Every time I have served in Primary I have enjoyed singing the song, “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus.” Like the primary children, I am “trying to love as he does, in all that I do and say.” Over the years my attempts to love have seemed feeble compared to Christ’s infinite capacity to love. In pondering my weakness, I’ve concluded I’ll never be able to love like Jesus. Of the many attributes Jesus Christ has that mortals do not have, one quality in particular makes him perfect at loving. Jesus Christ knows each one of us intimately.
He knows everything we have been through in life and how it affected us.
He knows our biology, our physical make up and any anomalies we may have in our brain chemistry.
He knows our ancestry, our family history, all the character traits we inherited.
He knows more about us than we know about ourselves. And he is doubtless more charitable with us than we are with ourselves.
If we could know one another inside and out, as the Savior does, I imagine we would be far more gentle and loving, in deed and thought, just as Jesus taught.
Understanding One Another
As a counselor, one of the essential tools in our toolbox is empathy. Counselors must work exceptionally hard to imagine what their clients are feeling. In graduate school in order to learn how to counsel, we used to practice counseling skills on our fellow students. One day I was counseling a woman who had found a snake in her home and days later she was still terrified. My first instinct was to share my own feelings about snakes. I had grown up with five brothers who kept snakes as pets. I had seen their snakes lay eggs and cute little baby snakes hatch from those eggs. I watched the snakes grow and let them wrap around my wrists. One of my brothers kept a boa large enough to eat rabbits. I tried to convince my classmate there was no reason to be afraid of a harmless corn snake but she stared at me with blank eyes and clammed up. It was clear I had no clue how she felt.
After twenty years of counseling I wouldn’t make this basic mistake, but twenty years have also taught me how difficult it is to truly know someone, what makes them tick, why they behave and feel as they do.
Christ, on the other hand, knows everything about us. Can you imagine encountering a complete stranger, as he did the woman of Samaria, and being able to tell her all things that ever she did?” How could a mortal even guess that the woman at the well had had five husbands and “he whom thou now has is not thy husband.”
As hard as it is to truly know another human being we still presume to guess at another’s motives. We jump to conclusions and judge their actions. We may exclude them or punish them or avoid them based on our judgements. Inevitably our judgements are inaccurate because we simply cannot know everything there is to know about another human being.
We don’t know everything they have been through in life and how it affected them.
We don’t know their biology, physical make up or any anomalies they may have in our brain chemistry.
We don’t know their ancestry, our family history, all the character traits they inherited.
The Perfect Judge
Our Savior is in a unique position that we do not share. He knows what makes us tick. He knows why we behave the way we do. Knowing us inside and out makes Christ the perfect judge. Because we do not know one another nearly as well as the Savior, we are in no position to judge. We may be like the Savior in many ways, but in his ability to judge we are nothing like him. He is the only one who can judge fairly because he is the only one who has all the evidence in the case. He is the only one with all the facts. Any attempts we make to judge one another are made with blinders on. We have no business even attempting to judge with so little information at our disposal.
When my husband was serving as bishop a homeless couple came into his office one Sunday and presented their crisis. Their needs were dire and immediate. Although we had food in our own pantry to give this couple, we didn’t have diapers in our home, so my husband went to the store on a Sunday and purchased a small box of Pampers for this homeless couple. Somebody in the ward saw the bishop in Publix on a Sunday and started murmuring. “He should have called somebody in the ward who had a baby,” the judgement began, and continued on and on. Nobody had all the facts, and could never know why the bishop made the decision he made. The fairest response would be to throw up one’s arms and admit, “I have no idea.” When the Relief Society President misses church four weeks in a row, our safest response is to throw up our arms and exclaim, “I have no idea what’s going on.”
Once we recognize that we are nothing like Jesus in our ability to judge we may discover that we can be more like Jesus in our ability to love. This occurs when we admit what we don’t know, accept that The Savior does know, and then trust Him to judge both others, and us perfectly. This should be a huge relief! We are not being asked to do what we are totally unequipped to do. We get to leave the judgments to the perfect judge, and concentrate solely on our ability to love.
JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida and the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance available at www.unsteadydating.com