"You and I cannot control the intentions or behavior of other people. However we do determine how we will act. Please remember that you and I are agents endowed with moral agency, and we can choose not to be offended." - David A. BednarMany, many moons ago I received an anonymous letter in the mail.
And it wasn't nice.
No, it wasn't nice at all!
And to top it off - it was from someone in my ward!!!
Up to that point in my life I had always believed that anyone who would be or could be offended had some troubles with their testimony. After all, I naively surmised, if you had a testimony it wouldn't matter what anyone else says!
But it was on THAT day that I found myself with a deep, abiding testimony in my heart and a full-blown mean-spirited letter in my hand!!!
I felt hurt. I felt anger. And I felt . . . OFFENDED!
All I wanted to do was crumble into a hundred, million, gazillion pieces right there and . . . never, ever go back to Church again!!
But at that very moment, while standing in the living room of our house, it was my children that kept me from crumbling . . .because, quite frankly, who has time to hide with pity in the closet when there's a menagerie of children all clamoring simultaneously for your undivided attention?
And my husband, who was the Bishop at the time, made sure I went back to Church the very next Sunday because there were six children under the age of six that needed quieting during Sacrament Meeting and a piano that needed playing during Primary.
Talk about where "much is given . . ."
But going back to Church the next Sunday was not as easy as I thought it should be for people who had testimonies. Because the moment I walked in those doors, I was enveloped with a claustrophobic air of suspicion.
And believe me when I say that I looked around and wondered . . .Who!
(Thank goodness playing the piano in Primary carries with it a sense anonymity!!)
For several days after my first Sunday back that letter a.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y. plagued me. It made me feel weak and vulnerable and on display. It made me feel hurt and angry and insulted. And almost instantaneously, I, who have always LOVED going and being in Church, decided that I maybe I shouldn't like it so much.
And I also decided that in order for me to stay on guard, I would keep the letter (frame it and place it on my nightstand) as a reminder of the mean, hurtful things someone had in their heart for me.
Oh my! Such a bad idea!
Such a very, VERY bad idea!
I honestly don't know how I came to my senses.
I don't know how the Lord ever got through to me in my miserable state!
But somehow, before the second Sunday dawned, I had successfully thrown that anonymous letter in the trash!!
Because it was destroying me!
To be honest, tossing the letter didn't mean that I was about to rush back to Church and shout "Gosh, I love Church and everyone in it, even those who anonymously send hate mail!
And to be even more honest, I was still very hesitant to return to Church the Sundays that followed.
But I went. And I kept going. And week by week going to Church got easier.
And I've learned that someone with a deep, abiding testimony can choose to feel offended! But, as Elder Bednar teaches, I'm also learning that "through the strengthening power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, you and I can be blessed to avoid and triumph over offense."