When We're Not Exactly Right
October 23rd, 2016
It has been a long time since I’ve written here. Yesterday, one of my neices asked me if I was writing, and the only thing I could claim to be writing lately is progress notes and technical manuals. I could’ve probably have added abuse and incident reports.
I started a new business with my best friend and have been so locked into the never-ending due dates that I don’t really even have time to think about writing other things. Today, though, I feel the need to speak out about something that has been very much in my mind and heart lately.
I always wanted to be some kind of social worker and for the last 12 years, I’ve been one. The joy of helping people who are at a disadvantage has exceeded my expectations of what it would be like. It balances out my other job as a software engineer.
I often hear people say about my job, “You must find that so fulfilling.”
It always makes me pause and think. They are right. It can be very fulfilling and it can be very heartbreaking. If all people understood what a privilege it is to be someone who helps people who need support, things would be easier for me.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of evil in the world, and not all of it is obvious. The overt stuff is easier to handle. It’s clear what to do and most people will be on your side when you have to battle for someone else.
What is not fulfilling about my work is when dealing with the sometimes subtle evil of abuse. Abuse is often committed by people who think their intentions are noble, but only on the surface. In my view, as a survivor of abuse, it is always about the desire of one person to control another.
It is hard for some of us to understand, but there are people who think that controlling others is a virtuous endeavor and they excuse it by doing what in their estimation is for the other person’s good. It is when one person thinks that their ideas about another’s life is superior to what the other person wants (D&C 121:37).
I know all about this. The one who abused me kept telling me that what he was coercing me to do was what I really wanted and he was only doing it because it would help me. He was showing me my true self and giving me what he believed me to want. That was when he was being “nice”.
Other times he outright forced me through assault and intimidation. At those times, I was afraid for my life. I often wondered if I’d ever live to be an adult. For either approach that he took, the goal was the same—control.
Some people think it would be a great feeling to know what everyone should do in all situations. They could just grab for as much power as they can and start forcing everyone to see things their way. After all, if they’re as right as they think they are, why not?
Problem is, there is right and wrong, and then there is good and evil. I think good and evil are higher and lower than right and wrong, respectively.
Right and wrong are the things we say about the choices people make. I don’t believe in moral relativism, but I do believe that most choices are more complicated than right and wrong. I believe that I can’t really know what another person should do about a dilemma that they face and that I don’t. Even if our respective dilemmas are similar, they can’t possibly be the same.
Right and wrong are necessarily dependent on all factors. I think there is a right and wrong to every question, or so the popular hymn, “Choose the Right,” says. I just don’t think I’m in a position to answer that question for other people.
I believe that there is really only one difference between good and evil. Good does not seek to control others and evil does (Moses 4:1–4). Another way of putting it, is that good lets others have their own relationship with God and evil is when someone wants to become a god to others.
Latter-day Saints understand this to be the heart of the war in heaven, a choice between being free or being controlled. More than merely admit it, I’ll assert that when we are free to choose, we also end up being bound by the consequences of our choices.
Because bad choices end up in unpleasant consequences, it’s natural to want to influence people to make good choices. Being persuasive, making a good argument, reaching out in love, and setting a good example are all things we should all do (D&C 121:41).
When someone changes because we truly ministered to them, they will experience a change of heart that will solidify their resolve to keep that change. It will become part of who they are and God will get the glory because we only pointed the way. The power of Christ does the changing.
When someone changes because we’ve manipulated, forced, pulled rank, or otherwise controlled them, the change will never last and we will have defiled ourselves in the attempt. We will want the glory and the credit. Our consequence will be to kindle the wrath of God.
I’ve always loved the poem, Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses, by Eliza R. Show that became Hymn #273 in the LDS Hymnal. She writes about judging and controlling others and the harm it does. After describing attempts to correct someone she comes to understand that she was too busy looking at the faults of another and not at her own.
She wrote, “When I saw my brother’s failing, I was not exactly right.” and “Jesus’ Love is All My Theme”. We can do the most good by making Jesus’ love the theme of our lives.