“Stop talking! Just be quiet for a minute!” I yelled from the front seat of the car. “The next one to talk gets to walk the rest of the way.” This empty threat came from pure desperation. I just couldn’t handle another moment of bickering, whining and fault-finding from my children. Our family trip was suppose to bring us together, not tear us apart. Yet there we were, living in our own version of self-induced torture because my children couldn’t stop arguing!
Weeks before, as our family prepared for our trip, my husband and I painted our children a picture of all the wonderful things they would see, learn and experience. We took special care to pack treats, games, books and movies to keep them entertained and peaceful while traveling. We wanted them to have a unique experience that bonded our family and created treasured memories for the years ahead. But in spite of the many plans and preparations, we found ourselves battling over issues such as… “Her knees keep touching mine!” “She won’t stop humming.” And… my favorite… “I can’t stand listening to her breathe.” They had obviously forgotten the bigger picture.
Why do my kids do this? Why are they so quick to find fault with each other at one moment and then be best friends at another? Why can’t they perceive the bigger picture that I can see? Why is it so hard to use their family journey to strengthen and serve each other?
Will they ever grow out of it?
The answer is, yes! They will grow out of it as they mature enough to put those little things like knees touching, humming and breathing in perspective.
Perspective. Isn’t that what love and understanding are all about? When we see our world as our Savior sees it, we can take hold of a deeper truth that allows us to better assess, or judge what we are experiencing in ourselves and others. The old idiom, “the devil is in the details” is quite true. When we focus on the small details instead of perceiving the big picture, we become like siblings on a road trip… finding faults and taking offense… just for the fun of it.
How do we learn to perceive the Savior’s perspective in order to judge ourselves and others in a righteous manner? Elder Ronald A. Rasband taught:
“Remember the Lord’s promise: “I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” I love that assurance. Joy that fills our souls brings with it an eternal perspective in contrast to day-to-day living. That joy comes as peace amidst hardship or heartache. It provides comfort and courage, unfolds the truths of the gospel, and expands our love for the Lord and all God’s children. Although the need for such blessings is so great, in many ways the world has forgotten and forsaken them.“
It is so easy to choose to forget, or even forsake, the blessings of the Spirit. Feeling anger and contention towards each other feeds our souls and gives us a (temporary) purpose in life. We find ourselves behaving like children in the back of a car… constantly bickering and taking offense just to pass the time.
“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Nephi 11:29)
When we feel contention creeping into our hearts, we must recognize who the father of contention is. Instead of embracing the spirit of contention, we can actively seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost. He will help us see eternal truths that set us free from wallowing in issues of shaming, being easily offended, and nit-picking. Truth allows contention to be dispelled and sets us free to gain the larger perspective.
In his talk, Elder Rasband describes a few things that are needful if we are to have the blessings of the Spirit:
“First, we strive to live worthy of the Spirit.”
“Second, we must be willing to receive the Spirit.”
“Third, we must recognize the Spirit when it comes.”
“Fourth, we must act on the first prompting.”
Can you imagine how peaceful our family trips would be of my children would apply these four steps in their dealings with one another? Now, I realize that they are young and still learning, (the Spirit taught me that). But I think it might be beneficial for all of us to teach these things to ourselves and to our children. After all, who has a better perspective of what our spiritual siblings are dealing with than the Holy Ghost? Once we gain this enlightened perspective, our hearts will change and we will be led to respond to our brothers and sisters in a spirit of charity.
Elder Rasband explains; ”The Lord knows the needs of all His children–and He knows who is prepared to help. If we let the Lord know in our morning prayers that we are ready, He will call on us to respond. If we respond, He will call on us time and time again and we will find ourselves on what President Monson calls “the Lord’s errand.” We will become spiritual first responders bringing help from on high.”
When we help our children see this mortal journey the way the Savior does, they will become first responders instead of first reactors. This perfect perspective will help the next generation avoid the contention of the current culture of shame and taking offense.
Our future will be bright as we do away with childish, self-induced torture. Instead, let us actively rely on the Spirit to learn the Lord’s truth and show the world a more eternal, peaceful perspective.
“If we pay attention to the promptings that come to us, we will grow in the spirit of revelation and receive more and more Spirit-driven insight and direction. The Lord has said, “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.”