Saturday, June 18, 2011

To Envy Less: The Vulnerability of Removing Our Masks

As I have contemplated being less envious this week, I realized that there is a direct connection to two of my favorite topics: Elder Wirthlin's talk "Concern for the One" (my wife and children won't be surprised at that) and the idea that Zion only can be established if we remove the masks we tend to wear and expose our warts to others. Wearing those masks to cover our warts (or, in other wards, hiding our faults) is  one of the most deeply ingrained aspects of the “natural (wo)man” - a self-protection mechanism that is as fundamental to humanity as any other natural inclination. Our particular challenge in church, I believe, is to recognize it as such and rise above it - to change it (repent) by an active exercise of will (to act and not to be acted upon).

The “fault” at church for wearing masks is two-edged: 1) those in the majority who actively reject the minority for being different and/or believing things differently; 2) those in the minority who hide themselves and passively reject the majority for being different and/or believing things differently. In the end, it really is the same action - and the justification on each side is also the same. Each type tends to blame the other, and neither type tends to take the initiative to change the natural situation.

In “Concern for the One”, Elder Wirthlin articulated clearly that some leave active participation and lose faith because they act, think or feel different than others - and he told the majority that it was their responsibility to love and accept the minority for who they are, NOT for who the majority might naturally want them to be. He said that every voice (every instrument) needs to be heard, NOT that every member should learn to play the piccolo.  That is critical to envying less, since part of envying (with regard to this analogy) is to compare one's instrument to that of another and latch onto anger or some other separating emotion as a result.  Learning truly to value other instruments and not wish you play a different one than you do eradicates envy - and once that feeling is eliminated, it is much easier to play your own instrument with confidence, even if you are the only one in the congregation playing that particular instrument. 

I believe we will become Zion only as we let go of the need to wear masks - and I believe the primary responsibility for this lies not with those who feel different but with those from whom they feel different. (It's important for the oboe players to play their oboes, but it's more important for the piccolo players to allow those oboes to be heard - even if there are 85 piccolos and only one oboe.)  Yes, the "one" needs to be engaged actively, but the "ninety and nine" need to love and accept the "one" for that to happen.

The biggest problem in this regard within the Church is not the gay member, or the illegal immigrant member, or the politically different member, or the bearded member, or the tatooed member, or the colored-shirt and no tie member, or the smoker, ad infinitum. The biggest problem is the fact that those distinctions are drawn in a way that excludes those members from the fellowship of oneness with the saints. Although those who are excluded might share a portion of responsibility for being excluded, as often as not the primary responsibility lies with those who do the excluding.

I believe ALL of us wear a mask of some kind that covers varying degrees of our true selves from others.  This leads to envy and contention and a loss of charity and true acceptance.  Before we condemn or even judge others in any way, we need to remove our own masks, become vulnerable and experience the fear others feel on a regular basis. I think if we do that the tendency to judge and condemn and drive others away will disappear - and we will have a chance at truly building Zion.


Howard said...

Thought provoking post. I've given the concept of a mask a lot of thought in addition to envy we deal with jealousy, embarrassment, insult, fear of loss of creditability, we are skeptical and we intellectualize and all of these things interfere with our interpersonal relations. When I humble myself I mentally go through this list setting these traits aside as if I were removing a mask allowing me to experience other people at a deeper level.

ji said...

I appreciate the general principle of your thoughts. But, our social maska are also very important. For example, a teenager does something stupid -- and his parents forget it and never mention it as long as they live. The teenager, or later the adult, is able to proceed as if it never happened. If that is a mask, that is a good mask.

Papa D said...

ji, I appreciate that thought, but I would say it's not a case of wearing a mask; rather, I would say it's a case of changing and not needing a mask. To further the analogy of the warts, I would liken it to surgery that literally removes the wart - thus requiring no needs of a mask at all.

Anonymous said...

It's a brave person who removes their mask in the congregation-I find this a little easier in a visiting teaching relationship,both as companionship and as visited-but experience suggests that home teachers really don't want to know,and the congregation can leave one very exposed.I think we have to take responsibility for what we share,it's taken me a long time to learn that as I'm by nature an open book.Other than the pride,that is.I do think it's necessary to protect ourselves though,I often have to take the path of discretion rather then valour in order to maintain my testimony and limit my exposure to experiences that might undermine it.

Papa D said...

I agree, Anonymous, that removing our masks is a very scary and potentially painful thing. That's why I believe the responsibility for allowing this to happen lies mostly with those whose "natural face", if you will, is closest to the "accepted norm" - those who are considered the most orthodox or mainstream - those who perhaps have the least to expose but, in some ways, the most to lose by exposure.

It's a tricky thing, and I understand how hard it is, but I wish so badly our overall culture was more accepting of warts.

Anonymous said...

Truedat,Ray.There is a mental health book entitled 'Plea for a Measure of Abnormality'.Love that concept.But I still need to choose my moments,and my issues ,when it comes to courage.

Papa D said...

"I still need to choose my moments, and my issues, when it comes to courage."