I have been fascinated as of late on the topic of how our minds work. As I read more and more about this subject there is one area that seems to be coming up often. My last post included a very good recap of this subject in a very concise statement of “We tend judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions.” This general topic of self-awareness, self-perception, and how we think others view us is talked about often and by a wide variety of authors. We sometimes can have very skewed views of ourselves, both positive and negative. I am sure I am not alone in knowing some people that are just too hard on themselves and default to viewing themselves in the least positive light and some others that just think they are God’s gift to everyone around them.
The topic of perspective brings to mind anamorphic art. This interesting graphic art is more commonly referred to as “Cylindrical Mirror” Art. As the name suggests, these are made by viewing art that is being reflected off a mirrored cylinder. I find them quite fascinating to look at and a reminder how one’s perspective can be very different than another’s perspective.
When others give us unflattering information on how they see us, it is generally quite a blow to our ego and usually causes some sort of reaction. It could be that we dismiss the information as wrong, discount the other person’s ability to assess us, deflect by getting angry at the messenger, or even on occasion we ponder it and decide it is correct and we need to change.
I remember reading from the psychologist Dr. David Schnarch and his term of “differentiation”. He talks about how critical it is for us to actually listen and contemplate feedback we receive. Dr. Schnarch focuses on relationships and believes that probably the truest feedback we can get about ourselves will come from a spouse. The real trick is not to just assume everything our spouse says is something that is 100% true and we need to automatically “fix” every issue they bring up. But we really should put down our pride, relax the reflex to defend ourselves, and try and see if our spouse is pointing out our rough edges. Dr. Schnartch suggests we should at least reflect if what they are saying might be right? There may be much of what a spouse says that is more their issues, but there very well could be some of the most important feedback we can get to see ourselves the way others see us. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but this can be a place where real growth and improvement comes from.
I think this can go for groups as well as individuals. This thought has come to me lately as I see things such as the reaction to an obituary of President Monson and even in comments I heard on a podcast about Mormons.
The podcast specifically was The Mormon News Report Podcast #20 in November of 2017 (which was an especially good episode in that they interviewed fellow Wheat and Tares perma-blogger Rick Bennett :-). The podcast mentioned an article in The Atlantic magazine by Kirt Anderson titled “One Blasphemer’s New Admiration for Mormons” Anderson starts off by giving a quite a snarky and very laughable sound-bite length recap of Mormon beliefs. Then he follows it up with a positive observation about Mormons when he writes,
That admiration spiked the last few days when the quickest and most full-throated condemnation of Roy Moore and his Republican defenders came from Mormon Republicans. I wasn’t surprised. Because while I find their religious beliefs as extreme and strange as I do those of most American Protestants, Mormons seem more consistently virtuous and disciplined in the ways they live their lives.
There were those that were patting themselves on the back over this complement and this drew some comments that this stalwart Mormon morality seems go focus mainly on sexuality. It doesn’t seem to carry over as much to other facets of morality like helping the most impoverished and other social justice causes. The positive feedback was soaked up, but the feedback where some areas had some push back.
Now it is fine if Mormons or anybody to order their own priorities. We all individual do it and most organizations so also. But just like I was repeatedly taught in the church growing up, “We are free to choose our paths, but we can’t choose the consequences that come with them.” (I think the Covey’s popularized this outside of Mormonism). So the church can choose to order its priorities how it wishes, but it can’t force how the rest of the world views those choices in the same way that the church wants.
I assume I don’t need to recap the issue of the New York Times obituary of President Monson. I will assume if you are reading this blog, you have already read other recaps of it. I personally think the obituary didn’t say anything that was incorrect. It may have leaned a bit towards covering “the issues” a bit more than “the man”. But “The Man” Monson was the leader of the church for quite a few years. This is what I would expect from someone covering this on a national level.
I live nowhere near Utah, but the “attitude” of the obituary is close to what I hear from people around me. When people find out I am a Mormon, one of the first questions used to often be, “so how many wives do you have?” This has changed in last few years to, “why do you hate gays so much?” The few exceptions to this are evangelicals and they generally stop talking to me much after they find out I am Mormon. Even where I live I find some Mormon’s understanding of what others think of Mormons is quite skewed from what I can tell. I would assume those that live in areas with higher concentrations of Mormons by default will live a bit more “in a bubble” where it is easier to think everyone loves most everything about the Mormons. If you go back over quite a few decades it has been the case probably since the President David O. McKay period that Mormons were looked at as “wholesome, God-fearing, and family oriented people.” But times they are a changing – at least outside the church.
So I find it a bit odd that so many Mormons seem upset when the world does not sing praises to everything within Mormonism. I am kind of used to it as the norm.
One example that I think is unfolding at this time is the topic of youth interviews. A former bishop is “campaigning” to have the church stop one-on-one interviews with youth where discussions of sex are conducted. The church can think this is not an issue and is as normal as can be. Joelle Casteix, the Western regional leader for SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), has stated:
No other “reputable institutional church, private or public school, sports group, youth-serving organization, or community center allows one-on-one meetings between adults and children”
It is my assumption that the church is within its legal bounds to continue these interviews just as the currently are performed. But on the other side, it can’t force public opinion, especially when we are, “the last holdout.” I would assume many Mormons wouldn’t think it odd if a teenage Muslim girl that is significantly punished, socially shamed, and not allowed to go on summer youth trip if she didn’t wear her hijab one day a few months previous. But for some Muslims, this is “just the way it is/what God wants.”
It may be a good time to give a good honest listen to the feedback being given. There are many areas I see the church needs to stand firm on. On those issues it would be more appropriate for the church and members to own it. Being defensive and offended often makes the opposition feel like we give credit to their position and admitting our position is weak. In addition to those issues we need to stand firm on, I also see so many things that could be done or changed. I get the sense that the top church leadership is very reluctant to make changes while they are being prompted from outside forces. It is almost as if they that “caving in” to public pressure makes decisions look less like they are coming from God and they might be considering changes if it were not for the outside pressure. I have heard complaints that on the interviewing of children that the intense pressure is probably postponing changes that might be in the works now. I don’t KNOW this is the case, but I know others that seem to agree this is the modus operandi of the church leadership.
I would put forward that it is good for us to take a hard look feedback we get as individuals and contemplate where there might be pointing out personal shortcomings. I would suggest the same for the church membership as well as leaders.
What should we take from some of the reviews/feedback the church is receiving?