These cherished souls told me of coworkers, neighbors, associates, even people who called themselves friends who used their words, their air, to spread nasty rumors and to cut down my friends’ reputations and for what? To make themselves feel better? To make themselves look better?
It sounds childish, right? And yet these human tornadoes who are going about their lives seeking to ruin someone else’s are in their 30s, 40s even 50s and beyond. Sadly I see this in the LDS mid-singles world right now and it troubles me. Like the bully or “mean girl” in school, these men and women try to use their words to tear another down. And like the tornadoes I saw in Oklahoma, only destruction is left in their wake, but in these situations both the hearts of the wounded and the hearts of the attacker are left damaged. No one wins when gossip, backbiting and judging is involved.
There is a reason that the Lord said, “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in they brother’s eye, but perceived not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Luke 6:41). We’ve all had splinters before which is basically what a mote is, yet as I am writing this I can see the huge support beam that holds up the ceiling of my place. These human tornadoes are so fixed on pointing out the flaws in their brother’s or sister’s eyes that their own judgmental beam doesn’t allow them to see what the other person really is.
A child of God. An imperfect one, yes, but even in our imperfections and weaknesses we are beautiful to and valued by God. That being the case, it begs the question: would we dare pick up a stone and hurl it at Michelangelo’s statue of David or the Sphinx in Egypt? Would we take a permanent marker to da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or van Gogh’s Starry Night? And if we, in our own imperfect and mortal state can recognize the beauty and worth of these manmade works of art, why is it that we fail so often to see the beauty and worth in the works of art of God, even those around us that we so quickly judge and condemn?
Yes, God has given us commandments. Yes, He expects us to obey them. But when we see someone else fall short, what gives us the right to kick them when they are down when Jesus Christ spent his whole life lifting others up?
Who are we to use the air we breathe to speak hurtful words when that very air comes from God? Yes, they sinned. Yes, they weren’t perfect. Yes, they fell short. But maybe, just maybe, the very reason they didn’t measure up in your eyes is the same reason you are trying to tear them down even more: they’re hurting. Or they’re lonely. Or they’re scared. Or they’re struggling. Or any number of an infinite reasons that cause people to make bad decisions. And maybe when you’re really honest with yourself, the reason you think you feel so good about pointing out the flaws in others is because you know that deep down you are just as flawed, just as imperfect and just as full of weaknesses as your target.
If you’ve worn contacts you know that one of life’s greatest agonies is getting something in your contact. Oh, what irritation and pain can be caused when a speck of dust comes between a contact and the human eye! When this happens, you wouldn’t go out and try to hurt someone else to make yourself feel better. You’d fix your own problem first and then feel compassion for someone else who was suffering a physical malady as well! So why in the world don’t we do this with difficulties of a mental, emotional, financial or spiritual nature?
There is a saying that I heard a lot growing up, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” While there are several meanings to the phrase itself, to me the literal symbolism is pretty logical: you can’t throw a stone at someone outside your sphere of influence, belief system or even social group without breaking something. And like I said earlier, usually it is your heart and their heart that does the breaking. And let’s be honest: you would probably throw a fit if someone was doing to you what you’re doing to the person you are judging, gossiping about or trying to bring down with your hurled stones of air.
“But I’m justified in saying those things about them,” you cry. “They DID make those mistakes” or “They are so prideful/sinful/(enter the judgment of your choice) that they deserve to be talked about.”
Really? Do YOU want your sins and weaknesses told to the whole world? Do YOU want your reputation ruined because of your poor choices? Do YOU want others to whisper about you behind your back? Do YOU want stones cast at you because of your mistakes?
One of the most powerful stories from the Savior’s life, at least for me, is that of the woman taken in adultery. Now think about this. She was caught in the very act and then humiliatingly paraded through the streets by the scribes and Pharisees to where Jesus was. THEY felt justified in pointing out her sins. THEY felt justified in pronouncing judgment.
Yet when they asked Jesus what should be done, the Master simply responded, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7). A powerful message that we often only attribute to the guilt of the scribes and Pharisees, but I would say the Lord’s words apply to us all: if you are without sin, THEN you may cast a stone at (the person you are gossiping about or judging right now). It almost sounds harsh that way, but let’s remember one little fact that Paul pointed out: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 2:23).
Are you squirming in your chair? Good, you should be. We all should be. John tells us that the accusers who had baited the Savior with judging the woman taken in adultery were so “convicted by their own conscience, (they) went out one by one…and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” In the midst of whom? His disciples. And in front of these followers (and in front of us through the written word), Christ told her, “Neither do I condemn (her).” (vs. 11).
Because of his sinless life, Christ COULD have condemned her. He was the only one there that day that WAS without sin. By his very nature, Christ fulfilled the condition of “He that is without sin among you” so he COULD have “first cast a stone at her.” But he didn’t. And we shouldn’t either.
I mentioned the word childish earlier, but perhaps what I should say now is let’s all strive to be a bit more childlike. As children we were taught the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” Are you doing that? If not, perhaps you should remember this one as well: “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say nothin’ at all.”
Drop the stones in your hands and instead use your strength to lift, heal, comfort and support.
It’s what he did then; it’s what he would have us do now.