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Monday, April 25, 2011

Addendum: How Did Good Become Evil and Evil Become Good?

by Saint Mark (bio)

Because it seems that my original post has struck a (polarizing?) chord and it was suggested in the comments that I make my reply the body of a post, I decided to post this addendum to my original post, “How Did Good Become Evil and Evil Become Good?” Having to attempt to limit a complex discussion to a self-imposed word limit for the sake of brevity and readability, I can understand why some readers feel that the issue of the shifting standards of the world or “good becoming evil and evil becoming good” was not fleshed out as thoroughly as desired. As Diana, a commenter, suggested, blanket statements seem to leave out the complexity of seemingly simple issues. But, because of comments like those left by Anonymous about an abusive spouse, my heart goes out to those who may have misinterpreted my original message.

The truth is there really are no simple life scenarios. When dealing with something as unpredictable as human beings, simplicity is not the experience of the non-hermit. For example, I feel spouses should not feel required to ALWAYS stay committed to a marriage if there is abuse or adultery. These are actually exceptions given by the leaders of the LDS church for spouses to feel justified in breaking their marriage covenants, mostly, I feel, because the offending spouse has already broken the marriage covenant. Moreover, before the advent of no-fault divorce laws, many spouses, particularly women, were compelled to stay in violent marriages. I believe this imprisoning of women in the shackles of these abusive marriages was an "evil" and I'm glad that the pendulum has swung away from the injustices perpetrated on these wives and mothers.

Another example, motherhood and fatherhood, for that matter, are not easy, pain-free experiences that make you grateful every second of the day for having chosen to participate in them. Being a parent is hard, discouraging, and thankless in many instances. Feeling discouraged and impotent as a parent is not evil, in my opinion, and people should feel free to discuss these valid feelings without the added weight of guilt or judgment.

Now, with that said, I believe the pendulum has swung from a day and age of insensitivity to such issues as abusive marriages and the hardships of parenthood and now rests in a space of hyper-sensitivity, entitlement, and selfishness. Nowadays, when the going gets tough, everyone gets going (i.e. out of the marriage, out of being a parent, out of the relationship, out of the situation, etc.).

I'm not saying that there are not exceptional situations where people should remove themselves from unhealthy, even abusive situations (e.g. spousal abuse, etc.), but I feel that this hyper-sensitivity and entitlement has bred an aversion to ANY situation which challenges us.

For example, too many marriages are broken because spouses can't agree on sex, money, size of family, education, goals, etc. You name it and marriages have been dissolved over it. On the more dramatic side, a poor relationship and selfish behavior in a marriage may be the root cause for infidelity. This strain on a marriage is the challenge and we can have a better marriage and a better relationship and be a better person for facing that challenge head on, or we can walk away from that challenge, blame the other person for the whole affair, and gain nothing but heartache and bitterness from the experience with (sometimes) children left in the wake of a ruined family.

For those interested in a case on point, please watch the film The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, which is based on a true story. (see a review here). Watch it and answer these questions: Did Evelyn Ryan make the better choice by staying in her challenging marriage? If she lived today, would she have stayed? Should she have stayed? Would you have stayed? Being a child of two abusive fathers and a broken home, I was extremely torn as to what Evelyn should do. But, when I saw the end result at the end of the film, I realized that although there is a spectrum of marriage relationships, from ecstatic happiness to enduring unhappiness, there really may be few exceptions to the good that can come from marriage and staying in a marriage versus the evil that can come from divorce and broken families. I know the exceptions. I’ve lived them. And personally seeing the good that can come from enduring the Abrahamic challenge of repairing a breaking marital relationship, I have conviction that staying, in a vast majority of the cases, is much better than going.

A further example may be having disobedient children and struggles as a parent, which is the possible fruit of selfishness, neglect, and childish behavior on the part of the parents, too. This can be a challenge that the parent faces head-on and decides to be less selfish, more loving, more disciplined, and become a better person, a better parent, and have a better, happier family, or parents can "save themselves" and physically walk away from their children or emotionally walk away and count down the days until their children are out of the house and the parent can do what they "really want to do." With the latter scenario, the challenge wins and the opportunity for growth and joy is wasted.....

I believe God sent us here to earth to be challenged. There is no doubt about it in my mind. In the words of the Prophet John Taylor, "The purpose of life is to suffer." And being challenged means suffering a little or a lot. Put another way, “Therefore, [we] must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified.” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4-5). Is enduring a loveless marriage our Abrahamic challenge? Is having a disobedient child or children our Abrahamic challenge? Is loving someone and serving them despite their (seeming) lack of love and care for us our Abrahamic challenge? I can only speak for myself and figure out what my Abrahamic challenge(s) may be through prayer, meditation, and a lot of self-introspective work. And I believe you have to figure out the same thing for yourself. But, I know and you know that just as muscle fibers are ripped and torn but regenerate stronger after having been worked to their breaking point, so is our character stretched and made stronger as we face our challenges head-on. We don’t allow our challenges to conquer us. We conquer them. Maybe we even sometimes feel like Isaac and submit to the situation God has placed us in (e.g. a marriage, a family, a job, a neighborhood, a ward, etc.). But, I feel we need to face the challenge as Abraham, "act and not be acted upon." (The Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:14).

To put it simply: To face a challenge, to me, is a good choice. To run away from that challenge, except in very exceptional circumstances, is an evil choice. Today, however, the world would say the opposite and for me, that "philosophy of men" does a great injustice to the whole simple yet complex reason why we’re here.

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