My sophomore year of high school I moved from Hawai’i to California. For about a year I felt pretty alone, I didn’t really click with the people in my ward or at my school. Then my junior year my parents got divorced, so things didn’t really get sunnier for little teenage me.
My senior year I finally found a group of people I liked, people I could talk to and trusted, and I even had a boyfriend. After a date one day I opened up about dealing with divorce as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But he stopped me shortly to tell me an alarming fact.
His dad had already revealed to him the details and cause of my parents divorce and then proceeded to use that information to teach my boyfriend a lesson on what not to do in a marriage.
Understandably, I was pretty shocked. The hardest part of my life was being used as a teaching moment. It left me feeling hollowed out, embarrassed and violated. Why was my family’s personal information being spread around the ward?
My case isn’t a lone one. In fact most people could probably bring up times they were personally victimized by a Young Women’s leader, heard their parents talk about Brother and Sister So and So’s problems, or overheard ward members quietly mumble about some troubled child. It is often masked by a perceived concern for another’s well being, but can often be more harming than healing.
Take my experience for example. Our family got plenty of consolation baked goods and ready-to-eat meals, something that ward members have perfected doing to help others in times of need. But I personally didn’t need homemade toffee or lasagna that only needs half an hour in the oven at 375º.
I needed to feel comfortable going to church.
For about a year I didn’t tell anyone the difficult details of my personal life, because I didn’t trust anyone with the information. I knew that people at church were talking about my family, but I kept as quiet as possible as an attempt to prevent more information from being spread.
It hurts to be talked about. It hurts to be an “example.” It hurts to feel like you can’t trust the leaders or members of your ward.
As Christians we’re familiar with the first three scripture verses in Matthew 7: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Before discussing the good and bad eggs in the ward, before talking about someone breaking the law of chastity, the word of wisdom or the honor code, before bringing up other people’s hardships in order to spark conversation, ask yourself, “Considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Think about if the information you share is harmless or hurtful. We all deserve to feel comfortable going to church on Sundays and it takes everyone to change the way they speak about others in order to change this culture. You owe it to yourself and to the people you love to choose not to speak ill about others.
— Ally O’Rullian