If you’ve talked to me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know I have niece who was a micro-preemie, born at just 24 weeks. Since her birth two years ago, I have seen my sister and her husband make countless decisions about the medical care of their child, sometimes life and death decisions.
Describing this process, my sister wrote, “The only way to settle your mind is to convince yourself that you chose the right way. You chose the only correct answer. You did everything right for your baby.
“Accepting that there might be a correct path for another family means that there is a tiny possibility that we did not choose correctly for our own child. And with so much pressure, with so much on the line, that possibility can be crushing.”
In our own lives, we can think there is only one correct choice — the one we made. During this time in our lives, many of our choices greatly impact the rest of our lives: What our major is, who to marry, when to marry, when to have children, etc.
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about BYU culture. While I love BYU, I lamented our tendency to judge one another about everything from fashion to lifestyle choices.
It seems to be a perpetual condition at BYU. Yet, a judgmental nature is hardly limited to BYU, Utah or LDS culture in general. Cable television and the popularity of Internet memes show just how universal this human trait is.
We all complain about it. So, why is it so hard, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf counseled, to “stop it?”
In LDS culture, we preach about the importance of agency. We believe a war in heaven was fought over this principle: Each individual is free to choose his or her own path during mortality.
Despite this, we struggle with wanting to control the agency of others. We forget to remember the best choice for us isn’t necessarily the best choice for someone else.
Some students get engaged after 2 months — others, after 2 years. Some married students have children right after getting married. Others may wait several years. One choice isn’t necessarily better than another and depends on the individual circumstances of those involved which can vary greatly from our own experience.
About a year ago, I worked as a temple worker at the Provo Temple. One evening I saw a woman walk in wearing a wrap around skirt, crocs and a zip-up hoodie. I’m ashamed to admit it, but my first thought was “Why would you ever wear that to the temple? That’s not appropriate attire.” The shame of my judgment only increased when she smiled at me. The woman radiated one of the purest examples of charity, the pure love of Christ, I have ever witnessed. Though I never interacted with her outside of her weekly visits, I came to look forward to seeing her each week and the love and friendship she offered to everyone she met.
Often, we are blinded by outward appearances and jump to conclusions without knowing individuals or their circumstances. It’s the knowledge of circumstance and compassion that becomes the cure for unwarranted judgement.
In an article from Feminist Mormon Housewives entitled “Sometimes we just get it right,” the guest writer Sherise told a story about her Relief Society. An older woman in the ward had some recent health complications. As a result she needed to wear slippers to church, something quite embarrassing for her (Sherise writes the woman usually came to church immaculately dressed). In a show of compassion, the Relief Society decided to sport their own slippers to church so their sister in the gospel need not feel alone.
Sherise wrote, “I loved what I saw: slippers and big grins, as far as the eye could see. One woman had even gone home and brought back a big basket of slipper socks for anyone who hadn’t gotten the message or had forgotten.”
With knowledge of specific circumstances and compassion, sometimes we can just get it right.
Katie Harmer is the opinion editor for The Universe. This viewpoint represents her opinions and not necessarily those of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.