Shields Up!

In the Standing Steadfast in Christ blog post, I talked about this amazing strength our Savior has to remain balanced in the face of adversity. I spoke of how much I admired this character trait that I also saw in Joseph Smith. A major part of the reason I admire this trait so much is that I know how hurt I would be if those people reviled me like they were reviling Joseph. I know that what they were reviling him about was so intensely important to him. I know about the temptation to fight back. And to see him Stand Steadfast in Christ makes my admiration go through the roof. I know what both Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ could have done in response to the abuse and persecution they received. I know that’s the natural way to respond. It used to be my way to respond. Because I had developed this bad habit AND have subsequently been retrained to break it, I know how amazingly difficult it is to Stand Steadfast in Christ. Now I stand in awe of those who do. I know the strength it takes. I know about the Faith and the Love that need to be the driving motivators. They are my role models and seeing them do this, as well as others, sustains my ability to Stand Steadfast in Christ.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” ~Matthew 5:44-45

In the next several blog posts I’m going to relate to the best of my ability how the Savior re-trained me to Stand Steadfast in Christ. I’m not perfect in it, which probably goes without saying, but man have I come a long way thanks to Him! For the rest of this blog post, let’s just take a closer look at what it means to Revile.

To Revile

To Revile is to criticize, condemn, attack, rail against, slander, vilify, or abuse. It’s also to knock, slam, badmouth, persecute, or crucify. It can be done physically or verbally. The definition we used in the last chapter was: to criticize in an abusive or angrily insulting manner. So this is one of our major sources of Adversity. Other people reviling us. When we say that we Turn and Revile Again, we’re insinuating that we are responding to some kind of Adversity that we received first. The scriptures call this “the first offense.”

“And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.” ~Alma 43:46

“The second offense” is the Turning and Reviling Again. If we’re not guilty of either the first or the second offense and are defending ourselves and our families objectively, under the guidance of God, and are not motivated by our own personal hatred and desire for vengeance, then we are right with God in defending ourselves against abuse.

Degrees of Reviling

We can revile someone just a little or we can revile them a lot. This is speaking of the degree or intensity of the Adversity. When my brother called me FAT it was a lesser degree of Adversity than when he got all of his friends to call me FAT. If more people abuse us, the intensity increases. Also, people can lightly criticize us or they can go on and on about how wrong we are and how right they are. So duration and frequency can increase intensity. When we get really specific and detailed in our criticism, we increase the intensity. The last way that I can think increases our Adversity is if the reviling comes from someone we love and/or respect and especially from someone for whom we have given our lives. This is kind of like how Judas Iscariot reviled Christ. That would have been extra painful for him since he was one of his twelve apostles who had been a disciple and a close friend for three years. Not unlike pouring salt into the wound. During my training, I learned that it was important to understand why I may get intensely upset about something when others think all I need to do is take a chill pill.

Specific Weaknesses and Sensitivities

That last reason goes along with this next point. What reviles one person may not phase another. That’s because we value things differently. We’re all unique. Remember how I started out describing how much I valued being skinny and pretty since I was nine years old? I did that purposefully to explain why the Adversity I received was so intense for me to bear. When someone knows how to push our buttons, they know exactly what means the most to us. We all have different weaknesses and sensitivities. Knowing what someone’s are gives us the knowledge of how to love them better or hate them worse.

So given the degree of reviling and the degree to which we are sensitive to it, the total degree of Adversity may exceed our ability to stop ourselves from Turning and Reviling Again. If we are especially weak and untrained, it may not take much at all to get past our shields.

Neglect: The Opposite of Abuse

We’ve used the word Abuse as a synonym for reviling. Abuse is the main word I’ve chosen to use in the Servant Initiative to describe this concept. So technically Abuse is combining with someone else in a way that hurts them. It is adding a stimulus. It is contentious. It is a sin of Commission. The opposite of Abuse is Neglect. Technically Neglect is separating from someone else in a way that hurts them. It is subtracting a stimulus. It is passive-aggressive. It is a sin of Omission. We can use Neglect to hurt someone. The reason behind that is that we all need love for spiritual nourishment as much as we need food and water for physical nourishment. We cannot spiritually live without it; to live in spiritual balance is to have Joy. So without love, we experience Sorrow. Those who are responsible for our care have the responsibility to physically and spiritually love us. In this way, they care for our bodies and spirit. So if they Neglect to do this for us, they leave us in a vulnerable place. We are excessively exposed to injury and reviling. We have more buttons to be pushed. We have more sensitivities. We’re easily reviled by mischief-makers. And this includes Neglecting to protect us and Neglecting to teach and train us how to Stand Steadfast in Christ. The combination of both Ignorance (as a Result of Neglect) and Abuse is so fatal!

In the diagram to the right, we can see that there are degrees of intensity for both Abuse and Neglect. Not only can we Abuse a little or a lot, but we can also Neglect a little or a lot. The balance between Abuse and Neglect is Love. Love includes Standing Steadfast in Christ, giving Mercy to those who Revile us, instead of doing what comes naturally. With Love sometimes we do censure and reprimand. In Mercy sometimes we do separate from someone else. How do we know the difference—when we’ve crossed the line to Abuse or Neglect? That took the Savior a lot of time to explain to me. We’ll get to that somewhere in the next few posts. For now, just know that it’s not wrong to combine or separate. It’s when we combine or separate too much or too little, given the other person’s needs and strengths and our own motives. Are we guilty of the first or second offense in our motives or are we objectively trying to resolve conflicts in a relationship?

With this information, we can see that most of us were Abused or Neglected to some degree growing up, which has caused us to develop a degree of Turning and Reviling Again. And that’s just how it is. We’re not doing a disservice to our parents by acknowledging that. We’re not shaming ourselves by acknowledging that it is probably the case with our own parenting responsibilities. It’s important to look at how we developed this imbalanced behavior objectively. Not with the intent to Shame or Blame. Shaming and Blaming only causes ourselves and others to hide imbalances. It doesn’t turn us to Christ, where we need to go for healing.

I was once ignorant and vulnerable to all kinds of reviling. Now I’m not so ignorant and my shields are fully functional. That’s because of my Redeemer. And it is he who taught me to look a little closer at words such as Adversity, Sorrow, Abuse, Neglect, Love, Mercy, and Joy like we’ve done in this post. He taught me to look for their synonyms, antonyms, degrees, specifics, and generalities as I evaluated my own personal experiences. All of these treasures of knowledge were a necessary part of my training to develop my ability to Stand Steadfast in Christ. Knowledge and wisdom are the keys to “bring out the prisoners from the prison.

“O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted; behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.” ~Isaiah 54:11

Listen: “Wait and See” by Brandon Heath

In the next blog post I’ll write more about why some people grow up to Turn and Revile Again while others grow up to Stand Steadfast in Christ.

“Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.” ~3 Nephi 6:13