By Study and Also By Faith

An LDS (Mormon) blog representing a search for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Considering Viewpoints

One of the things I struggle with is compassion and "tough love." As I consider viewpoints on a variety of topics, I come up against wanting to help people and wanting those same people to learn to help themselves. I see ideas that would immediately relieve suffering, but that would cause serious problems down the road. Case in point: welfare.

If we give people food, money, housing, and so forth, it can give them an opportunity to pull themselves together because they aren't totally caught up in wondering where their next meal is coming from or where they are going to live. However, too many people become dependent on welfare and come to expect these things to just be given to them. They aren't using the reprieve from suffering to improve their education and job skills and to look for jobs, or otherwise improve their lives and their prospects.

Immigration is this sort of problem, too. If we grant illegal immigrants all kinds of privileges and perks, we are rewarding their lawbreaking. National security issues enter into this situation also, something we can't ignore in this day and age. Yet most of us do feel compassion for the poor who want to come to America.

Environmental concerns can cause problems, too. If we rush into solutions that appear to solve the problem in the short term, we may seriously cripple our economy and cause much greater problems in the long run. Yet we do need to be good stewards of this earth.

War also brings into play many considerations and, in the heat of the moment, it is hard to think of long term consequences. Yet we must. Peace--real peace--cannot be bought with the price of genocide and oppression.

Throw into this mix trying to live as God and Jesus Christ would have us to live. We study the scriptures and pray and seek the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Somehow, though, different people come up with different answers as to what is right. My own take on the matter is that while we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, this does not mean giving in to whatever our neighbor wants or allowing our neighbor to lead us astray. There are lines that must be drawn. Waste is waste. Sin is sin. Foolishness is foolishness. These things ought not to be encouraged.

Charity isn't giving things away indiscriminately, but is the judicious use of reasonable help coupled with teaching the recipient how to do better in living their lives. Some would say that it is not our place to tell others how to live. To a point, this is true--each has his own agency and has to make his own decisions. However, you would not buy alcohol for an alcoholic, would you? There are some things that are just wrong and need to not be supported. Truth is not relative. Morality is not relative. And the greatest act of charity that we can perform is to help someone see a better way to live. We cannot force them to choose that way, but we can at least let them know it is there and that they do have a choice.

I also think that in choosing our viewpoints on various topics, we need to be aware that there are those who advocate for one viewpoint or another who have their own agendas. They may be seeking power, fame, or fortune. Be aware of that possibility. It is possible to be led astray by a good speaker/writer. Take the time to do your own research. It seems, too, that it is easy to obsess over some perceived problem to the point where one sees examples of that problem everywhere, even though in reality, the so-called examples are nothing of the kind. We need to use our God-given intelligence, discernment, and judgement in making our decisions about what to believe and what causes to support or disavow.

Ah, judgement. The new bad word. The truth is, though, that we have to use judgement constantly to make decisions. It is true that we should treat people kindly and tactfully, but it is not true that we cannot learn from the mistakes we see others make, and it is not true that we have to embrace wrong things just so we won't hurt someone's feelings. I certainly wouldn't recommend going around criticizing people or being rude, but we do not have to follow their leads.

It is not easy to do the right thing in all situations and to choose the right viewpoints to support, but we have to try. It is how we grow and learn and become better tomorrow than we are today. If we can learn to look down the road and see the consequences of this or that choice, we will be in a better position to make right decisions that won't cause irreparable harm.

Love thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment, but even before that one is to love God with all thy heart, might, mind, and strength. To me, this means to not only love God, but to follow His ways in all things, and to learn what His ways truly are, not just what we want them to be.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous Barb said...

Some good thoughts as usual, Mary. I do feel that people can become very dependent if they are given welfare and not a means to become more self-sufficient. I worked with a woman who said that we should "take all that the governemnt can give us." I wondered if she comprehended that the government is the person to the left of her and the right of her who is paying taxes. Those politicians in office are not personally giving her their personal money nor is there this private sector that earns money that has a huge bank account called "Government." My mom was telling me yesterday about a young man who I want to say was in Junior High. He had a very high IQ. They asked him what he saw himself as being in say four years and his answer was in prision. No thoughts of college or future goals. She was speaking in regards to youths in gangs and I think he may have been in one. They said the youth that they had experience with in gangs had no desires to see the ocean or such longings. It is such a waste and so sad. There is a time and place when it is right to help people. And there are people who are not able to work as well. It is sad when welfare is the way of life for people who are able. Roper who you may know from a forum had a blog post about a girl in his class whose goal it was to grow up and have the government take care of her babies. He tried so much to reach her in some way, but that was the message that she got in her home. She may not have been real smart as she was failing school. But maybe that was due to bad home environment and no support for academics. I think she was in about the fourth grade. Regardless of her academic abilities, a child should be able to have some dreams of a future that does not involve government support. She should think of having a husband to support their family and not the government. It is so backwards.

5:57 AM  
Anonymous Naiah said...

Good thinking.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Thanks, Barb and Naiah! Sometimes it's so hard to know what is right and how the best way to help would be. That is sad, Barb, to think of kids with no dreams and no ambitions. It seems to me that a lot of the best help would be local--for those who actually know the ones needing help and who can see what kind of help they really need, to be the helpers. Whether it's material help or counseling or friendship and encouragement, if you are there in person, it looks like that would be the best help of all, rather than some huge bureaucratic organization. The latter can really help in things like natural disasters, though, and major things like that.

5:10 PM  
Blogger s'mee said...

I grew up in a home with alcohol, abuse, neglect, several divorces, and many other social ills.

All of my siblings and I grew up, were sealed in the temple and have gone on to have "Successful American Dream" lives. How? Determination to change our stars and someone who believed in us.

It was a struggle for all of us to change generational habits and roles, but each of us decided we wanted better.

When it comes to welfare and handouts I try to use the scriptures as my guide, particularly the ones which make it clear we are all beggars in Christ.

We are the hands of God. We are the mouth of Christ. If we do not help these people in need who will? We should never allow the author of doubt and fear to keep us from helping another human being.

People helped me through their encouragement and emotional support, sometimes all someone really needs is confidence that they can achieve beyond their circumstance.

There are so many ways to give and not enable. And really, shouldn't we be diligent in finding ways to lift one another without regard to where they have come from?

8:58 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

s'mee, thank you so much for sharing your insights. You make excellent points. I often think of King Benjamin's speech and his point about us being beggars in Christ and not turning away a beggar just because--in our view--the beggar brought his troubles on himself. I like what you said, too, about there being ways to give and not enable. I guess that's what I worry about--enabling someone to continue their bad choices. But as your own story illustrates, help can turn someone's life around. So often, we aren't in a position to really know the whole story and it would be better to err in the direction of charity rather than withholding help because of our possibly mistaken view of the situation.

I really appreciate your thoughts on this!

1:23 AM  
Blogger Tigersue said...

Thanks for your thoughts. As a daughter of an imigrant, and a sister of others, this issue is one that gets me all the time. It was not easy for my father to get here, and he was married to a citizen, and I was born here on a vaction. Still he did what he had to do, legally! I don't have a great deal of empathy for illegal alliens, but I can be compassionate. There is a big difference. My sister says that the church has got to start doing something, because this blind eye to ignoring the blatent disregard for the laws of the country they reside in is not tolerable. It is wrong, and something needs to be done to stop this endless cycle.

I have nominated you for the Nice Matters award. Check out my blog.

7:02 AM  
Blogger T. F. Stern said...

Mary,

I see where Tigersue thinks pretty highly of you too.

I also nominated you for the Nice Matters Award. Come visit my site and see how that came about.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Mary A said...

Tigersue, thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts on immigration. It doesn't seem to me that doing something illegal would make for a very good life, however well-intentioned the idea of coming to a new country to make a better life for one's family. Your father did the right thing and you can be proud of him.

Tigersue & T.F., thanks for the "Nice Matters" nomination! That was very thoughtful and gave me a lift! I'll have to give some thought as to who all I can nominate.

I hope you are both feeling much better each day.

4:47 PM  

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