Every day, in every relationship, including our relationship with ourselves, we make an important decision. We may not make it consciously, but we make it nonetheless. It is the decision whether to build a case FOR or AGAINST. When we are in the mindset of building a case FOR, we connect the finest qualities of our spirit self with the finest qualities of someone else’s spirit self. We come from a place of charity and gratitude.
However, it is all too easy to lapse unknowingly into the mindset of building a case AGAINST. Since the negative seems to be the default setting of the ego/natural man mind, it is the path of least resistance to start building a case AGAINST (Think reality TV and politics).
When I feel down for any reason the easiest thing I can do isbegin building a case against myself. Suddenly, all I can see are weaknesses and mistakes. It’s as though I’ve put on a pair of dark glasses that filter out most of the light. I’m critical, judgmental, and lacking in compassion. The danger is that once I’ve put on those glasses, even though I’m not aware that I have, I’m completely blind to good qualities and accomplishments. It’s as though I say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is made up.” And I see what I’m looking for, not what is real and true.
I noticed this in regard to my listening skills recently. I was on the second time through an audio book in which one of the characters was named Kevin. At least, that was what I thought I heard the first time the name was spoken, and since I thought I knew, I continued to hear the name as “Kevin” throughout. As I listened to the book again, I suddenly realized the narrator was saying, “Trevin,” a name I’d never heard before. I marveled that I could have listened to hours of audio about this character, hearing “Kevin” every time because that’s what I had decided it was. See the connection? We can so easily makefalse conclusions in our minds, thencontinue to believe they are true even when they are not.
A Deeper Look At This Principle
I’m reminded of a husband and wife I know remarried and divorced in short order. Within days of the marriage, the husband became convinced he had made a mistake and began building a case AGAINST his spouse. I don’t pretend to know all the contributing factors, but it was all downhill from there. To make matters worse, one of the most difficult factors of divorce is that both spouses feel the need to continue this pattern of building a case AGAINST in order to justify the split, or in order to rally support to their point of view.
It is not the Lord’s way, and any of us still IN a marriage would do well to learn from and scrupulously recognize and avoid that pattern, which is always damaging.For instance, a home teacher paid a compliment to the spouse of a man who was intent on building a case AGAINST his wife. This person responded, "Oh, you just don't know her like I do." And he proceeded to tell the home teacher what a bad person his wife was. (His wife divorced him that same year.) To this day, as far as any of us can tell, this man believes he alone knows the truth about his wife--and that it's all bad. Any of us who see this man’s former wife differently can scarcely believe he’s talking about the same woman we know. He apparently formed opinions early on and closed his mind to every other possibility. So sad, when we recognize that no matter how much we may think we know about another person, most of negative conclusions are, at best, only partly true. The Lord knows a billion times more than any person on earth about any individual, and even He defers judgment until the end, and so should we.
I need to insert a short disclaimer here. I am not saying we should never assess, evaluate and make certain kinds of judgment. Particularly in cases of abuse it is vital to make the kind of judgments referred to in Moroni 7:14-18. Keeping ourselves safe means that even though we forgive and look for the good that we are smart enough to leave and stay away from situations that are emotionally or physically dangerous. In real life the wife referred to above made that kind of judgment and removed herself from an emotionally abusive situation.
Asking to See As the Lord Sees
The mote and the beam scripture reminds me that I am blinded to reality when I focus on faults in others. The gigantic beam of fault-finding is in my own eye; the faults in others may be tiny in comparison—mere “motes.” Matthew 6:5 says, "first cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly. . . " I have great desires to see clearly, to see the truth, to be in reality, to overcome the natural man tendencies that blind me.
Whenever we find ourselves stuck in building a case AGAINST we can ask the Lord if we are seeing the real person, the soul. We can ask if we are seeing them the way the Lord sees them. One wife said, “A thousand times I would have given up on my husband if I had just seen his current behavior, but when I was about to throw in the towel, some way the Lord would give me a glimpse of his heart, and I would realize that the natural man actions did not represent the real person at all. They often resulted from earlier programming, from deep insecurity and pain, and had nothing to do with who he really was in his soul.”
Again, a disclaimer may be in order. I’m not talking about getting caught in a codependent relationship, or enabling bad behavior. I’m talking about supporting the best in each other by recognizing it and focusing on it. Each of us is a dual being; whether the spiritual real self is surfacing above the natural man thoughts and words and actions in the moment depends on so many variables.It is possible to focus on a tiny slice of a person, then make faulty and negative conclusions based on grossly insufficient evidence, then waste time and effort justifying and trying to verify our conclusions because we want to be “right.”
Marriage May Be a Great Testing Ground
I think in so many ways difficult marriages are one of the greatest invitations to soul growth. They can challenge us to find greater strength, set boundaries, tell the truth even when it rocks the boat, and dig deeper intospiritual roots for the strength to persevere. When the commitment is deep on both sides and the Spirit verifies that it is right to persevere, we can pray with all our heart for charity and feel love return and triumph over resentments and hurts and negative feelings. We can pray for the spiritual power to build a case FOR our mate. Even when current frustrations make it difficult to fathometernal possibilities, we can know that the honest struggle of it can help us see our weaknesses, and recognize our constant need for the Savior's help. Misery and the Spirit cannot co-exist; I find that when I’m feeling misery, I’ve probably slipped into the pattern of building a case AGAINST and am listening to the adversary’s half-truths and lies.