Sunday, January 18, 2015

Intimidated by Intimidation

Decrying intimidation and bullying has become de rigueur a popular cause.  It seems to involve the perception that I am being forced to capitulate against my will because the antagonist wields greater power or influence.  The popular sentiment is that it is unethical or immoral for those who enjoy this impression of greater power to actually use it for influence or persuasion.

The general problem with accusations of intimidation is that they are often used as tools by the supposedly aggrieved parties to brandish their own axe.  All too often the claimant is using the accusation to intimidate, in the hope that their complaint will be taken up by others.  It is especially common to air such complaints in the sympathetic popular media.  This is the classic "pot calling the kettle black" scenario.

The disingenuous "big bad guy is intimidating me!" accusation is most in evidence today amongst popular groups trying to adopt the posture of innocent victims of power.

There are obviously individuals who really do suffer from injustice, intimidation, and bullying.  Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf addressed this problem in his April 2012 General Conference talk, "The Merciful Obtain Mercy".
I imagine that every person on earth has been affected in some way by the destructive spirit of contention, resentment, and revenge. Perhaps there are even times when we recognize this spirit in ourselves. When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, it is quite easy to judge other people, often assigning dark motives to their actions in order to justify our own feelings of resentment.

Of course, we know this is wrong. The doctrine is clear. We all depend on the Savior; none of us can be saved without Him. Christ’s Atonement is infinite and eternal. Forgiveness for our sins comes with conditions. We must repent, and we must be willing to forgive others. Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” and “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.

But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.
From this perspective, I see my own problems revealed.  I am not perfect, but I am working on it.  Advocating for reaching a perfect state always magnified my own hypocrisy.  I am willing to expose my own imperfections, in the honest hope that we might all improve ourselves.

No comments: