We all have flaws, heaven knows I have many. One of my many flaws is my issue with “Thank You” cards. Don’t get me wrong, my mom raised me right, I am really good at writing them immediately after getting a gift. My big issue is that I always forget to send them. I have stacks of forgotten “Thank You” cards all over my house, some almost a year old. I always feel terrible because it’s not that I’m ungrateful, I just am really forgetful.
I have done a lot to move past this issue. I put them in my bag, in my car, I stick stamps on them, I get them all ready to go, yet somehow, they still live at my house and not with the intended recipient. Superman even tries his best to help get them where they need to go, but here they are, still in my house, haunting me.
I’m sure people have been hurt or annoyed at my lack of sending a card, and I am terribly sorry to them, but for the most part, people have been pretty forgiving about my flaw.
We all have flaws, make mistakes, and have short comings. Sometimes these things are super obvious. I had a friend who came to church on Sundays with a colorful mohawk, covered in tattoos and smelled of smoke. His struggles were pretty obvious. On the other hand, my struggles were less noticeable, I looked like one of the many faces in the congregation.
I loved the perspective and many lessons I learned from my colorful friend. It was a great experience, the exchange of perspectives and comradery.
Lately, I feel like my newsfeed is filled with blog posts about “People at church are too judgey” or “so and so made a comment about my short coming and it was hurtful”. The blogosphere is filled with endless posts directed at good ol’ Mormon people to quit being so judgmental.
I get it, I understand. I’ve been there. Once upon a time, I made some sad choices and found myself outside the church. As expected, my life was torn up and I found myself returning to church. It was hard. I was already very sensitive about my life choices and going to church often made those emotional wounds a little raw. People would come up to me and make comments, well meaning comments, but comments that made it harder. Talks in church, lessons in Sunday School and Relief Society often seemed directed at my issues, making me even more insecure.
Looking back, I realized that the reality was those people who made comments were just trying to love and support me, but didn’t know the right thing to say. Those lessons were not directly targeted at me, but just happen to be part of the curriculum. The lessons weren’t even focused at me, they were just lessons.
When I was at CSU, one of the first things I learned in my classes was this phenomenon that happens at adolescence. It’s called spotlight syndrome. Anyone who has gone through middle school can tell you how intense it is. It’s when the brain realized that we can think about other people, and because we can think about other people, they can think about us. We then believe that people are very aware of us and thinking and talking about us all the time. Of course, as we grow older, we find that people are not thinking about us and talking about us as much as we believe.
In times of stress and sensitivity, Spotlight Syndrome comes on strong. We believe that all “those Mormons” are judging us. We come to church and point our fingers at all of them, “how dare” or “don’t shame me” but by doing this, we often are doing exactly what we are accusing others to of doing.
I remember in high school there were these kids that were super popular and also members of the church. It was no secret that they were making choices that went against our beliefs and principles, but yet everyone seemed to bow down and accommodate them. I remember being frustrated by the fact that I worked so hard to live the “right way” to stick to the principles being taught in our church. It hurt to see these other kids get so much love, attention, forgiveness, and praise while I was trying so hard.
I shared my feelings with a leader who shared with me the parable of the Prodigal Son. I had heard it a million times, but it was the ending that hit me: The other brother also struggled with the love and attention the wayward one got. It helped, but it took a long time before I understood better what the Atonement of Jesus Christ can do.
Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins. Because of this great sacrifice, we can all return Home. We can all be part of the Family. We all are loved and included, if we want it. But we all need to also realize that not all struggles are as obvious as a colorful mohawk, tattoos, and smoke. There are good people who have fallen and made choices that are obvious, apparent, and very noticeable. They come back. That takes a lot of courage and strength. But what about those who never left?
It takes courage and strength to stay. It takes courage and strength to battle any of those invisible demons that they battle. I know people who have had the struggle of wanting a tattoo, some go and get one. They then have to deal with the stigma in the church of what it means to have a tattoo. Some don’t ever get one, but that doesn’t mean their life is easier or better. They may deal with that desire and struggle for the rest of their life. It may hurt for them to see the person with the tattoo come to church and get hurt about comments made when they struggled.
The truth is, we don’t know what anyone else’s struggle is. They could be battling self-esteem, depression, addiction, physical pain, emotional pain, the list is endless. It doesn’t matter what the struggle is, or what our struggle is, we need to give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt, whether they are colorful mohawk, tattooed, smoky, or plain Jane, Molly Mormon, we need to not pass judgment on those around us. Maybe that crazy aunt that made a comment about your life, was really just hoping to connect with you, maybe that comment made in Sunday School was not about you, but about that person’s experience.
Let’s stop jumping on the “quit judging and shamming me “bandwagon and look to the “how can I love them?” Because even if they are intentionally being a jerk, that’s between them and the Savior.