April 2015 Visiting Teaching Message: The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Without Guile or Hypocrisy
As a child with diabetes, life was hard. I remember running away from my mother as she neared me with a loaded syringe. I remember being angry that I had to have shots/needles/injections, whereas my siblings didn’t. I remember coming out of a darkness, but feeling confused and nauseous as spoonfuls of honey were ladled into my mouth, saving me from dangerously low blood-sugars. I remembered my siblings being jealous and angry at the undivided attention I was given when I had blood-sugar problems—and how I longed, desperately to be ignored when I had those problems. It wasn’t fun. And it made me cry long, hard and often for a child so small. I really have very few happy childhood memories, and I think diabetes is the reason behind this.
However, my dad—he was great. He helped to make diabetic things into games. He would take a day off of work to take me to the special diabetic doctor, and made the whole day into a daddy-daughter date. He could magically give a shot and it didn’t hurt. He endured spits of water when I discovered how to recycle syringes into mini water pistols. He discussed with me which ones were truly the yummiest vegetables, and would take me to salad buffets where I could eat limitless vegetables that were free from limiting caloric measuring devices. And he helped me to love chocolate wrappers.
Yep. Chocolate wrappers. Easter wrappers are the best. Bright pinks, purples, blue, yellow and green—the shiny foils on Easter chocolates are some of the prettiest confectionery wrappings ever invented. Being a diabetic meant that for the most part, candies were limited, if allowed at all. I treasured what few I had, and would unwrap them as carefully as I could, in a way that made the experience of candy last just that little bit longer. After eating the chocolate, I kept the coloured foil. I carefully unfolded it and laid it flat, enjoying the shiny colour. I wondered why regular aluminium foil only came in silver… surely baked potatoes would be more delicious if they were baked in pink and purple —better yet, flower-print foil! Even as a child, I had entrepreneurial ideas about manufacturing and producing multi-coloured foil….boring barbeques would be liberated by my colourful foil, and a table graced by lasagna covered with green, blue and aquamarine foil would certainly be extra beautiful and tasty!
My father noticed that I collected the wrappers, but said nothing. And, after a time, when I started to use the foils in art projects (Barbie never looked better in her Easter foil dress!), he would ask me to unwrap HIS chocolates, with the promise that I could “look after” all of the wrappers.
Of course I am thinking about this because it is Easter, and as I look at the vibrant supply of Easter egg foils (covering chocolate) that are laid out in shops. But every Easter, my mind becomes like a child, and I wonder why still no one has made bunny-patterned foil for baked potatoes. (WHY NOT? WE GOTTA DO THIS!)
The formal visiting teaching message does the same in the “From the Scriptures” section, asking us to think like a child. It asks the question, “What can we learn about being without guile from little children?”
But what is guile? Consider the words from Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin contained in the message:
“… A person without guile is a person of innocence, honest intent, and pure motives, whose life reflects the simple practice of conforming his [or her] daily actions to principles of integrity. …”
Conforming. Conforming? Yep. I’m not much of a conformist. And yet…. In consideration of my diabetic past—I am. I had to be. I had to conform to injections, limited sweets, and so on. In this, I had to look for the beauty beyond the sweet chocolate that everyone else seemed to be allowed to partake at will. It was here that I discovered the colourful Easter foils. The dainty designs. The light and brightness—and this became so great that for me, eventually, the chocolate and candy became secondary. It wasn’t easy. But I did conform in the way that suited my mind and body. No, it wasn’t fair. But that is what Easter is all about—the Atonement. The epitome of unfair. It is NOT fair that Christ died for me. But He did. And so, when I think that life is unfair for any number of reasons, I also try to think of the Atonement, and of Christ… and how life is not meant to be fair.
But I also think of the child in me—I was angry that I had to take shots. I was frustrated that I couldn’t eat just anything. And sometimes I felt like an outsider within my group of siblings. None of those feelings have guile. None are devious, sly, or dishonest. Indeed, it is okay to feel angry, frustrated, and as though life is unfair. Because life is not fair. But the Atonement will make it all better ….eventually. And what of hypocrisy? Well, I think that is about being honest. It is about saying that we are angry, frustrated, hurt, and sad. It would be hypocritical for us to say otherwise at the times we feel this way. And yet…. We need to protect these feelings as well.
A decade or so ago, I was called as an Enrichment Leader. The calling probably was extended because I never went to Enrichment (now called Relief Society) Meetings. I was childless, a foreigner, and just the overall weird-o. The plan was to have an activity all about chocolate…for Mother’s day. I wasn’t thrilled. They said chocolate included everyone, so even childless people “could go.” I still wasn’t interested, but it was my calling. Pushing past my own infertility, I pressed for the opportunity to have more diabetic-friendly foods…. But was squarely knocked back. I tried to note the hypocrisy it was for me- as a diabetic – to have such an activity… but I was told my concerns were not valid. Finally, I gave in.
In remembering my stash of saved Easter foils, I shared the idea of decorating the frame of the activity announcement in beautiful, decorative, bright foils. I thought I could make pretty decorations and so on, to save my body, heart and soul from the upcoming activity…. doing this candy-wrapper collage was something I could do. Not only that, I would enjoy making the collage very much! But the suggestion was met with a blank stare. So I described how I saved the foils when I was little, and it made chocolate utterly magic to me—without even having to eat it.
“That is so sad,” said one member of the Relief Society presidency, after a pronounced pause. The rest were silent.
She crushed my soul.
So I took my foil pearls, sent a postcard to the bishop requesting a release, and left the chocolate activity (and that calling) to the swine. This was a childhood treasure memory that I carried with me well into adulthood. Because my husband readily accepted this thing, I thought others would be as understanding, supportive and interested in my odd habit of savouring chocolate wrappers. They weren’t.
Truth? No one was intentionally a bad guy in that Enrichment/ Relief Society Meeting situation, so referring to the activity leaders as swine is not fair. I felt judged and I judged in return. Not a good combination. It was totally absent of the Atonement. Long numb to being the only diabetic, my other issues were guileless frustrations, but my ability to see beauty, in what she could only see as trash, made me feel like my ideas and experience had no value. I felt like a fool, and I felt like I was worthless….to her. I liked her as a friend, so it hurt all the more. I am sure she did not intend for me to feel this way. Indeed, when I stopped attending church after this, she called me immediately and treated me as a friend, absolutely without judgement. Because of her guileless actions after the hurt, my “time off” from church was short lived. Even though her initial response was not ideal- it was without guile. She responded with no hypocrisy, even when it hurt me. Likewise, she still entreated me to return, out of love for me, rather than out of obligation because of something she had said. In this, I learned from her what it is to be without guile. Imperfect? Yes. Guile? No. Not even a little.
So… this is what my thought is for this Easter month: to accept others without guile. That is to say, because one of the synonyms of “guile” is “duplicity”—that means I hope to accept and love others as they are, without judgement, no matter how quirky they dress, smell, speak…. and even when they might collect something that I deem as trash. This is not an easy task, but in juxtaposing the April 2015 Home Teaching message, which is framed about having courage, I like this quote:
“Courage becomes a living and an attractive virtue when it is regarded not only as a willingness to die manfully but also as the determination to live decently.”
Although this is worded to sound nearly as a masculine war-call, when we emphasize the “determination to live decently,” selection, we are reminded that we can strive to be above the duplicity and hypocrisy of a guile-filled life. In this, we can practice being without guile and hypocrisy as we come into contact with those around us, and especially with those whom we visit teach.
So my goal is to seek for Christ, and the power of His Atonement to give me the clarity to see the women I visit teach as they are, without judgement. In other words, I seek to be friend beyond the assignment at hand.
P.S. If you’d like to give me some chocolate for Easter– thank you! But really, I’m just after the wrappers.
Do you have duplicity when it comes to the women you visit teach? How can you go above and beyond this and be a real friend?