Doctrine: Charity does not have to be an attribute shrouded in scriptural generalities. By breaking it into smaller qualities and attributes it becomes tangible—doable. If tackled and understood one-quality-at-a-time, it can be achieved. And, if possessed of it at the last day we will be what God sent us here to become—for God is charity (i.e. LOVE).
Continued from “True Love and How to Get It: PART ONE”
Thinketh no evil
Charity “thinketh no evil.” However, the term evil is too generalized for us to correctly interpret what it means to think evil. We all have different ideas on what evil is. So, let’s define it.
Evil = profoundly immoral (or morally bad), wicked, malevolent, depraved (perverted), criminal, etc.
I don’t think a lot people dwell on morally bad, wicked, malevolent, depraved, or criminal thoughts. And, whether or not we have such thoughts briefly (or are tempted to think of them based on a response to our feelings and environment) is not, in my opinion what it means to “think evil.” So, what might it mean to think evil?
Just as our ability to take note of the fact that a woman or man is attractive is not evil; to be aware of evil, or to be able to notice it mentally, does not make us an “evil thinker.”
However, while it is ok to notice a woman or man is attractive, to continue to appraise them and purposefully entertain sexual thoughts about them is lust, and by the law of Christ: adultery in our heart. Lust and adultery in our hearts and minds is certainly evil thinking.
Thinking evil = to desire to and to purposefully hold onto and entertain morally bad, wicked, malevolent, depraved (i.e. perverted), or criminal thoughts.
Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that “as a man thinketh so is he.” But again, we’ve all had plenty of evil thoughts cross our minds momentarily and we still seem to be basically okay. So, what I believe Solomon is trying to say is: the thoughts we purposefully choose to engender and entertain are those that direct our ultimate desires and actions, and by consequence those that slowly mold us into who we are.
So, how do we avoid thinking evil?
Well, I could offer a lot of suggestions here, but ultimately, first we must not desire evil. But not desiring evil is not a good enough solution. We must also replace evil desires with the desire to be selfless. For all evil thinking is centered in selfishness. We must want to remove selfishness and replace it with selflessness (See section on Selflessness in the previous blog post True Love and How to Get It: PART ONE).
Those who engender evil thoughts do so because they are afraid that they will miss out on gratification, justice, love, peace, and other forms of fulfillment. They selfishly entertain evil thoughts in their minds (and often ultimately act on them) to “get the feelings” they desire, and feel destitute or robbed of.
We entertain thoughts about immorality with pornographic pictures or with the last attractive man or woman we saw in an effort to satiate our selfish desire for the euphoria for sexual fulfillment. We may justify our fantasizing or eventual physical fornication or adultery as a way to selfishly compensate for emotional, psychological, or spiritual issues/fulfillment that we have not correctly dealt with.
We entertain thoughts about physical abuse, winning arguments, seeing people suffer for their actions, sexual abuse, and other forms of dominance, revenge, and control. We justify these thoughts (and often eventual actions) by the selfish needs we have to conquer pain, to be right, to avoid perceived embarrassments, to enact our version of justice, to feel loved, etc.
Now, though our pains and struggles may be real and valid, their validity does not justify selfishly exploiting others (even if only in our minds) to satiate our needs.
So, the goal is to identify and eliminate “evil thinking?”
We can identify evil thoughts easily enough if we catch ourselves turning other people into “objects to alleviate OUR issues.” This is the root of selfishness: using others as objects to attain our own ends. Selfishness is the true antithesis of charity.
Those who murder, plunder, abuse, violate, and exercise unrighteous dominion, etc., do so to alleviate their own issues and fulfill their personal passions, hungers, or wants. This objectification is necessary to selfishness because it is the only way to justify their actions. If they allow themselves to see others as sons and daughters of God, as potential deities, as people with families, talents, hurts, and emotions; then they cannot in good conscience assault them. It’s much easier to wrong an object, or non-entity, for our own selfish needs than a real, living, breathing Child of God.
Now, even if we aren’t prone to objectifying others very often, let me also suggest that we can objectify ourselves. Many people turn themselves into objects (or lesser beings, or animals, etc.) in order to justify selfish actions and sins against their own bodies and spirits. Sometimes psychological issues (undealt with) cause these self-objectifications. Sometimes abuse by others causes self-objectification. But, the sooner we recognize that we are “thinking evil” (whether intentionally or unintentionally), the sooner we can repent and change.
All of us have, at one time or another, justified sinful actions and thoughts against our own bodies and spirits by ignoring who we truly are. We have starved ourselves, dressed and acted immodestly, eaten unhealthy, attempted suicide, used habit-forming substances, committed unchaste acts, beaten ourselves up verbally or mentally, etc. by first turning ourselves into an object whose worth and purpose can be easily debated.
So, it’s important to note that objectification takes place anytime we remove our primary identity and worth as a child of God (or other’s primary identity and worth)—for whom Christ, the Lord, gave His immortal life willingly—which renders us priceless and grants us nearly unlimited potential. If we do not truly believe and value ourselves, or others, by our true identity (children of God), then all other forms of identification and self-value systems can easily turn us (or them) into objects of evil thinking.
So, two possible ways to overcome and avoid evil thinking:
- Desire to be selfless, which requires…(see True Love and How to Get It: PART ONE)
- Do not allow yourself to objectify yourselves and others, i.e. always see yourself and others primarily as children of God.
Rejoicing in goodness and not enticed by iniquity
To rejoice is to feel great joy and delight. Note: We’re not talking about excitement and temporary euphoria here. Rejoicing is deep, pure, and consistent even during sorrow and difficulty. Rejoicing is not a cursory feeling, but a condition of the heart.
Therefore, to rejoice in goodness is to feel great joy and delight when we experience and witness goodness. Also, it is important to understand that this type of innate rejoicing in goodness is a critical precursor to get to a point where iniquity is no longer enticing.
Addiction recovery programs often call doing good but not desiring good White Knuckling. This means people go through the motions of good, but they still desire the evil addiction/action in their hearts. Scripturally, White Knuckling is preceded by “worldly sorrow” (2 Cor. 710). Therefore, it is only a matter of time before White Knucklers return to the addiction/action because they still deeply desire it. Therefore, because they still desire the addiction, and mourn its absence in their lives, and have only quit because they’ve been—in a sense—caught, they will eventually lose their White Knuckle grip on their attempt at righteousness, fall into a strain of “evil thinking” and then soon find themselves again deeply submerged in their addiction.
We have all been White Knucklers at times because we have not yet learned to rejoice in goodness.
But, let’s face reality. Deep down, we all have a love hate relationship with sin. It’s universal. And, we each exhibit this love-hate relationship differently.
Many sins seem not so bad and so we like to hold on to them. We rejoice in our relationship with these lesser sins. We enjoy them. Sins that seem to be worse sins we don’t particularly rejoice in, but sometimes neither do we hate them. We try to avoid these worse sins because of the warnings of others, but when the temptation to engage in them comes knocking at our door, we find that they are not nearly as abhorrent to us as they should be. Finally, there are a few sins we all love to hate. They are not enticing. They are loathsome. But, they are…too few.
We all hate murder. We all hate rape. We all hate extortion and blackmail. We hate physical, verbal, and sexual child abuse. But, the question is, why do we hate these sins so easily? The answer: because these horrific sins create an immediate host of victims. Their consequences are immediate, widespread, ugly, impossible to bypass, and they injure free will in the most horrific ways. They are, in effect, sins that it is almost impossible for anyone to make palatable to even the basest human. We can’t dress these sins up and make them look enticing. Atheists and the God-fearing alike can agree that the actions that fall in this group are wrong.
So, why don’t we hate all sin the way we hate these gross crimes against humanity? Why don’t we hate even the little sins and the worse sins with the same vehemence?
We don’t hate lesser sins as much because of the very reasons we find it easy hate the horrible sins. The consequences of smaller and less worse sins are rarely immediate and often delayed in visibility and scope. In lesser sins the consequences don’t seem to extend as far in their negative reach. Lesser sins, and even worse sins, can be made to look okay. We sometimes stupidly think there are no consequences, and that free will is somehow still preserved in ourselves and others for lesser sins. The lesser and worse sins can be made to look palatable to even the most righteous/good people.
In order to rejoice in goodness in the way Christ did, we must learn to find all iniquity unpalatable—even disgusting. And, the only way to do that is to take the time to see all sin, even the itty-bitty ones, in their horrible, ugly reality. We must force ourselves to stop and take the time to ponder the full scope of the sins we like, love, sort of dislike, and even those we hate to love—but we do. We must refuse to be distracted by their pretty costumes and lying faces.
Facts about ALL sin
- All sin has impact not only on ourselves but others. We cannot do anything sinful that will not injure or hurt those around us. This is because all sin affects the very core of who we are and how we act—even in small ways—and so even if others don’t know about them, they suffer by association with us.
- All sin is addictive to some extent—meaning that because it is the wrong way to get the good we desire, it can never permanently satisfy us. If we do not repent and seek the right way to get the good we desire, we will become powerless to the sins we embrace. We know we are addicted to a sin if we can’t imagine living without it and if it easily trumps better and best things we know we should be doing.
- All sin is offensive to God; from a tiny off-color joke to the heinous crimes we all can agree to hate together. No sin, no matter how small, is acceptable in His presence. If you find yourself justifying that one of your sins can remain a part of you and you get still become like God, then you have deceived yourself.
- We can’t take joy in any sin if we desire to have charity—the pure, true love of Christ. If you take joy in a sin, and you are aware of it, then if you seek charity you must be willing to desire charity more than you desire your guilty sins. Otherwise, you are damned (stopped in progress) in becoming godly until you can part with your sin.
- We can’t balance our righteousness against our sins and come out ahead. Grace is not earnable.
- We can’t barter with God about what’s right and wrong. We can’t make our sins okay by changing or altering commandments simply because we don’t understand them. His righteousness is the only true righteousness that exists.
Now, I could keep going here…but I think you get the point. So, we all need to stop dressing up and justifying our lesser and worse sins for ourselves. God can see through the costumes and disguises. It’s time we got up the bravery to see past them too.
It’s time we asked our sins to take off their costumes and masks. It’s time we asked ourselves how even the little sins are hurting ourselves and others. It’s time we asked ourselves what sins we have that could be truly satisfied (not only temporarily or partially) by seeking them in the proper way. It’s time we stopped judging offensiveness by our own standard and place our lives in front of God’s light so that He can reveal what in our lives offends Him. It’s time to find out why we still take joy in and desire certain sins. It’s time to find out if we are subconsciously balancing our good deeds with our bad ones. It’s time to find out if we are trying to get God to submit to our idea of good, instead of us submitting to His standard of good.
If we ask the Lord to do these things for us (as mentioned in the previous paragraph), to reveal to us the ugliness and consequences of our sins that we keep pretending don’t exist, ALL SIN will become clear to us. We will see the horrible troll behind the enchantment making it look like a prince or princess. We will become disgusted by it. We will no longer be enticed by iniquity.
Then, as we embrace the right way to pursue all the good we desire and we experience real fulfillment, peace, joy, and happiness, we will be able to then rejoice in goodness! We will see good not just as a list of unfair rules that we have to abide by. We will see good as glorious fulfilling light that leaves all of our past ideas about joy in the dust.
Willing to bear all things/Endures all things
Bear = carry, support, endure
Christ was willing to carry all our sins. Christ was willing to support the plan of His Father selflessly. Christ was willing to endure the pains, suffering, ridicule, and misery that was part of His role in God’s plan for all of us. He was willing to bear all things that we too could bear all things.
Though we don’t like it, and often fail to preach it, life is meant to be hard. Life is a proving process. Through time and a host of mortal conditions, we prove to ourselves what we love, what we want, and who we really are. This is the process of being tested. We are not tested so that God knows what we are made of. He already does. We are proved so that we know what we are made of.
Charity is willing to bear all things because charity understands that to become like God we must be willing to do as He did. Now, we will not ever have to perform the atonement as Christ did for us. But, each of us, according to our own capacity will be tried as Abraham (Doctrine and Covenants 101:4).
To be tried as Abraham doesn’t mean we will be asked to offer up one of our children as a sacrifice. Yet, God, the Father, had to do such that we might all have the opportunity for immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39; John 3:16; Doctrine and Covenants 34:3). Christ was not only His Only Begotten in the flesh, He was the firstborn of God’s spirit children, as well. To become godly we must submit to godly conditioning.
While the righteous are promised blessings because of their faithfulness, it doesn’t mean they are promised no problems, no sorrows, and no suffering. What problems and suffering they are spared is that which is consequential to their own righteous and wise actions. However, the conditions and weaknesses inherent in mortality are still part and parcel of the whole “becoming like God” gig. The righteous will still get sick, suffer persecution, lose jobs, struggle with personal issues and weaknesses, lose children, die, be injured by others actions, etc.
To be tried as Abraham means to be willing to submit to whatever God allows in our lives. It means to submit with patience. It means to submit with faith and hope. It means to submit without resentment and loss of trust in God. It means to take what comes and maintain trust and faith in the glorious future that awaits when this life passes.
All we are asked to pass through in this life is not insignificant or unimportant. In fact, it is quite the opposite. All that we suffer is significant and important inasmuch as it proves us. But, though “bearing and enduring all things” is extremely difficult and sometimes feels impossible to overcome, it will one day seem but a “small moment;” and then if “we endure/bear it well” God shall exalt us on high (Doctrine and Covenants 121:8).
Now, this is hard doctrine. It’s not the fluffy stuff we all would prefer to hear.
When I have struggled through life’s curve balls, debilitating mazes, unfair sufferings, and horrible experiences, I have often heard the older and wiser people around me say things like: this too shall pass, or time heals all wounds, etc. When they have said these things I have often felt angry and resentful. “Don’t they realize how NOT comforting that is!” I have thought.
But, then, despite the fact that I didn’t like their “hard doctrine,” time did pass, my troubles passed, time did help with healing, and in time all things turned out exactly as they said with their little sayings. So, I grumbled about their lack of sensitivity. But, what I was really grumbling about was that they told me the truth. I wanted fluffy promises even if they wouldn’t really come true. But, what they gave me was tough love, true love—the only kind that really helps.
It was after some of these struggles had passed that I realized that bearing, enduring, and submitting to all that comes our way in life is the only way to overcome. It is the only way to find peace. It’s to stand in front of the mountain wave and say, “Here I am. Let’s get this over with.” That’s what Christ did in Gethsemane.
Christ has already overcome all the problems we are presently in, facing, have faced, or will face. Because He has already “won” for us, our only job is to endure the problems and to do so with as much grace as we can. Whether our sufferings are caused by our own sins or the sins of others, we can still learn from the suffering. It can still add to our understanding and spiritual resources. There is nothing that we experience that isn’t for our profit and learning. That’s why our mission in gaining charity is to simply learn to bear with and endure ALL things.
Believing and Hopeful
Now, if you’re an optimist, you may expect this section to be about having a super-positive attitude. I’m sorry to disappoint. I do believe optimism—in general—is a good thing. But, charitable belief and hope is much deeper (in my opinion) and has to carry much more power than a simple sunny perspective on life.
First, belief and hope are precursors to faith. Faith is a principle of action and power. People often use faith and belief interchangeably, but in the true gospel sense, they are NOT the same.
Belief and hope are so intertwined it is hard to define them separately. In fact, most dictionary definitions of belief include the word hope. Hope is an expectation and so belief is often the extension of hope or the precursor to it. So, as you can see, I don’t think it’s possible to believe and not have hope except in very rare circumstances, none of which I can postulate.
So, when we believe in something and hope for it, it is then that we tend to exercise faith—meaning that we act with the expectation that what we believe and hope for will be the result of our action. Those that believe and hope but do not exercise faith are much more likely to fall into the category of disappointed hope. Belief and hope not accompanied by action/faith rarely produce results. So, charity must believe and hope all things in order to produce perfect faith.
However, most important in this concept of charitable belief and hope is that it has to be exercised toward something within our limited personal reach of agency. This is because belief and hope must be followed by faith/action. We can believe in others and have hope for them to varying degrees, but rarely are we capable of bringing something to pass on their behalf. This life, for the most part, rarely accepts vicarious offerings. We can rarely exert vicarious righteousness on another’s behalf. And, even if we are allowed to do some vicarious work (like saving ordinances, fasting, praying), the people for whom we offer the vicarious actions still must exercise their own agency to believe, hope, have faith, and to accept what we offer.
Our belief, hope, and faith is never wasted. But it’s reach is limited by the agency of others and God’s will. So, be optimistic—yes. But, it is important to note that charitable belief and hope are based in correct knowledge accompanied by eternal (not merely mortal) expectations. Charitable belief and hope know (and do not resent) that God’s will reigns, and that all His promises will be fulfilled in His own way, and in His own time. This kind of belief and hope leads to faith in what WILL come to pass—as it’s only a matter of how and when.
Closing remarks on Charity
This is PART TWO of my charity musings. In reality, I feel like a Kindergartener toying with Ph.D. level material. This blog is likely only the ABC’s and I’ve still got to get to the level of writing a thesis.
However, I do feel that what I’ve learned for myself is a big deal. I’ve never seen charity in this way; not easy, of course, but finally tangible, understandable, and possible. For the first time in my life I feel like I have the capability to actually try to get charity, or parts of it. It’s no longer an attribute shrouded in beautiful scriptural language.
Hopefully, I have made charity seem the same for each of you—that it’s something you can grab onto and try to get for yourselves.