Book 7 teaser–Are you being forced or are you allowed to choose?

I’ve discovered the easiest way to decide what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”: by asking, “Am I being forced to accept this?”

If someone lays out the facts, then takes a step back to let me ponder and evaluate, then I’m much more inclined to accept their position.

But if someone tries to force their ideas on me, I dig in my heels and refuse to budge, because something is fundamentally wrong with the argument if it must be forced to be accepted.

And it doesn’t matter who or for what cause they’re forcing. I’ve known very religious people try to force their children/spouses to obey them. I’ve known agnostics and atheists do the same thing.

Force is always wrong, because it takes away a person’s agency: their God-given right to choose for themselves. And it IS God-given. That’s not a nicety, but a reality.

No ideology, political group, religious organization, government or family member has the right to force their opinion and will upon another. If someone is trying to control another, you can be sure they are acting devilish. That’s not an euphemism, but a fact: Satan is all about control, about force, about taking away freedoms. Lucifer is real, and his influence is very easy to spot. If someone’s trying to control you, there he is.

God, however, is not about control or force. Many religious groups and zealots, however, will hijack the notion of “god” and appropriate it as their own, pretending that their cause is god-driven and therefore you must follow. But the only god they’re following is the one they made up; they’re worshiping themselves and want you as a follower.

God, on the other hand, sent us to this earth as a testing ground. He wants us to choose right or wrong, good or evil, and He so values our freedom that, when we make mistakes, He’s even given us a way to fix them. He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins so we could come back to Him.

BUT–and this is a big BUT–only if we want to.

God is our Father, and like any good father He wants His children back home. But He will never force us back, never force His will. He sets out His terms, His promises, His hopes, then takes a step back and lets us choose for ourselves.

That is love.

Satan is not.

And every last argument in the world plays into either of these two courts: Are you being forced, or are you allowed to choose?

“You can’t force your will on someone,” Peto would say as he hauled the flailing teenager to the barn, “and demand they do what you want. That’s the Refuser’s way, not the Creator’s way. The Creator allows everyone to choose their way, even if it’s the stupid way. But the Refuser wants to control everyone’s lives. That’s not our way!” ~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017

weekly meme background The Creator's way

 

The Internet Civility Award (TICA): Who will you award it to?

The other day something astonishing happened on my Facebook page.
Friend #1 posted his feelings about government spending, and Friend #2 chimed in with an opposing viewpoint.
Friend #1 presented more evidence.
Friend #2 countered and began to escalate.
This is the astonishing part: Friend #1 explained his beliefs, then APOLOGIZED if he stepped on Friend #2’s toes.
Even weirder, Friend #2 responded by saying no apology was necessary and that SHE was sorry for getting emotional.

AND THAT WAS IT. CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!
They remained friends, and everyone went merrily on.

I, however, messaged both of them and told them I believed they each earned The Internet Civility Award (TICA). Since there wasn’t one yet, I couldn’t give it. But here it is now. (Yes, I just made this up.)

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Copy and paste this on anyone’s social media page to recognize them for kindness and respect.

I’ve written about civility before, but lately I’ve been watching for it, and it’s out there. For example, the LDS Church (Mormons) recently announced plans to build a temple in Pocatello, ID, and a Muslim family who lives there posted publicly on Facebook that they were happy for their LDS friends.

Muslims and Mormons

CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

In looking for examples of civility to share with my children, we recently became addicted to “The Great British Baking Show,” not because we’re any good at baking, but because we love watching the contestants. It’s a competition, with each week a Star Baker identified, and someone sent home.

The amazing thing is watching these contestants HELP each other, GIVE each other advice, and when one of them wins, they CHEER their fellow competitor. And when someone gets sent home, they WEEP genuine tears for their loss.

Image result for the great british baking show hugging  Image result for the great british baking show hugging

CIVILITY! Kindness! Respect!

I realized the need to point out good behavior to my children during last year’s presidential election. My kids read over my shoulder when I’m on Facebook, looking for movie trailers and videos of screaming goats. My 9-year-old was stunned to see the posts of supposedly “mature” adults she knew, calling candidates names and behaving very uncivilly.

My 4th grader said, “That person’s a GROWN-UP! Why isn’t he acting like one?”

That great question led to a discussion about kindness and respect for all people, if we like them or not. Everyone deserves kindness. Everyone.

She agreed with me that we should unfollow this person, along with a few others, who didn’t demonstrate “grown-up” behavior online.

But I want to reward those who act like mature and civil adults (even if they’re still kids), so I will be awarding TICA  TICA The Internet Civility Awardto those who demonstrate excellent behavior in the face of rudeness, intolerance, and anger, and I’d love for you to join me.

When you see someone approach a conflict with grace and dignity, with kindness and respect, paste this image to them and let the world know that here’s a person who still knows how to behave.

TICA The Internet Civility Award

Maybe if we point out civil behavior more often, more of it might occur.

“That’s the way to respond! With respect like that, you’re already two weeks ahead of everyone else.”

~Book 6, The Flight of the Wounded Falcon, coming May 2017

You don’t have to agree with me for us to be friends

I was 19 and terrified to realize that my supervisor for the summer was an openly gay man. It was the late 1980s, and I was from a sheltered community where “such people” were rare. Realizing that me, Molly Mormon, would have to interact with Flamboyant Paul made me think I’d made a mistake in taking that mall job on the east coast.

My suspicions were confirmed when I met my coworkers who immediately jumped in with predictable knocks on my religion when they heard I was from Utah. The fact that I didn’t join in on their drinking party as we unloaded the new freight didn’t help much. I was an easy target. My work environment was initially very uncomfortable, but since it was for only three months, I decided to grit my teeth and bear it.

I frequently noticed Paul watching me, and only much later did I realize that he must have understood what it felt like to be the object of scorn. One afternoon, when the store was quiet and I was dutifully putting away stock while Paul sat at the register with paperwork, he suddenly blurted, “Dogs!”

I looked up, surprised.

“Do you like dogs?” Paul asked.

Confused by the random question, I said, “I grew up with a small, white mutt named Fluffy.”

“Tell me about it.”

“We had him since I was a toddler. When I moved away to college, he’d grown very old and smelly and was going blind. He wandered off shortly after I left. My mom was devastated and my parents searched everywhere, but no one ever saw him again. As if when I left, he knew he should die.”

When I saw how aghast Paul was, I wondered why I’d chosen to relate such a depressing story.

But then Paul burst out with, “That is the SADDEST dog story I’ve ever heard! But I LOVE IT! I love sad dog stories! Ok, I’ve got one—listen to this!” And he went on to relate an even sadder dog story. I have no idea what it was anymore, but I found myself smiling and sniffling at the same time.

I realized Paul had been looking for something to talk about with the quiet, awkward Mormon girl who worked in his store, and finally we connected on dogs.

He told me all about the Great Dane puppy he and his boyfriend were raising, and we spent the whole afternoon talking dogs.

The next day I hesitantly mentioned, “Right now, I have a fish tank.”

Paul clapped his hands and said, “And WE want to get a fish tank! Tell me all about yours!”

For the rest of the summer we chatted every day, and when I left, I hugged Paul with genuine tears in my eyes while Paul sobbed, because we had become friends.

Paul demonstrated that I can still be friends with someone even if I don’t agree with their beliefs or behavior. Our relationship was based on what we had in common, and after three months, that was quite a lot.

About ten years later I was teaching a college writing class where the main project was a 15-page persuasive research paper. I had a very cocky and confident student who I’ll call Doug. I brought articles to class to analyze different points of view, and Doug made it point to quiz me on what leanings I had toward the issues, then launched in to argue against me. While I found him rather boorish, he certainly did liven up the class.

Soon he was meeting with me after class to dig deeper into a certain issue which I suspected was for his paper. He even took notes about my position. Sure enough, when he turned in the project, the little stinker had taken a position the polar opposite of mine. In fact, he argued against me, point-by-point.

When I handed back the papers a few weeks later, cocky Doug appeared worried, for once. He hastily thumbed to the last page, looked at his grade, and gasped.

His peers, who had been reading through his drafts—and warning him, too, about not directly writing against me—leaned over to see his grade. They, too, gasped, and one of them said, because Doug was speechless, “You gave him a 98%? But he argued against you!” (He had a few grammar issues, after all, to warrant losing a few points.)

“I know,” I said, “and marvelously, too. He almost persuaded me to his line of thinking.”

When Doug finally looked up at me, he was grinning. “I thought you’d hate it!”

“I did,” I told him, grinning back. “Because you made such darned good arguments.”

When the semester ended a couple days later, he gave me a quick hug as thanks, and we parted as friends with mutual respect. We didn’t have to agree with each other to appreciate each other.

Over the years I’ve discovered different kinds of people who I appreciate. For example, I’d never become Amish, but I wholly admire the life they live and how they remain mostly untouched by the outside world. I don’t want to convert to Judaism, but I deeply respect their culture, tenacity, and temerity. While I’ll never be a Muslim, I’ve gained greater understanding for them, primarily through chatting with a sweet Muslim family at a university dinner, and discovering how much we had in common.

I have many friends who, while not of my faith, still show support for what we do. On occasion I post pictures and stories about my children who are serving as LDS missionaries, and among those who comment kindly and like the posts are Lutherans, Baptists, and even a “recuperating atheist.” None of them are likely to join my church, but they’re happy to see the experiences of my children, as I am to see the successes of theirs.

We call this kind of appreciation and behavior “civility.” 

And despite what the news and social media would have us believe, it’s still a widely-held virtue, at least among many people I am blessed to associate with.

I have acquaintances who put up with my quirks and ideas without agreeing with them. One friend, who knows I’m trying to go vegetarian, delights in telling me how much meat she consumed that week. It’s friendly teasing, and I barb her back because we know we are safe with each other; we respect each other’s differences.

If I insisted that the only friends I’d have would be those who believed as I do in every last thing, I’d have no friends. I wouldn’t even be married, because there are number of issues on which my husband and I will never agree. Still, we manage around those, as we have for twenty-eight years, roll our eyes at each on occasion, then simply move on to one of many other things wherein we do agree.

No one in my family has precisely the same views on politics, music, literature, food, or education as I do. Yet still I love and appreciate all of them.

Indeed, if we all believed the same about everything, we’d be instantly bored with each other.

We need each other’s differences to challenge us, open us, expand us, and make us take second and third looks at what we thought we knew. We really don’t want homogeneity; we really need variety!

I’ve noticed that people tend to get fixated on rightness and wrongness. It’s been my experience that for a few key issues, usually dealing with life and death and personal agency, there are clear rights and wrongs.

But for the millions of other things we can bicker about, it really doesn’t matter. (I’ve heard people argue vehemently if cookies should be crunchy or chewy, of all stupid things.)*

Many dissimilar approaches can all be “right.” For example, what the “right” dress or music or meal may be for my adult daughters will not be the “right” one for me.

And I think there are times when all of us may be “wrong,” so what does “rightness” matter except to make more enemies in an argument where no winners can exist?

Civility doesn’t worry about who’s right. Civility chooses to exist despite its surroundings.

civility

My gay friend Paul never approached the topic of religion, nor did I approach the nature of his sexuality, except to ask where he found such a gorgeous man who could have been cast as Superman. We avoided the topics we knew might cause a rift, because we wanted to be friends.

Friendships can form even between people who spent an entire semester debating opposites sides, because of mutual respect for the other’s opinions. It’s been nearly 20 years, but I still think fondly of Doug.

I refuse to believe these incidents, or that civility itself, are from a past era, because I still see civility occurring among thoughtful, intelligent people all around me. Civility does not ...mean the mere outward gentleness of speech cultivated for the occasion, but an inborn gentleness and desire to do the opponent good. - Mahatma Gandhi

I see acts of kindness despite idiosyncrasies, and patience with others’ peculiarities. I frequently witness joy in differences. And if you want to be my friend even though I’ve got some strange ideas, I’d love to be friends with you, as long as you promise to keep me on my toes.

Let’s make civility fashionable again.

*Chewy.

“When people govern themselves honestly, there’s little need for mediation. ”
~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti