By Joseph Hovey
Editor’s note: Education Week coverage can be found in this section of the website.
Presenters challenged attendees to grow in Christlike love for others by “assuming positive intent” during a BYU Education Week session on Monday morning.
“Treat every conversation as if it’s a new one,” presenter Scott M. O’Neil said. “(Don’t) be burdened by yesterday. (Don’t) be burdened by tomorrow. Stay in the present and assume positive intent.”
O’Neil, former CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils, joined with author and former institute director Randal Wright to entertain and inspire the Wilkinson Center audience with examples of the power that comes in seeing the good in others.
Wright began the session by sharing examples in which assuming the positive intent of another could have alleviated fear and anger.
In one such example, Wright recounted making a harsh judgment of a fellow customer at a gas station.
“I could see he had a cigarette in his mouth. He had long, scraggly hair and a long, scraggly beard and a beat up car,” Wright said. “I pulled out my Rameumptom and stood on it while I was putting in my gas and thought, ‘I sure am glad I have the gospel.'”
Rameumptom refers to a high stand, mentioned in the Book of Mormon, on which the Zoramites, apostate Nephites, prayed.
Moments later, Wright discovered that his wallet was missing. Embarrassed, Wright attempted to explain his predicament to the station attendant only to learn that the customer he’d judged had noticed his problem and kindly paid for Wright’s fuel.
“(The Lord) doesn’t want us to judge others,” Wright said. “He wants us to look for the positive. It’s a real struggle, but I think we need to retire our Rameumptoms.”
O’Neil followed Wright’s remarks by teaching that people’s judgments and perceptions of others become “luggage” they carry into each interaction and can become a barrier to loving relationships.
“I want you to think about how you walk through the world,” O’Neil said. “I want you to think about walking into conversations, clear-headed, open-minded and like the Savior.”
O’Neil closed the presentation by inviting the audience to join him in a 30-day gratitude challenge. Attendees were asked to start each day by sending a note of “love, appreciation and gratitude” to someone in their life.
This, O’Neil promised, would “open your heart and mind to assume positive intent the rest of the day.”
Cindy LeBeau from Meridian, Idaho said she thought the presentation was informative and the speakers presented well. “It was exciting, fun and included a lot of laughter.”
“I learned that when we assume positive intent, we can focus on reality more than our perception,” audience member Lynn Walker from South Jordan said.