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Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Little Crazy?

Sometimes ward members tell me how the behavior of others drives them a little crazy. Funny thing. Have you ever noticed that everyone drives everybody a little bit crazy?

Like you, I've heard the complaints over and over: Children drive their mothers crazy, and dads drive their kids nuts. Husbands drive their wives bananas, and wives make their husbands loco. Teachers are driven to distraction by their students, and students think their teachers are kooks. Even the bishop drives his members a little crazy, and the ward members drive their bishop...well, fill in the blank.

What's going on here?

Before exploring this question, imagine the following: You are sitting in a comfortable chair at the end of the day, reading an article from the Ensign. The house is tidy and quiet. The kids are snug in their beds. Your husband is at the kitchen table, studying his lesson for next Sunday. Earlier that morning, you went to the temple and read your scriptures while you were waiting for the session to begin, all this while your neighbor took your children to the city park. You got your visiting teaching done early in the month, and all your bills got paid on time—in fact, you just paid off your last credit card and you are finally free of consumer debt. In a few days, you are leaving on a week-long cruise with your husband while your sister takes your kids to Disneyland.

Then the phone rings. It's Gladys Kravitz, a sister who lives down the street. She's called to interrupt your evening with the woes of her life and a dash of cold-blooded gossip sprinkled here and there. Normally, Sister Kravitz drives you to the edge of sanity, and it takes all the nerve you can muster to hold the phone to your ear. This evening, however, you feel different. You offer Sister Kravitz your patience; you are self-assured and calm as a summer's morning. Nothing Gladys says disturbs you in the least, and by the time you hang up, Sister K. is laughing and consoled. What's the difference?

The difference is you. When you are at peace with yourself, there's not much that someone else can say or do that ruffles you. Irritation is replaced by composure and compassion, and you feel little need to judge, condemn, or murmur.

So the next time you feel annoyed by someone close to you, ask yourself: "Am I okay with where I am at in my life? Do I have any unfinished business? Am I at the place where God wants me to be? Do I have attitudes to lose, apologies to make, duties to fulfill, and sins to forsake?" If you answer yes to any of these questions, you'll find that you are likely "easily provoked" (1 Corinthians 13:5).

The best advice I can offer to both me and you comes from the scriptures: "Now I would that ye should remember that God has said that the inward vessel shall be cleansed first, and then shall the outer vessel be cleansed also." (Alma 60:23.) When we address our own problems with honesty and courage, regularly and vigorously, our perspective changes and everyone else's problems seem much smaller and much easier to deal with.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Power of Tenderness

When I've discussed marriage in class settings and in private counseling, I have sometimes made a statement that the greatest influence that a wife can have on her husband will be through her tenderness. In fact, I have said that tenderness is one of the greatest influences for good in the world.

During a small group session, a woman in our ward asked: "What is tenderness?" At that moment, I didn't give a very clear answer, but after thinking about the question for months, I am ready to give it another try.

Tenderness is gentleness expressed with genuine caring. It is seeing beyond the moment into a human need, and to respond to that need with kindness. It is honest touch with the intent to heal and comfort. It is eyes that search and care. It is sincere, undistracted attention. It is the consolation of body and soul. It is the magnet that draws us home and into the arms of loved ones.

Tenderness does not go only one way—from wife to husband and children. It may seem less natural for a husband to express it than a wife, but he is equally able learn how to express it as well. Everyone needs and wants to feel the tender care of another.

No other power or influence in this world will have a greater effect in drawing your loved ones to you and to the light of heaven than your tender thoughts, feelings, and gestures.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The Four Aspects of Love

About two weeks ago, I found an intriguing list which I have been thinking about ever since: The four aspects of love. They are:
1. Allowing
2. Accepting
3. Approving
4. Appreciating
When people feel loved, they feel accepted, appreciated, approved of, and allowed to be themselves. That sums it up for me and probably for you, too. When those four things are present in my relationships, I feel loved. And when I feel loved, I feel really happy and motivated, too.
Think about how our Heavenly Father loves us. He has given us agency, allowing us to choose for ourselves. When we make mistakes, even big ones, He accepts us. We can feel His approval when those around us turn away. And we feel appreciated by Him, even when we make the smallest effort to do what's right.
Now think about your spouse (if you don't have one now, then the one you'll have in the future). Do you allow him to make mistakes without constantly criticizing? Do you accept her even though she is upset with you? Do you show him your approval for the effort he is putting
in to be a better provider or leader in the home? Do you show appreciation every day for the small things she does that make your life easier and better?
Our acceptance and approval of our spouses can be independent of our acceptance and approval of what they do or say today. We can allow them the room to grow and learn without constantly picking on them. There is always something to appreciate about our husbands or wives, even if we don't agree with everything they want or say or do. In other words, we can allow, accept, approve, and appreciate them for who they are, and if we do, I can't imagine a greater force or environment for positive change.
Love your wife or husband as your Heavenly Father loves you, and you will see a big difference in your marriage.