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Dark Glass, Energy of Heart

By Emily Milner

The little boy who sits next to my first grader daughter has been bugging her. “He calls me a baby,” she said. “He says I’m just a little cry-baby. In the lunch line, every day.”

“People who make fun of other people are usually insecure themselves,” I said. A little too intensely, and it came off as cheap psychology, but I meant it. “We should probably feel sorry for him because he doesn’t know how to be kind.”

She nodded a little. Then a few days later she said “That boy is calling me baby again.”

“He’s probably insecure,” I said.

“No, he’s not,” she answered. “I know because I asked him if he was, and he said no.”

I laughed. But she wasn’t supposed to ask him. She was supposed to… I don’t know what. Take my advice and see the kid more clearly, understand where he’s coming from, so that she wouldn’t be bugged by him anymore. She’s only six, and that’s a tall order for six.

Tall order for thirty-three as well. I recently came into contact with someone who bugged me, one of those mean girls from junior high. “Bugged” is too mild. “Tortured” is perhaps too strong, but it’s somewhere in the middle there. I can’t think of her without thinking of the day I glanced at her and her friend as they were calling to me. They had their faced pressed up against the glass of the school’s front windows, distorted and scorning, a follow-up to the constant trash talk of P.E. class. That sounds so mild, writing it out like that. I should have let it roll off my back. People in junior high have suffered much worse. And you know, I was the classic nerd, Hermione Granger on steroids, so I suppose it was to be expected. That’s the day I remember most, but there were others. They all rolled together after a while.

One of my deepest fears for my children is that they will turn into me. I am scared that they will be teased, scared they will be hurt. And of course they will; no one gets through life without a little of that. But what I fear more is that they will respond to the inevitable pain in the way I did: after so much hurt, I expected the worst from people. I developed a giant chip on my shoulder, and for years I did not trust that anyone could know me, really know me, and also like me.

For me, the most useful definition of the word charity is not “the pure love of Christ,” though I know it is that. What helps me to understand charity the most is thinking of charity as perfect clear-sightedness. By this I mean that when I have charity, I see others, and myself, with the same vision that God has. When God looked at me and the curt, standoffish manners I had in high school, He saw me walking home from junior high trying to hold in the tears until I made it to my bedroom. He saw me building walls so that no one could be let in enough to hurt me. He knew where I was coming from. And when God looks at those girls, what did He see? What was going on in their lives, that they would feel like they needed to be mean girls? I don’t know.

But I know this: When we have charity, we no longer see through a glass darkly, but face to face. The clear-sightedness of charity, that ability to really see everyone as God sees them, is a promise that begins in this life and continues for eternity. I find my vision clouding, but I cling to the promise of clear-sightedness found in the scriptures, and to the clarity I find in the temple. And I pray, with all the energy of my heart, for the gift of clear-sighted charity. For me, and for my tender children, who have not yet been wounded. Not yet.

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

17 thoughts on “Dark Glass, Energy of Heart”

  1. Wow. I have to say that I have been there, and I can relate. I'm not sure what makes people "be mean"; low blood suger, tortured past, bad day, genetics…? It's a mystery.

    I had a recent experience that helped me with this. My child was getting baptized and I was on the phone inviting family members. Well, one family member said they wouldn't come to the lunch after wards if a certain other family member came. And I knew that if the one threatening not to come didn't come that a whole branch of the family wouldn't come either so as to be supportive to them–which would basically mean no lunch. But I didn't feel good about not inviting the other party. I mean, I wasn't the one mad at them. But I was closer to the ultimatum giver…

    I talked through all sorts of solutions with them–have 2 separate lunches at different times, not have a lunch, tell the person other person that if they came the other wouldn't. I cried, I plead with the ultimatum giver. It wasn't fair that my child's baptism was going to be ruined because of a family squabble.

    Then I got on my knees and prayed. And the Lord took my mind to a certain part of the temple ceremony. The part where we are asked to examine our feelings toward others. And it dawned on me that the Spirit can ONLY be restrained if WE have bad feelings toward someone else ("I the Lord will forgive who I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men"). There really is nothing we can do to control someone's bad feelings toward us. What I mean is–their bad feelings do not have the power to distance us from the Lord. Only the bad feelings in our own heart can do that.

    The Spirit has always been the buffer, the bubble, the wall between me and the ingestion of poisonous bad feelings others are harpooning at me. When I have the Spirit, I feel like Samuel the Lamanite on the wall and none of the arrows hit their mark. They don't even come close, and in a minute or two they are completely forgotten.

    I got off my knees at peace. I decided to invite everyone and let the chips fall where they may. Not everyone came to the lunch, but it went beautifully anyway.

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  2. Ah, charity as a result of clear-sightedness. Now THAT makes sense. I also think it's important to realize that we only see others more clearly as we see ourselves honestly as well. Being self-aware is a real pathway to empathy, IMO. It's at that point when, if we let God into the picture, we learn charity by adding a Godly point of view to our earthly one.

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  3. If I had to pick verses of scripture that are my favorite it might be these.

    Moroni 7: 47-48

    "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.

    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."

    I think Charity possessed is to see as Christ sees, feel as Christ feels (in a small measure), and then do as Christ would do.

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  4. Thank you for the beautiful insights, Emily. I'm going to have to listen for the blessing of clear-sightedness–I haven't noticed it before.

    One of my kids is also struggling. It's one of the hardest things to watch.

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  5. I love this. Thinking of the "pure love of Christ" as having the pure vision of Christ. Because what better way to show love and be loved than to really see and be seen?

    Beautiful writing, Emily. Thank you for sharing it.

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  6. One of my best friends always says that there are two types of people in the world, people she loves and people she doesn't understand. I think clear-sightedness moves individuals from the second category to the first. And sometimes, when after all we can do, a person is still un-understandable (is that a word?), it's comforting to know that the Lord understands him or her.

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  7. I still kind of wish I had punched one of those mean girls in the face. I would look back fondly on that. haha. I suppose I'm not where "you're at".

    Hopefully, though, when my daughters encounter those unhappy little jerks my husband and I will have continued to build a close and supportive relationship with our children. Parents who don't champion their children (out of choice or ignorance) can be the difference between achievement and happiness or misery and failure.

    My younger sister and I both had a rough time in elem/jrHigh. My parents sometime mention that they should have done more at that time.

    They're right. They should have. I don't want to feel that way in 20 years.

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  8. Dear young mothers,
    There is no truth to the rumor that Emily and I have accepted kickbacks from homeschooling special interest groups. It is just a coincidence that I wrote about scary teachers and she wrote about scary students within a 48 hour time span.

    Actually, Emily, your post made me want to weep because I could connect with it on so many levels. I could remember childhood cruelty and I could remember having those same fears for my children. I loved the little vignette about your daughter.

    There are two times when I often find myself praying that I will be able to see someone as God sees them. I pray for that occasionally during testimony meeting in my ward. I also pray for that with my adult children because I get impatient with their spiritual progression and want them to see things like I see them at the age of fifty. The irony of my impatience is that they are light years ahead of where I was at their age. The most cool thing about praying to see your children as God sees them is that the answer may involve seeing who they were in their first estate. That knowledge has brought me great peace…

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  9. Emily, I loved the writing in this post. My heart aches for the junior high you. I wish I knew why children/teenagers can be so cruel, but I love your suggestion to see others with clear-sightedness—even the mean girls and the bullies. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece with us.

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  10. Thanks for the comments/sympathy, all. Michelle, I love the idea of the Spirit as a Samuel the Lamanite-style buffer. It is so true! When I have that kind of Spirit, I am not bugged by anything. Mara, that's totally true–in junior high, I wasn't self-aware at all, and I do think there's a correspondence between awareness of self (in a non-narcissistic way) and awareness of others.

    Ah, Dovie, you are right–charity is not just the seeing, it's also the doing and the feeling. But for me, seeing is the first step.

    ErinAnn, I'm not really in that place either. I wish I were. Writing this has helped me with it.

    Kathryn, I pray to see my kids as they really are, whenever i remember, because so often I am blinded by the socks left all over the floor, if you know what I mean.

    Thanks, everyone.

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  11. Having survived a similar high school life to yours, Emily, I know the possible situation for my kids. Which in someways is heartbreaking, but I try to remember that I have been through it so chances are I will be able to recognise, empathise and identify with what they (may) go through.

    I hope and pray that my (awful) memories will help me be more compassionate and understanding – charitable – to my sons as they navigate school, and be to them the support I wish I had had. If only I could have the clear seeing charity as permanent lenses…

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  12. Growing up is hard, but to be honest I find it hard to be a grown up too. As an adult we are expected to handle things better. My husband requested me to be more tolerant of his timekeeping last week, and often asks me to calm down. I know I need to work harder at my dealings with people. We rarely know the full situation or people's backgrounds, the behaviour that we see is jsut a small part of their life. I would love people to have more empathy for me when things go wrong, or even I act/speak and unknowingly hurt someone. This requires me to be working on it too. To see others as Christ sees them, to try to see the bigger picture. Recently I decided to fast every Sunday to try to improve some of my relationships, it is a little thing but one I hope will reap rewards in the long run.

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