[Alternate titles: Check Your [Spiritual] Privilege (except I hate that phrase), Comparisons Are Hell]
My wife is a beautiful singer. She doesn’t do it professionally, but she’s been in choral groups and I can’t wait to watch her sing to our baby girl next year. I, meanwhile, am not a strong singer. So sitting next to her in church, I naturally compare mine to hers to see if I’m hitting the notes right. But I can only hear hers amidst all the others in the congregation, so it’s not totally clear. But what I do make out convinces me I’m not always hitting the right note, and I sometimes feel a little ashamed.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were singing an opening hymn for our little FHE. Doing that with just the two of us is somewhat new to us so I wasn’t used to singing alone with her. But, wanting to fully commit to the FHE thing, I start to belt out the hymn with some confidence. We’re alone, anyway, right? And at first I listen to her and question my ability once more. Then I realize: she’s not singing the main part. She’s harmonizing. And I start to listen to my own voice and realize that I was actually hitting the notes correctly, and probably was in sacrament meeting more often than I thought.
Sing the music you’ve been given in the way you know how. God judges us according to that, not to how well others are performing. You never know if they’re reading music totally different than yours. And if the time they’re singing in is according to an entirely different clock, unique to their soul and the beating of their own spiritual heart.
Likewise, those struggling with addiction don’t need to be seen as something lesser, or even as something Other. Just knowing we’re being seen differently from our peers is enough to heap ever more punishment, ever more shame upon our own backs, a burden that actively keeps us from healing. So do not compare. Do not judge, others or yourself. It is too easy to do so, and too easy for the sinner to feel it. We are sons and daughters of God, and more often than not are aware of our sinful behavior and trying to do the right thing. And we already have so many other beautiful voices to compare our struggling vocal chords to. Please don’t add to it. Please don’t respond to our confession with shock and horror, even indirectly.
Remember the story of the handcart pioneers? The Willie and Martin ones, specifically. I have ancestors that came in the Willie company. One of them was just two years old, and yes, he survived it. Brigham Young found out about their imminent arrival on a Sunday, and at once he cancelled all that day’s meetings. He urged the saints to go out and prepare to receive the beleaguered pioneers with blankets and food and love. Never did he question their choices, nor did he instruct others to do anything other than rush to meet them with open arms and lift them up as if they had just been through hell.
Because they had. Some of us in our day have, too. And though it might have been avoidable with a better choice earlier on, if they are coming out the other side, it almost certainly means they’ve met God. They’ve become close with their Savior, perhaps closer than any other way would have allowed. That’s why He gives us weakness, after all: so we have cause to visit Him, to be healed by Him, and to be better than we could have ever been just being our own kind of good.
So these people, emerging from their personal hells, have most likely seen the Savior’s face in some way. Do not begrudge them that experience. Let them heal, and you’ll see they might be better than they could have ever been before. That dark song they may be singing may yet be part of the pattern God has laid out for their lives. Part of their development, necessary so they can learn what God wants them to learn. For if they are aware of their sin, and are making a sincere effort to change, God will lift them out of that prison at the right time in his plan, according to His own celestial clock.
He did for me. And next week I’m going to share with you that very story, a direct excerpt from my book.