Several people in the post office rushed to assist a woman maneuvering her husband’s wheelchair through a narrow doorway. The need was obvious and urgent. But I think there are many people who have hidden handicaps which are even more debilitating than physical ones. They are equally urgent but we don’t rush to help because we don’t see them. The physical eye cannot see emotional wounds or heavy burdens borne deep inside. This requires a different kind of vision which comes from whisperings of the Holy Ghost. If I am attentive to the quiet voice of the Spirit, it is possible to perceive hidden wounds and needs. Specific ideas of how to help can come from that same source. Then I can spring to assist or comfort as instinctively as I did the woman in the post office. If someone is hurt in a street accident, an ambulance comes quickly, but if a person is broken in spirit, depressed, afraid, burdened—little is done. Yet this person may be in greater need of rescue than the other. I pray to have eyes to see unspoken wounds and burdens of the soul, and to leap without hesitation to minister comfort. “The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on [others]; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Joseph Smith).
Here’s a good question to ask yourself: What sacrifices have I been asked to make in my religion? I believe that a religion that does not require effort and sacrifice—doesn’t produce faith, refinement, and spiritual growth in its members. We understand this principle in other areas. For example, if I work hard and save money to pay for my college tuition, I will apply myself with greater diligence and appreciation. And how absurd it would be to ask a physical trainer to help me develop bulging biceps and total body fitness without performing strenuous exercise? The principle of sacrifice and reward has application in every dimension of our lives. It applies to religion too. If it doesn’t pinch, it isn’t a sacrifice. Here are some sacrifices I’m striving to make. I am imperfect, but I will never give up trying.
- Resist forbidden things.
- Study scriptures daily.
- Pray morning and night (and in between).
- Obey commandments.
- Minister and serve others, even when it’s inconvenient.
- Prioritize marriage and family as number one—to love, teach and minister.
- Cherish the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Fast and pay tithing.
- Repent when I make mistakes and strive to improve.
- Stand as a witness for truth.
- Treat others kindly even when mistreated. Forgive freely.
- Learn to love with compassion and courtesy.
Note the ACTION WORDS: Resist, study, pray, obey, minister, serve, prioritize, cherish, repent, stand, learn, love, forgive.
I have taught my children to ask themselves this important question every day: “What can I learn from this experience? Why do I need to learn it?” I continually ask myself these questions and record answers in my journal so I won’t forget. Sometimes answers come easily, but usually I must pray for help to discover the purpose of my struggles. Often I have to be patient and wait. But in time, answers always come. While on a hike together, my son tried to test the limits of this insight by asking, “Okay, Mom, but what could I possibly learn from getting a bee sting?” I paused to think. “Well, then you’d have compassion for someone getting a bee sting, because you’d know how it feels.” That’s not a last-resort type of lesson, because even the Savior suffered all things in the flesh partly for that purpose—to succor His children. “And [Christ] will take upon him their infirmities. . .that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12). So when it seems impossible to find purpose for a particular trial, remember the bee sting. We can always learn empathy for others in a similar difficulty. We can understand and comfort them with more compassion because we know how it feels.
I once read an anecdote that made me think. When a young child repeatedly jumped up and down in a grocery cart, her exasperated mother told her sternly for the tenth time to sit down. The girl answered petulantly, “Okay, I’ll be sitting down on the outside, but I’ll be standing up on the inside!” That’s a good illustration of why God wants our hearts. Without heart, the offering is hollow, like a beautifully wrapped gift with nothing inside. Examine these empty gifts: I apologize with words but inwardly retain resentment; I cut a deep path to church each week but lack compassion for my neighbors; I mow the widow’s lawn with inward grumbling; I say “I’ll do it” without commitment to follow through; I partake of sacred sacramental emblems mindlessly, without broken heart and contrite spirit. These and countless others are examples of guile—going through outward motions without the heart in it. To give with the heart is to give with sincerity, compassion, and love—when the external offering represents kindly inward feeling. “For if [I] offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except [I] shall do it with real intent it profiteth [me] nothing. For behold, it is not counted unto [me] for righteousness” (Moroni 7:6). I commit to try harder to offer my whole heart as a more worthy gift.
The car in front of me slowly came to a complete stop, not at a traffic light, but in the middle of an empty road. Being in a hurry, my thoughts spun into a critical and cranky mode. I impatiently grumbled—Lady, why did you stop in the middle of the road? What are you doing? Then almost immediately a child emerged from the other side of the car. A moment before, the child was completely hidden from my view. Wow—that one little piece of information changed my entire perception! And of course, my criticism of the stopped car switched to respect and relief. I’ve been thinking how this incident relates to loving those who are hard to love. I fall short, but I’m striving to be an advocate rather than a critic. If I observe unbecoming behaviors in others, instead of jumping to rash judgment, I can remind myself that there are important pieces of information hidden from my view. If I had that information, my perception would slide from criticism to compassion. My mother used to tell me, “There are only two kinds of people—those you love and those you don’t know.” She explained that if I made the effort to really get to know people—to learn their stories, their heartaches and hopes, to see into their hearts—I would love them. Missing information can illuminate a softer perspective.
This is a wonderful stage of life! Much is said about the years of exuberant youth and the joyous child-rearing era. We loved those years, and now cherish a thousand memories with nostalgic smiles. But we’ve discovered a well-kept secret: These years are also fabulous with just the two of us in our cozy little house. Tears are dry from woefully waving goodbye to each child leaving the nest. Now we embrace new roles with our adult children, their spouses, and the wonderful world of grand-parenting. Now Alan and I have more time to nurture each other. We work side by side in complementary rhythm of strengths. We lift each other higher as we seek and explore new vistas, tackle challenges together, laugh and play, work and learn. We understand each other more completely, more compassionately. It feels like our souls are merged as one. This stage must be the full flowering season of marriage. Yes, there are wrinkles and sags in exchange for youth, but it’s a profitable trade. So, don’t feel sorry for us rattling around in an empty house. Look closely and notice the twinkle in our eyes!