My mom has always been a bit of a devil’s advocate. It came, she claims, from her father who, I think, rather enjoyed the challenge of a good argument. She tells me that it didn’t matter that he may have agreed wholeheartedly with her stance, he would question and test -- suggesting ever different angles and possibilities -- until she either saw a new side to things – one she hadn’t considered might have merit -- or, was able to leave with a stronger conviction that her view was truly sound.
My mom has kept up this tradition with her kids. I can clearly hear her voice saying, “Nan, what about this . . . ?” or “Well. Maybe. Maybe not. What if . . .” and while, at times, I may have groaned – just wanting her to blithely agree with me, it has taught me not to feel immediately threatened by differing views; not to worry that they will shake my convictions or weaken my resolves, but to understand that, at times, there might actually be a different angle that makes sense, there might be some good that might come from something that seems all bad; or even, through a bit of testing, helped me discover an even greater devotion to my own way of thinking.
I am certainly not always great at looking at other sides; at trying to appreciate how someone might see things differently. There are some convictions that I hold so dear or that are so much a part of me, that I simply close off when any counter argument arises – finding it difficult to even muster a little understanding of a differing perspective.
There are times when I am likely a bit lazy and simply default to the opinions and views of those I admire and respect (my in-laws and siblings, my parents and Mike) with out necessarily thinking it through for myself.
Also, I admit that my nature is very much a peace-loving one. I shrink from confrontation and conflict, and perhaps too often stick to timidity when boldness might need calling upon.
I do admire my friends and family who aren’t afraid to resolutely slam fists on tables (so to speak) despite any backlash or unfavorable prevailing opinion.
And, for all I said about carefulness and kindness with others feelings, I will freely admit, that there are times when greater things are at stake – particularly when clear wrongs are taking place – when things must be said and done fiercely and quickly.
Still, I hold that, for most instances, the Savior’s injunction that we bless those that curse us, and pray for those who use us; that we love our neighbors as ourselves, stands. Even when they have views and opinions, beliefs or a moral compass vastly different from our own.
I once heard a quote that would sound extra spectacular if I could put it here word for word, along with whatever impressive person said it. Alas, I can’t find the exact source. Still, the concept is good and sound. The gist of it was that, when trying to illuminate others, we should always seek to shed light, not start fires.
That is what I was referring to yesterday. All the slinging of giant balls of fire – which will never gently show anyone anything good or right, but will only cause them to run. I feel certain that we may as well shout our views at a stone wall as expect someone to listen or give respect where none has been afforded to them.
So, enough of that business. It has been on my mind a lot of late though because, while I want my own children to stand firm and unwavering in their right and good beliefs, I also want them to have compassion and understanding; and, in truth, I would rather they be kind than be anything else. Isn’t there a scripture about that? Kindness covering a multitude of sins? Maybe I made it up, but I believe it all the same.