A few weeks back, I had a visit with an old friend. Margot is 82 now, and over the years she’s garnered a depth of understanding that I’ve come to greatly admire. In her words I’ve often found pearls of wisdom that have application in my life, and lend me a different perspective.
Margot is an avid swimmer, and had gone that very morning to do her daily laps. In the pool this time, though, there was a man who wasn’t following the rules—instead of going up one row and down another, allowing other swimmers to use the different lanes, he would go up only one lane and then turn around a swim down it again. Over and over he repeated this, while my friend grumbled under her breath, “If he’d only do things right!”
Eventually, the man got out of the pool and toweled off. After he was dry, Margot watched with a flush of shame as he reached down, picked up a white cane, and carefully tapped his way back to the locker room—the cane doing the work his eyes could not.
“What I learned,” she shared, “Is that when I think I know what’s best for someone else is the exact moment I need to practice humility. Because the simple truth is, I don’t know anything about how another person should or should not choose what they do.”
And so it is with many of us. So many inside our Mormon faith are focused on how other people should behave—how they should dress, how they should spend their time, or who they should love. I’ve noticed this seems to be especially true for our straight allies inside the Church—so many feel compelled to warn them of the pitfalls of looking at their LGBT brothers and sisters as peers, and instead counsel them to view gay Mormons as struggling, afflicted, and as a group that is not really as worthy of all the blessings and rights their straight fellows have.
As a gay Mormon, I’ve gotten my share of unsolicited advice as well. But in the end, unsolicited advice is seldom well-received, and when we choose to offer it we almost always end up creating distance between ourselves and our fellows.
A better approach for me is to be on-guard whenever I hear that inner voice start a sentence with, “He needs to…” or “She should…” When those moments occur, I know I’ve lost my focus—and my humility.
I cannot pretend to know what’s best for someone else, even if I ardently disagree with their decisions. After all, how do I know there’s not a lesson hidden inside the decisions of another that they could learn no other way? I am no one’s Savior, and it is not my responsibility to stand in the way of the life lessons He has planned for my fellows.
What is my responsibility, however, is keeping the focus on me and allowing those around me to be exactly who they’re supposed to be. And when I get that right, it allows me the freedom to be a little more of my genuine self, as well. Then we’re all just a little bit better off.
I grow in my ability to relate to my human fellows when I allow them to be exactly who they are—and so will you. The greatest gift any of us can give to ourselves is our own attention, for only then can our Savior help shape us into the humans that He—and we—want to be.
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