Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Art of Misunderstanding

Today during church there was apparently quite a bit of drama. In one of the meetings called "Relief Society", where all the women meet together, the teacher was discussing the roles that women play. According to our understanding of the Gospel, women and men are partners, neither superior to the other, both required and necessary; and both normally play distinct and special roles. Some of the roles of women include the nurturing and rearing of children, being the primary care providers. Men are typically the bread winners for their families, responsible for their care and protection.

Now, I wasn't there, so I didn't see all that happened. Nevertheless, apparently while the teacher was talking about the former, one of the women in the audience raised her hand and said that she was "offended" by the discussion, as she was a woman who could not have children and had a full-time career. The teacher then tried to clarify, doing a bad job of it, and things just went from bad to worse. Eventually, the teacher closed the book from which she was teaching and walked out of the room. The other woman also tried to get up and leave, but the women around her prevented it, consoling her as she was quite upset. The teacher, too, was stopped soon after leaving the room and calmed somewhat. From what I understand, it was such a bad experience that there were plenty of tears shed by the women in the room.

To me, I can't even fathom this kind of an experience happening in a meeting room filled with men. I would imagine things would come to blows or more angry words would be said, but in this case, it didn't go down that way -- just a lot of hurt and misunderstanding.

So these two women now have difficult choices to make. Will they allow their hurt to turn into anger? Or will they allow it to fall into crippling embarrassment? In both of these scenarios, these women could choose to simply not attend church anymore -- to not face those who witnessed this experience again. This would be nothing short of prideful and cowardly, and I hope it doesn't come to that for either of them.

In the best of all worlds, these two good women would contact each other, sit down and discuss what happened, and try to come to some sort of understanding. The unfortunate thing is that I can't see that happening -- which is even more sad considering that I know that both of these women are very kind women who only try to do what's best in their lives. I don't believe either of them intended to hurt or offend the other, but sometimes people get so caught up in the apparent difficulty of their lives that they just can't seem to do what is right.

A scripture from the New Testament comes to mind. In First Corinthians chapter 13, verses 11 through 13 it reads:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

A few things here are of interest. First is putting away childish things. This can be very hard, and, in particular, fruitless bickering is such an easy childish thing to do as an adult.

Second is the "glass" part; this particular passage is meaningful to me because it seems that I myself am unable to truly ever communicate what I really mean. This life is just like that. People of all walks have a particularly difficult time clearly expressing their thoughts so that others can completely understand what it is they really feel or think. To make matters worse, even when one does have the ability to communicate well, the flip side is in the understanding -- how well do we truly listen and comprehend what is being said? All manner of human misery is caused by this inability of ours to communicate. This is one thing that I'm looking forward to in the afterlife -- the ability to finally and deeply understand each other.

Finally is the third part of this passage where it speaks of charity. We understand "charity" to be "the pure love of Christ." This is not a very useful definition unless one understands what is meant by it. (See? There's that communicating part again ...) What it means is loving one another even as Jesus Christ himself loved each of us so much that He was willing to give his life for us. Do we ever really do that?

But these good women should apply a bit of other advice, too, as written in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5, verse 25:

Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Now there's no judge here, and certainly no prison, but the first part is applicable. If these two women allow this to fester, then there may never be a reconciliation between them made. And that would be nothing short of tragic.


SeeTheSunshine said...

Being a woman who can't have kids, I thought that I should put my two cents in. I don't think that the teacher meant to say anything rude, but sometimes people who have kids have a way of forgetting that some people can't have kids. This used to bother me a lot. And, sometimes you're just more sensitive to it than other times. I have come to realize that we women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who cannot have children are just not the norm. And people get used to everyone being normal. My job is to show that I can still be a faithful member of a "family oriented" church with the only child I have being my husband.
I feel so badly for everyone involved. What a horrible event. I hope that they sit down and figure it out too!

Melody said...

Thanks Roy! I get to teach this lesson next Sunday, I'm really looking forward to it now. (hehe)

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