The following was written by G. at Junior Ganymede on Nov 2, 2017.
After Lehi’s boys went off to Jerusalem on their dangerous mission, Sariah, mother-like, started to imagine all that could go wrong. She expressed her worry by attacking her husband.
For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying:
Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.
Lehi’s response is something we can learn from.
And it had come to pass that my father spake unto her, saying:
I know that I am a visionary man; for if I had not seen the things of God in a vision I should not have known the goodness of God, but had tarried at Jerusalem, and had perished with my brethren.
But behold, I have obtained a land of promise, in the which things I do rejoice; yea, and I know that the Lord will deliver my sons out of the hands of Laban, and bring them down again unto us in the wilderness.
And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah.*
First, Lehi started by agreeing with her. But not in a submissive or truckling way. He took what she had said that was true, proclaimed its truth, and tied it back [into] the big picture that his wife was losing sight of. He did not apologize where no apology was necessary. He did not placate. But at the same time, he acted to comfort her.
It may seem odd that you comfort someone by showing that you are confident in your mission. But its no odder than taking an attack as evidence that someone needs [comforting]. The truth is that people–women, but not just women–often complain and attack when they are feeling unsettled and uncertain. What they need is evidence that the person they are attacking cares about them but also is confident and reliable. Reacting with hostility is an error; so is reacting with weakness and compromise. Neither one is what is they need.
You see Bishops and General Authorities handle complaints the same way sometimes.
*I wonder if there is something symbolic about the names Lehi and Sariah that fit their roles here, at least in Nephi’s mind. Because the way he repeats their names is curious.
Some of my thoughts
I really enjoyed these thoughts. I read the post this morning but could have used it last night because my wife and I had a similar exchange. I wish I would have handled the situation as smoothly as Lehi though. We were invited to go to dinner and movie with some friends but I’ve grown sour towards movies lately and was reluctant to see a film that was basically a depiction of the Baal myth by a company that I do not wish to financially support.
I know that this puts my wife in a hard situation because she and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on a few issues, but that’s par for the course in marriage. I think we’ve compromised pretty well on many of these things. Even though we both share the same theological framework, the way we apply certain principles can vary significantly.
This often puts me at odds with family and friends in ways that I am unsure how to reconcile. Some might think that I’m just being unreasonable and extreme and I haven’t figured out quite how to manage that. For example, I live in Texas and my family barbecues often and goes hunting. I don’t wish to kill anything unless I need it for food, and I avoid eating meat unless I need to. I not preachy about any of this, I just kind of do my own thing quietly but it puts me in a place where I’m somewhat isolated in certain respects. Now, these are fairly minor things but they have a tendency to make my wife feel isolated in a sense as well because I’m not experiencing some of the same things.
It has been tricky to know how to find a balance. Do you favor family and cultural traditions or live the principles as you understand them to be true even if they cause other people to feel uncomfortable? We justify this when it comes to standing up for our values when challenged by people not of our faith, but what about differences in values within your faith? I think this conversation between Lehi and Sariah is an example of this, along with the entire book of 1 Nephi.
Here is a summary of the key takeaways from G’s post:
- People often complain and attack when they feel uncertain.
- Validate the other person’s concerns.
- Look at the big picture.
- Be confident and reliable.
- Do not react with hostility.
- Show that you care about them.
- Offer sincere comfort.
Anyone else have experience with this kind of situation? How did you deal with it? What should you avoid and what should you emphasize?