Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pride, competition, and opposition

Thomas and I recently finished reading Chester, I Love You together. Thomas introduced me to the wholesome goodness of this and other books by Blaine and Brenton Yorgason earlier this year-- and since then, we've snatched up several titles we found at DI!

What I love most about the two Yorgason books I've read so far is the depiction of family relationships, particularly the parent-child relationship. When a child has a problem or a question, the parent gives clear, loving, and wise counsel.

I won't spoil the plot, but I'd like to share one of my favorite lessons from Chester, I Love You. In the book, there is a teenage boy, Travis, who struggles with competition: he does not like it because he is always the "loser" in athletic events, scripture chase, and even, he feels, within his family. His dad, although unwittingly an instigator of a competitive spirit within the family, has several talks with him over the course of the story and learns more about competition himself as he teaches his son and learns to adapt to his needs.
'Opposition produces strength. The better or stronger the opposition, the better and stronger we become by facing it. Competition, on the other hand, causes us to want to be better than someone else, which in all honesty we can't be. Did God create some of his children to be better than others?'

Travis shook his head.

'You're right. He didn't, at least in a moral sense.'

'But, Dad, lots of people think they're better than others.'

'Do you think that's a proper attitude, Trav?.... If someone is our opposition, we want to be as good or as strong as they are. The better they get, the better we need to be to keep up with them. So naturally we want them to get better just as much as we want ourselves to get better. On the other hand, if someone is our competition we want to beat them, to make them lose to us. We want them to become worse than us. When we do that, they feel like you feel today. Do you like that feeling?'

Again Travis shook his head.

'In a nutshell, son, competition demands winners and losers, opposition expects only winners. Which do you think Heavenly Father would approve of?'

'Opposition, I guess.' (p. 19-20 of 1988 printing by Bookcraft, copyright 1983)
This story was on my mind as I reviewed President Uchtdorf's October 2010 General Priesthood session talk, Pride and the Priesthood. President Uchtdorf taught, "At its core, pride is a sin of comparison, for though it usually begins with 'Look how wonderful I am and what great things I have done,' it always seems to end with 'Therefore, I am better than you.'" Later on in the talk, President Uchtdorf brings up the "lack of civility" present in the arenas of sports and politics. He reminds us that
...we must realize that all of God’s children wear the same jersey. Our team is the brotherhood of man. This mortal life is our playing field. Our goal is to learn to love God and to extend that same love toward our fellowman. We are here to live according to His law and establish the kingdom of God. We are here to build, uplift, treat fairly, and encourage all of Heavenly Father’s children.
By minimizing the competitive spirit so natural to many of us, we can improve our relationships in- and outside our families. Uplifting others is far more worthwhile in the end than "winning", anyway!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mothers who know

We just returned from a family reunion for Thomas' side of the family. Thomas' sister and one of Thomas' brothers each have two children. It was so fun to spend time with our nieces and nephew! Since the children are all toddler-aged, when we were out in public it was necessary for everyone to help out and keep an eye on them. We remarked several times about what a relief it is that everyone is on the same page, so that if one of the aunts or uncles corrected a child, it was a safe bet that his/her parents would have done the same given the situation.

Watching my two sisters-in-law interact with their children made me think about one of my favorite General Conference talks ever, Mothers Who Know (by Julie B. Beck, Relief Society General President, in the October 2007 General Conference). This quote serves well to introduce/sum up what Sister Beck taught:
The responsibility mothers have today has never required more vigilance. More than at any time in the history of the world, we need mothers who know....When mothers know who they are and who God is and have made covenants with Him, they will have great power and influence for good on their children.
- Julie B. Beck
My sisters-in-law are definitely "mothers who know." You can tell by being around their children or entering their homes. They are faithful and they are committed to "[rearing] their children in love and righteousness, to [providing] for their physical and spiritual needs, and to [teaching] them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live" (The Family: A Proclamation to the World).

I am impressed to see their daughters always dressed modestly. The children are familiar with some scripture stories, and all of them love to pray.  They all know they are loved and they are all being taught to serve one another. They like reading books. All of them are well-adjusted, happy, and confident; they are curious and very bright.

Thank you, Camille and Elizabeth, for your wonderful examples! You are both such great mothers -- and I'm so glad your children have great fathers, too.