Sunday, March 30, 2014

Serenity and Communication

The following is a summary of our 5th Sunday 3rd hour lesson.  I don't think I'll be able to adequately relate everything that was so wonderfully presented and commented on, but I hope I can remember some of the items that really rang true to me.

The lesson started off with a twist on the Serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to be pleasant about the things I
    cannot change;
understanding about the things I can;
and the skill to do it without
    hurting those I care about.

The whole lesson was learning to interact with others in a loving way, especially when you feel less inclined to do so, and especially with members of your family.  I had a restless 11 month old more than splitting my attention, so I'll attempt to elaborate on the 10 skills listed above that were talked about.

Skill #1, Be nice

Short and simple.  5 of the 12 points of the Boy Scout law easily fall into this category (Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Cheerful, Helpful). An old saying is, "You can catch more flies with a spoon of honey than with a bucket of gall." Make a conscious effort to be nice, and it will make a difference.

Skill #2, Choose to not be bothered

We do have a choice when it comes to letting something bother us.  Example of the instructor's 20 year old electric toothbrush.  For years, using the loud toothbrush had bothered his wife when she was trying to sleep.  She chose to stop letting it bother her and it no longer does. If someone else is doing something that annoys you, you can just decide to not be annoyed (so long as it is not mean, sinful, evil, cruel, illegal, etc.)

Skill #3, Focus on the positive

5 minutes of "connect" time when first seeing somebody.  For example, when you come home from work, those first 5 minutes are your connect time and should be as positive as possible. President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote, "If husbands and wives would only give greater emphasis to the virtues that are found in one another and less to the faults, there would be fewer broken hearts, fewer tears, fewer divorces, and more happiness in the homes of our people."

President Hinckley also wrote, "I would like to suggest that we stop seeking out the storms of life and enjoy the sunlight. I am suggesting that we 'accentuate the positive.' I am asking that we look a little deeper for the good, that we still our voices of insult and sarcasm, that we more generously compliment virtue and hard effort. There is good all around us - if we will only look for it."

Skill #4, Say/do nothing about the things you don't like

If someone is doing something you don't like, ignore it for a month and 90% of the issues you thought were worth bringing up will resolve themselves. Directly addressing the things that irritate you are generally ineffective and harm your relationship.

Skill #5, Communicate the way you want it to be (next time), or now

Don't communicate something that bothers you in the moment that it bothers you.  Example of a couple going out to eat.  The husband is irritated that the service is so slow and is vocal about it and makes the experience unpleasant for the wife.  If the wife were to get upset or try to correct him in the moment, this would only cause resentment, anger, and more unpleasantness.  The best thing to do would be to "nicely" bring this matter up before the next night out.  Something like, "I'm really looking forward to go out tonight.  I know sometimes the service can be slow, especially when there are a lot of people there, do you think we could not focus on the service and just enjoy being together?"  (I'm not paraphrasing the example as best as I remember it, so feel free to improvise).

Another example was when a supervisor asks you to do something (irritably), he had better have a clear way to communicate what it is he'd like you to do better.  If I tell someone that I really wish they would do something better, it will come off much better if I have some constructive feedback/criticism for them, otherwise my irritability will just come off offensive (instead of offensive and constructive...).

Skill #6, Where there are unresolved differences, decide what you are going to do.  Then do it pleasantly.

The instructor didn't ever put away his dirty socks. About 10 years into the marriage the wife pleasantly communicated (eye to eye) that she's happy to do laundry for the family, but will only wash what is in the laundry basket. Nagging or built up frustration will not make matters better, and often will just harbor more frustration and resentment.

Skill #7, Listen with empathy and understanding

Learn when you should be in "listen mode" and when you should be in "solve-it mode".

Skill #8, Truly have empathy and understanding

Use verbal interjections to show that you are listening. "Really?", "Wow!"

Skill #9, Avoid anger

Anger is wrong.  I don't remember much else.

Skill #10, Endure well

Even the best of marriages will have differences that will never be resolved. We are all unique, different children of our Heavenly Father.

Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-46 has some great direction regarding this topic.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Abraham's Faith

In studying for the Sunday school lesson, "God Will Provide Himself a Lamb," I found myself asking why the Lord would promise Abraham an endless posterity through Isaac and then ask him to sacrifice that same and only son?  I knew that the story was a type of Christ's crucifixion and God the Father's love for his Son and all mankind, but why this contradiction?

I came to the conclusion that Abraham most assuredly remembered this promise and had full faith that God would not make him go through with the sacrifice.  It still didn't sit right; why would God ask him to do something that Abraham had faith that He wouldn't do?

The lesson then pointed me in a very important direction.  Up unto this point I was always taught that the reason for this story was about Abraham's obedience, even under seemingly impossible circumstances.  But the story goes beyond that.  The lesson referenced Hebrews chapter 11 where Paul relates many stories of faith, and Abraham sacrifice of Isaac is among them.  In verses 17-19 it says,
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 
18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 
19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
Abraham had faith (and remembered God's covenant with him of endless posterity) that even if God required Isaac's life at Abraham's hand as a sacrifice, God would raise Isaac up from the dead in order to fulfill His covenant.

This realization really opened up my eyes to the importance of covenants.  We need to have faith that, no matter the trials that come our way, God will always uphold His promises.  His ultimate purpose is to provide for our eternal happiness..