Sunday, September 28, 2014

What would happen if we really respected people?

The other day I was talking to a friend about domestic violence.  We were discussing men and how they talk about the women in their lives when the women are not around.  If men speak negatively of the women in their lives, that's a huge indicator of a man's behavior toward her when she is around.  My friend suggested we could use more lessons in church on relationships and how to treat people, and it doesn't really matter if it's marriage relationships or friend relationships, we just need to know what are healthy interactions and what are not.

I began to wonder, what if we did really did treat people the way we should?  What if we didn't put ourselves and our selfish desires first, what would happen?  What if we actually did unto others as we would have others do unto us?  Well, for one, men wouldn't beat their wives.  They'd respect them and listen to them and be a partner.  People wouldn't abuse children.  Enron wouldn't have happened.  The housing crisis wouldn't have happened.  Perhaps even Ordain Women wouldn't have happened because women would feel represented and listened to?  Maybe.

I guess this isn't a very coherent post, but these two quotes came to mind:

"One of the most radical things you can do is believe women when they talk about their experiences."-Jen Bekman
"The Mormon people teach the American religion; their principles teach the people not only of Heaven and its attendant glories, but how to live so that their social and economic relations with each other are placed on a sound basis. If the people follow the teachings of this Church, nothing can stop their progress — it will be limitless. There have been great movements started in the past but they have died or been modified before they reached maturity. If Mormonism is able to endure, unmodified, until it reaches the third and fourth generation, it is destined to become the greatest power the world has ever known.’”-Leo Tolstoy
So what do Mormons teach?  They teach the ways of Christ which are anything but violent.  They teach integrity and forgiveness.  They teach mercy and kindness and. . . .  I think we learn these things, but we fail when we don't put them to practice (which is why we need a Savior).  I still keep thinking that one of Heavenly Father's goals must be to have all his children get along.  When we do live His commandments and live like Christ, we will get along and won't have to deal with all the junk that happens.  I guess actually living the way they should is what happened in the city of Enoch.


swedemom said...

I have many thoughts about your post. I hope you don't mind the lengthy response.

1) re. domestic violence
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. I think that we do teach about it, but if you are abusing someone, how likely is it that you are going to really listen to the counsel given or to seek out talks that address this. Something else we don't talk about much is how women abuse children and even their husbands. We don't talk about emotional and verbal abuse in regards to women very much. And yet, I think that women are probably the worst perpetrators for this gross and serious sin.

2) re. ordain women
I didn't support the movement, but honestly, I can understand where it comes from. I would agree with Heather from Women in the Scriptures that there is definitely some spiritual pride and ego going on, but I think that not being listened to is also a very big cause. I grew up in a small town in Wyoming that was extremely conservative. There were some wonderful people in my ward and stake. But there was also very much a feeling that having the Priesthood makes you "SOMETHING" big and important. And not having it, lessens your value and authority. It is hard to fight against that message, especially when it is implicit in the culture. It is hard as a girl to be able to stand up to unrighteous dominion if she sees young men blessing the sacrament after a night of heavy drinking. It is hard for a young woman to understand her value and worth if she is disfellowshipped after being raped. It is hard to for women to think they are respected and have an equal place to men when they see a member of the church--who carried on a "relationship" (i.e. statutory rape) a 12-year old girl and then paid for her abortion-be supported by the leaders at his court trial. All of these cases I mentioned, happened in my community. If you don't carefully study the Priesthood and listen intently to the Prophet and Apostles, you would think all of this is ok. The sad thing is, in every instance, the women were powerless to stand up to the mistreatment and indeed, abuse of the priesthood. I don't believe every woman in the group felt that powerlessness, but I bet many did/have.

In my community, I also saw many relationships where one person very clearly domineered the other. Sometimes it was the woman, but often it was the man dictating what his wife and children could and could not do. I'm lucky that my parents modeled a happy and loving relationship.

I can tell you that I feel powerless when it comes to issues like this. I believe that those things are wrong and will be addressed by Heavenly Father. But I am sad that stuff like this goes on.

Obviously, not everyone was bad and not every leader I encountered was bad either. I saw wonderful examples of service, selflessness, and really being Christlike. I have had many great bishops over the years, but the bad examples are hard to erase from my mind. It's hard to overcome that fear to speak to a leader about these concerns.

3) re. teaching
I can't dictate what the church should/can teach, but I can teach my children. When my sons start dating we will discuss respectful treatment of women and yes, even rape. I have already talked to my sons about treating girls respectfully at school. I hated the lewd comments boys made about my body in junior high and high school. I told my boys not to say such things and explained how hurtful it was. I believe we have to be clear and direct with our kids and explain to them what is and isn't ok.

I will be teaching my daughters how to vet and screen potential dates and partners. I will encourage them to be strong and trust in the Spirit. I plan to talk to my daughters' dates too. I know that sounds weird, but I want the boys who date my daughters to know that there are lines they should not cross and that my girls have parents who love and protect them.

Thanks for letting me ramble.

Great post and very important.

Emily said...

That is crazy stuff you mentioned while growing up! I must have just been unaware of things that happened in SLC growing up. That stuff should not happen, and you're right, an abuser is not going to listen no matter how much it is taught. It must be appropriately modeled in the home. People may not even know abuse is happening when that's the way it's always been in their home and they think it's normal. We must go to the root teachings, not always the behaviors of people.

Emily said...

Oh yeah and one more thing, and I'm not sure where to address it and it fits with what you said at the beginning, but my husband mentioned in ward council the need he felt to talk about how the men treat their wives. I don't know exactly how he said it since I wasn't there, but the Primary Pres thought he may be talking about addressing how women treat their families, and in particular their husbands and their lack of respect toward them. My husband said, "oh no, I'm not addressing that, I'm just talking about the Elders and their behavior. I have no desire to tell the sisters what they should and should not do." Ok, that was really a paraphrase, but yeah, we women have issues, too.

swedemom said...

I love your title to your post. I have been thinking some more about what you have written. I think that respect is precisely what is missing from abusive relationships, and ironically, is probably what the abuser craves from his/her victims. We all desire to be loved and respected. But it can be hard when we have absorbed attitudes and behaviors from our cultures that don't correctly model that respect.

I know that I fail a lot in this area in being more respectful and loving to my children and husband. One thing that is helping me is trying to see them as Heavenly Father sees them. At the end of the previous school year, I felt defeated and tired in dealing with my 13-year old son. He has ADHD and really struggles with homework. It has been such a source of contention in our home. I prayed and studied all summer for help and guidance. Ironically, what I learned to is to love and appreciate who he is, weaknesses and all. It is still tough, but we are both trying. Our sessions always go so much better when I remind myself how precious and important he is.

Emily said...

Get this! I just pulled out my JFS manual from which I'll be teaching in a couple weeks and read my assigned lesson. Guess what it is?? "Love and Concern for All of Father's Children." That so goes hand in hand with this discussion. You can guess I'll bring up domestic abuse during my lesson!