Years ago, while working at a software consulting firm, I had an experience that taught me a valuable lesson. I was juggling multiple projects, working long hours, and I began feeling underappreciated. I needed to find a new job and began applying to other organizations.
On one project, I was having trouble keeping up, as my schedule simply would not accommodate the client’s timeline. I explained to the client what my schedule was and what I felt I could get done; unfortunately, my manager was not happy.
My manager felt I had been too honest and had upset the client. I was very frustrated and proceeded to tell him how I felt about his management style and approach to clients. I wrote a long email explaining myself and let him know I would be gone within a few weeks—in essence, have a nice life, I’m done with you, see you later.
I felt bad as soon as I clicked the send button, and I left for a long walk. In the past, I had been good about exercising self-restraint, but this time I said exactly what I felt, exactly when I felt it. And it felt terrible. Even if I had been right, how I went about expressing my frustration was not how I would want to be remembered and thought of.
My life has been greatly blessed—much more so by what I haven’t said than what I have said. In the book of James, we are taught that by governing our tongue we can gain perfection. James 3:2 reads, “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.”
Watching what I say and how I say it can be incredibly challenging. I face frustrations and times when I feel I am not appreciated or understood or when I am hurt by what another has said or done.
While serving in Church leadership callings, I haven’t been perfect. But I have learned that if I am patient and seek to understand other people, I often find I had the wrong perception of them or their situation.
I have often found that, perhaps contrary to my initial impression, many individuals in the ward have been ministering to others, looking out for one another, and serving the Lord to the best of their ability. I am so grateful for all of the thoughts and feelings I didn’t share, for holding my tongue and first seeking to understand rather than criticizing or condemning.
A good example in the scriptures can be found in Pahoran, the Nephite chief judge who served during the days of Captain Moroni. Pahoran was striving to do his duty and defend the Nephites’ laws, but within a few short years, trouble began unfolding with those who opposed him. Captain Moroni, who had been waging war to protect the Nephites’ rights and liberties, became very upset at Pahoran for what he perceived as neglect and indifference regarding their freedom.
Moroni, a righteous leader, accused Pahoran of neglecting their armies and transgressing the commandments of God, and he threatened to come against him with his armies. Wow. Where would you go from there with someone, right? That would have probably been the end of a typical relationship—maybe they shouldn’t be assigned together as ministering companions.
Pahoran responded in such an amazing way; he responded with gratitude. He tells Moroni that he did “rejoice in the greatness of [Moroni’s] heart” (Alma 61:9) and refers to him as “my beloved brother” (Alma 61:14).
Have you ever seen someone in a Church leadership position vent frustration? Does it take away from their many past efforts in their calling, their goodness, their ability to continue to serve us? Only if we let it. None of us are perfect. Consider Captain Moroni—a wonderful leader who was having a really bad day and just didn’t have enough information on a situation.
Now, I try to remember to find ways to serve others in a more Christlike manner by truly looking at everyone from the eternal perspective found within the plan of salvation. What if we could truly view those we serve with as literal brothers and sisters? Would we respond differently at times in our communications? I remind myself that Christ taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). We are all children of God, brothers and sisters, striving to be one in Christ.
A remarkable scripture that helps me when I am experiencing the humanity of my fellow Church members is Abraham 3:25, which reads, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.”
What if one of those “all things” the Lord asks of us is to stay faithful and obedient—even when imperfect people who are just like us are in teaching and leadership positions over us? How incredible it must make Heavenly Father feel to know that even when imperfect persons were placed in positions of authority over us, we were not only still faithful, but we also reached out to them and said, “I rejoice in the greatness of your heart, my beloved brother.”
My manager and I were able to have a heart-to-heart to discuss what had happened and the broader situation facing our team and this specific client relationship. We continued working together after this experience for many years, and I benefited greatly from his insights and experience.
I pray that as we serve and work together with others, often from different backgrounds and with different life stories, we will find ways to rejoice in their efforts. I hope we can find more common ground and ways to lift each other. We need more patient dialog and cooperation if we are to be instruments in helping Heavenly Father succeed in his mission “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Heavenly Father cuts us a lot of breaks, so I try to show a bit more kindness and appreciation to everyone, and as I do, I know I can truly become a peacemaker and a greater instrument in the Lord’s hands.