In prison, we did group counseling with 10 men in a group. Every now and then, when it was time for a counseling session to begin, there would only be nine men attending. The men told me that “Spider” (his prison nickname) was in the hole (solitary confinement). He had gotten into a fistfight and both he and the other guy went into solitary confinement. This was a medium security prison, so there were no knifings or risk of death. A fistfight was about as serious as it ever got. And the fights typically lasted a very short time before the prison guards quickly arrived and broke it up.

After a week’s confinement, Spider returned to group counseling. Of course, we discussed what happened. The purpose of this specific group therapy was to learn how we may have damaged relationships and how to create and maintain healthy, emotionally connected relationships.

We asked Spider what happened. “This guy was annoying me; he disrespected me.” “It’s been going on a long time and I had to end it. So I did a ‘laying on of hands.’ ” [Note: Spider had previously said he’s a Christian.]

Our questions: “How many times had he annoyed or offended you? Seventy times seven plus one? 491 times? And who draws the line or creates the definition of respect? Who put you in charge of defining respect? What would the other guy say? What would be his definition?”

For all of us, for you and for me, how many times have we been annoyed? Or felt offended? Or felt disrespected? Or crossed that line of disrespect? What would it be like if we erased that line? What would it be like if we took the time to build bridges of understanding, compassion, empathy, and love? How would that feel? What if we were seeking a peaceful solution instead of creating contention and conflict? [It is important to note that if those offenses or disrespect include verbal, mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, then there needs to be healthy boundaries which may include no further contact.]

In our April 2023 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson taught that “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.” “The Savior’s … true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire—no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.” They do not draw lines.

President Nelson continues: “If you are serious about helping to gather Israel and about building relationships that will last throughout the eternities, now is the time to lay aside bitterness. Now is the time to cease insisting that it is your way or no way. Now is the time to stop doing things that make others walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting you. Now is the time to bury your weapons of war. If your verbal arsenal is filled with insults and accusations, now is the time to put them away.”

President Nelson promises that “You will arise as a spiritually strong man or woman of Christ… (and) As you demonstrate the charity that true followers of Jesus Christ manifest, the Lord will magnify your efforts beyond your loftiest imagination.”

May we follow our beloved prophet’s counsel to “… interact with others in a higher and holier way,” and help others “to experience the pure love of Jesus Christ reflected in your words and actions.”

May the Lord continue to bless each of us to improve and strengthen our relationships as we serve together in the gathering of Israel and as we prepare for the Second Coming of our Savior!

[Note: The ideas and suggestions contained in these articles are tools and suggestions for self-care, but they are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified mental health professional. In addition, if you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek medical or mental health assistance immediately.  In the U.S., call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat at Services are free and confidential.]