When we don’t like the way we feel, what do we do: try to change others or decide to change ourselves?
Like many who have been attending LDS Sunday School classes this year, I have recently been pondering the events presented in the books of Alma and Helaman. These books of scripture are especially well-known for their description of wars. For the last several weeks, I have been pondering the cause of these wars.
It seems to me that Amalikiah (Alma 46), Ammoron (Alma 52), and others like them were generally unhappy about their lot in life. They felt cheated by the world, and they dealt with their frustration by attempting to make others feel worse than they did. Rather than addressing their disappointment, they sought to stir up trouble. Often, they didn’t even attack their perceived enemies directly; instead they spread lies and rumors among the Lamanites to incite the Lamanites to anger and violence towards the Nephites.
Contrast this with Alma and Moroni who, instead of stirring up contention and anger among the masses, sought to stir up feelings of humility, duty, and love among the people. Amalikiah and Ammoron were agents of destruction and chaos whereas Alma and Moroni were agents of peace and stability. Amalikiah and Ammoron selfishly demand that society change in order for them to feel better. Alma and Moroni invite individuals to selflessly change so that society will be better.
As I look at leaders in my community and in society today, I’ve started to analyze their approach. Do they blame others for their faults? Do they expect others to fit their own selfish expectations? Or do they acknowledge their own weaknesses, make a commitment to change, and invite others to work together with them?
I’ve also thought about this mindset in regards to homosexuality. Those who experience same-sex attraction often feel marginalized by society. They feel mistreated and unfairly judged by society. How do they respond? Do they take the Amalikiah approach and incite anger, violence, and outrage? Or do they take the Alma approach and seek wisdom, understanding, and unity? Sometimes it seems that gay rights advocates, motivated by self-righteous anger, only seem to further drive a wedge between them and their perceived enemies. I can’t help by wonder whether this approach actually brings feelings of peace to anyone. Forcing the world to change in order to feel better about oneself is unlikely to be successful.
I’ve decided to use the Alma-Amalikiah test as as my barometer. When I feel jilted or abused, how do I respond? Yes, I too want the world to change, but that change starts with me.