Barbara Keil, Guest Author
A popular television show teaches us that if you want to be a “survivor”, your goal is to be the last one standing after you have voted off all of your fellow teammates. Numerous other so-called “reality” shows are based on the same premise. If you want to succeed, the necessary course is to triumph over your teammates by strategy and exclusion so that you continue to move forward in the game and win the prize.
Focus on Our Needs
As we strive to succeed in life and find joy, we share the journey with other people. We build relationships in all aspects of our lives–at church, at work, in our neighborhoods and within our families. While few of us view our success in real life as depending upon beating out our fellow travelers, it has become common in today’s world to judge the goodness and value of our relationships based upon the extent to which our own needs are being met.
We sincerely desire to be good family members and friends to those we care about. However, we can sometimes believe that the primary role of family and friends is to fulfill our own needs and expand our happiness.
We ideally want to have loving feelings towards our fellow ward members. Yet, at times we chafe under leadership approaches we aren’t comfortable with, become offended and annoyed with the actions of others, or are bothered by not feeling included in the way we want to be.
Most of us talk earnestly about being effective team members in working with others. But frequently our behavior indicates that our definition of a good team member is someone who agrees with our point of view and has a personal style that matches well with our own.
In all of these situations it is easy for us to view an improvement of the situation to be dependent upon the other person changing his or her behavior to better align with our desires.
A Different Model
The Book of Mormon offers a very different model.
“And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, .having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another.” (Mosiah 18:21)
“ And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people… They were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Nephi 1:15-16)
So we are provided with a very different perspective from the Book of Mormon. There is no necessity for us to advance our own causes and needs at the expense of others.
There is a pathway to contentment that does not involve competition or judging relationships in terms of whether or not our desires are being met. There is no limited economic model—no pie with only a few pieces. We are all heirs to the kingdom of God. The way to receive the ultimate reward is to become one with the children of Christ—to look forward with one eye, having hearts knit together in unity. “Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price” (2 Nephi 26:25).
Applying the Model
As we serve on church councils and auxiliaries and on other types of teams, are we truly listening to every voice—even those who have very different viewpoints and approaches than ours? Are we open to considering that perhaps those who are different from us might bring needed talents, perspectives and strengths to the team enabling the group to be more effective if all team members’ contributions are utilized?
In our family and ward relationships are we focusing on looking forward to where we want to end up together or on short term frustrations of the moment? Do we invest time in considering how we might contribute to a greater feeling of unity?
A friend of mine who was our Relief Society President at the time told me of a dream she had one night. In the dream all of the sisters of the ward were trying to climb to the top of a mountain. There were other people at the bottom of the mountain who were shooting arrows at everyone as they climbed, trying to prevent them from completing their journey. Some sisters were strong and were able to avoid the arrows and continue their ascent to the top. But some were struggling and tired and unable to keep on climbing. Others had been felled by arrows and were lying wounded on the path.
As the Relief Society President turned around in the dream to view the scene below her, she realized that she would not be successful if she reached the summit on her own leaving all of those sisters to remain lost and struggling along the pathway. She and the other sisters who were higher on the mountain all turned and descended. They comforted the women who had fallen. They tended to their wounds. They picked them up and assisted them in making the climb so that all reached the top. They carried some on their backs. And she realized that the joy of reaching the top was dependent upon as many as were willing reaching that destination with her.
Making the Climb Together
Unlike the survivor mentality encouraged by popular television shows, those who have been in true survival circumstances know that the way to get safely home is not to calculate which teammates you would prefer not to be with. In real world survival situations your chances are best if everyone in the group is unified in devoting their varied strengths and resources towards taking care of each other and seeing that all safely survive.
And note that the Book of Mormon teaches the pathway to this spirit of unity is having the love of God dwelling within our hearts. As we seek out and fill ourselves with His love, we will be able to view the world differently. God invites us to apply this vital latter-day corrective in our lives.