so many different meanings for the word love that I had become completely confused about its core meaning. But when I read this book, I was seeing the concept of love from a whole new perspective. Here's a quote from it:  "The word amae, for which no English equivalent exists, describes the innate need and desire within each person to depend on and feel connected to other people, especially in relationships of love and intimacy." 


Who Am I?
Visualizing what I needed changed my understanding of myself. For a long time before this epiphany I was unconsciously searching for my needs in other places besides family. And I'm now talking about the family in which I am the mom as well as my extended family. I was striving to fulfill my duty as well as I could. I wasn't running off on all kinds of other adventures. I was staying home with my family and working to make sure everyone else was happy. But I wasn't exactly happy. I didn't consider that my needs should also be met within these relationships. I seemed to inherently know that I desired to belong somewhere. I just hadn't considered why I wasn't feeling the amae with my own family.


Spiritual & Physical Nourishment
I learned that love is spiritual nourishment. And just as it is vital for each of us to eat nutritious meals on a daily basis for optimal health, so it is vital for us to be spiritually nourished on a daily basis. And each of us has the power to spiritually nourish someone else through our own words and actions! God is our Father and so he knows that we have these constant needs. He designed the family unit to be the means by which these needs are met. Brothers and sisters, therefore, have the sacred duty and power to love one another. Loving is about treating each other compassionately and empathetically. It’s also about noticing each other’s strengths and cherishing them. Additionally, when one of us makes mistakes and does not do the above duties, which ends up hurting us, we forgive and try to work it out. We recommit so the relationship can Re-Functionalize. The goal is to do whatever it takes for the relationship to work as God intended it to work for all of its members. That way everyone experiences amae.

“WE, THE FIRST PRESIDENCY and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that…the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” ~The Family, A Proclamation to the World

Time for Change
After figuring this all out with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, I changed some of my goals. I started investigating why my present family relationships weren't resulting in amae for me. I looked at myself first. What did I need to change? I didn't feel bogged down with shame because I hadn't been doing better prior to learning this. I felt energized and excited that if I implemented the true processes of God in my family I would stop feeling this emptiness, this lack of something, this need to belong. I would be filled in the appropriate way. And I trusted that God's plan, when implemented would fill me completely. I just had to understand it better.


Knowing the Definitions
When family relationships are dysfunctional it means that one or more of its members are not feeling that sense of belonging because there is a lack of training and motivation to fulfill duties. They don't feel sufficiently loved, appreciated, accepted, and safe. Neither do they sufficiently love, appreciate, accept, and protect. Functional families are NOT perfect families in which everyone gets along all the time. They are families in which the members have been trained how to repent and forgive in order to recommit and Re-Functionalize when Conflict arises. They are families that know the promised rewards that come with keeping their commitments to one another. Understanding these promised rewards myself motivated me to realign my goals. When I prayed for help in developing the needed skills, it was given to me. Slowly but surely, I became a better wife, mother, sister, and daughter. I'm still working on it. And it turns out that those skills are the same skills needed to Stand Steadfast in Christ. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

It Does Hurt...Shields Up!


I was once ignorant and vulnerable to all kinds of reviling. Now I’m not so ignorant and my shields are fully functional. That’s because of my Redeemer. In the first step of his training, he had me look a little closer at general concepts such as Adversity, Sorrow, Abuse, Neglect, Love, Mercy, and Joy. He taught me to list their synonyms and antonyms. Then he showed me how the meaning behind each word varied by degrees. We then studied some examples of each concept--stories in which they were played out. And through it all I began to evaluate my own personal Conflicts and apply what I was learning to figuring them out. All of these treasures of knowledge have been a necessary part of my training to kick the habit of Turning and Reviling Again. Knowledge and wisdom passed down by a loving and compassionate teacher are the keys to "bring out the prisoners from the prison."

O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted; behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.” ~Isaiah 54:11

So let's look at some of those general concepts to understand them better. As we do, notice how some of your own knots start to loosen a little.

To Revile
To Revile is to criticize, condemn, attack, rail against, slander, vilify, or abuse. It’s also to knock, slam, badmouth, persecute, or crucify. It can be done physically or verbally. The definition we used in a previous post was: to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner. So this is one of our major sources of Adversity. Other people reviling us. When we say that we Turn and Revile Again, we’re insinuating that we are responding to some kind of Adversity that we received first. The scriptures call this "the first offense." It's just another synonym for this concept.

“And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.” ~Alma 43:46

"The second offense" is a synonym for Turning and Reviling Again. I think this scripture means they are defending themselves and their families objectively, which is by the will of God, and are not motivated by their own personal hatred and desire for vengeance. Because we now understand the general meaning of reviling and that there are a million synonyms for it, we can find examples of people dealing with this Adversity in the scriptures and how they reacted to it. We see the counsel of the Lord to them, which we can then apply to our own circumstances. We learn by this scripture that there is a right way to defend ourselves. But we also need to check ourselves because the degree of reviling that the people (Nephites) in this scripture story were experiencing is probably not the degree to which we're experiencing it in our story. And that matters in choosing which kind of Conflict Resolution Process we're going to use.

Degrees of Reviling
We can revile someone just a little or we can revile them a lot. This is speaking of the degree or intensity of the Adversity. When my brother called me FAT it was a lesser degree of Adversity than when he got all of his friends to call me FAT. If more people abuse us, the intensity increases. It hurts more. Also, people can criticize us with one word or they can go on and on about how wrong we are and how right they are. So duration and frequency can increase intensity. When we get really specific and detailed in our criticism, we increase the intensity. The last way that I can think increases our Adversity is if the reviling comes from someone we love and/or respect and especially from someone for whom we have given our life. This is kind of like how Judas Iscariot reviled Christ by betraying him. That would have been extra painful for him since he was one of his twelve apostles who had been a disciple and a close friend for at least three years. Not unlike pouring salt into an open wound. During my training I learned that it was important to understand why I may get intensely upset about something when others think all I need to do is take a chill-pill. 

Specific Weaknesses and Sensitivities
That last reason goes along with this next point. What hurts one person may not phase another. That’s because we value things differently. We're all unique. Remember how in the last blog post I started out describing how much I valued being fit and attractive since I was nine years old? I did that purposefully to explain why the reviling I received hurt so bad. When someone knows how to push our buttons, they know exactly what means the most to us. We all have different weakness and sensitivities. Knowing what someone’s are gives us the knowledge of how to love them better or hate them worse.

The degree of reviling added to the degree to which we are sensitive to it equals the total degree of Adversity that we experience. This may exceed our ability to stop ourselves from Turning and Reviling Again. If we are especially weak and untrained, it may not take much at all to get past our shields.

Neglect:  The Opposite of Abuse
We’ve used the word Abuse as a synonym for reviling. Abuse is the main word I’ve chosen to use in the Servant Program to describe this concept. So technically Abuse is combining with someone else in a way that hurts them. It is adding a stimulus. It is contentious. It is a sin of Commission. The opposite of Abuse is Neglect. Technically Neglect is separating from someone else in a way that hurts them. It is subtracting a stimulus. It is a sin of Omission. We can use Neglect to hurt someone. The reason behind that is that we all need love for spiritual nourishment as much as we need food and water for physical nourishment. We cannot spiritually live without it. And to live spiritually is to have Joy. So without love, we experience Sorrow. And that hurts. Those who are responsible for our care have the responsibility to physically and spiritually love us. In this way they care for our body and spirit. So if they Neglect doing this for us, they leave us in a vulnerable place. We are excessively exposed to injury and reviling. We have more buttons to be pushed. We have more sensitivities. We’re easily hurt by mischief-makers. Negligence includes neglecting to teach and train us how to Stand Steadfast in Christ. The combination of both Ignorance (as a Result of Neglect) and Abuse is so fatal!

In the diagram to the right we can see that there are degrees of intensity for both Abuse and Neglect. Not only can we Abuse a little or a lot, we can also Neglect a little or a lot. The balance between Abuse and Neglect is Love. Love includes Standing Steadfast in Christ, giving Mercy to those who hurt us instead of doing what comes natural. With Love sometimes we do censure and reprimand. In Mercy sometimes we do separate from someone else. How do we know when we’ve crossed the line to Abuse or Neglect? That took the Savior a lot of time to explain to me. We’ll get to that somewhere in the next few posts. For now, just know that it's not wrong to combine or separate in order to resolve Conflicts. It just doesn't resolve them when we combine or separate contrary to the Holy Ghost's guidance.

With this information, we can see that most of us were Abused or Neglected to some degree growing up and we still may be experiencing some of that in our present family relationships. It is the degree of weakness in these relationships which causes us to develop a degree of weakness in our ability to Stand Steadfast in Christ. So when others hurt us to a given degree, it may trip our switch more easily than it otherwise would. When our switch is tripped, we Turn and Revile Again. And that's just how it is. 

In learning to Stand Steadfast in Christ, we need to first acknowledge that some of the things other people do or don't do to us REALLY DO hurt. And we need someone else to acknowledge that too. Someone whose judgment we trust. For me that was the Lord. When he told me that he knew just how badly someone else's behavior had hurt me and that I was justified in feeling the way I did, I felt so validated! In trying to resolve past Conflicts and understand why I reacted the way I did, I was getting all knotted up in the shame of my own imbalanced responses to the abuse. I didn't see the abuse for what it was. I didn't understand that it was okay to feel hurt, to be sad, to attribute the cause of my pain to someone's behavior, to cry and be upset about it. That was not wrong.

The Lord then had to show me that there was "a space between stimulus and response." I had a choice to make. Would I Turn and Revile Again or would I stop myself, receive the pain, go to the Savior and cry, but not give it back? If I did return reviling for reviling, that would usually result in more reviling from the other person. And of course the abuse would have to escalate by degrees the more we hurt each other. How can this resolve Conflicts? It can't. It just makes them worse. Learning this bit of knowledge really increased my intelligence, which increased my motivation to stop Turning and Reviling Again. I didn't want to engage in such a futile Conflict Resolution Process.

Additional enlightenment came when I focused in on God's censure. Every time I abused someone else, I lost the Spirit to a certain degree. I felt bad. And I didn't like that at all. When I was younger I didn't understand what was going on. I didn't know God's language. I thought God was communicating his judgment upon the entire Conflict. I thought he was telling me that I was wrong and the other person was right and that I deserved the abuse they were handing out but the other person didn't deserve the abuse I was returning. So you see this was a Conflict with Justice. That was another major weakness in my "spiritual genetic code" that had to be reconstructed. I had to learn about God's Justice. I learned that I lose the Spirit when I say or do something mean to someone else, regardless of what they do to me. Other people loose the Spirit when they say or do something mean to me, regardless of what I do to them. Since I couldn't see that latter part happening, I thought I was the only one being censured.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~Matthew 5:44-45

“We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s [or any other man's] transgression.” Article of Faith 2

Because of this weakness in my code I thought somewhere in my unconsciousness that God must not be Just, which kept me at a distance from him. When I got it all straightened out, I went 'ohhhhhh God is Just!'.  So then the motivation to stop Turning and Reviling Again changed to this: Was it worth it to me to suffer the pain others inflicted upon me without responding to them in kind in order to keep His Spirit with me? In other blog posts I've called this staying in The Safe Spot. These are synonyms. And so is Standing Steadfast in Christ. They all mean the same thing! I love synonyms! Sometimes I kind of go crazy with them in my writing because they start coming into my mind all at once as I'm summarizing truth and it's so exciting! Sorry if it gets too complicated but hopefully with this explanation you'll be able to see exactly what I'm doing. 

YES it was worth it to me to receive the hurt without Turning and Reviling Again. It was worth it to me because of what I found out! Staying in the Safe Spot, keeping his Spirit with me strengthened me against the Abuse and Neglect so the bad things people said and did to me didn't hurt! Shields up! It took time to develop the strength in my shields as I developed my relationship with Him but in time I became INVINCIBLE! No, just kidding. But my boundaries against what other people said and did to me increased incrementally over time. And that changed who I was. I became someone different. I started liking myself a lot more. I started liking other people a lot more. I found myself enjoying the challenge of holding isometric in the face of all kinds of Imbalanced Behaviors. My kids' behavior presented a great training ground for me. 

I still can be hurt, especially when I start slacking in my relationship with the Lord, but I've learned how to hold my sharp tongue (for the most part) and my reaction between him and I until I can constructively work out a Conflict with others.

Listen: "He Showed Me How" by David Archuleta

In the next blog post I’ll write more about our inherent need for love and what I've learned about God's plan--how he would provide a sustainable degree of this love for each one of us.