I have learned the old cowboy saying is true: when you give a lesson in meanness to a critter or a person, don't be surprised if they learn their lesson. A number of years ago Sunrise Engineering was engaged to design and supervise construction of a hydroelectric project for a rural community. That project was a significant investment for the municipality which owned its own power system. Using quotes from suppliers and questionable judgment on my part, I designed the powerhouse with multiple turbines and generators to fit the water flow curve to produce more power. At the equipment-supply bid opening in a regular city council meeting, prices came in way over budget. This was really a big deal for those people. When asked, “What happened?” I frankly stated I had made a mistake in estimating and would redo the bid documents and rebid at my expense to put the project in budget. Criticism toward the engineer [me] flowed unrestricted.
One councilman, I will never forget, interrupted the others and said to me, “Wait a minute, are you saying you made a mistake?” I answered, “Yes, sir.” I was sure that I was not going to like what I would hear next. He then said, “That is the first time I have ever heard an engineer say he made a mistake. Engineers always blame the contractor or something other than accept responsibility themselves for things that go wrong. Thank you, I am impressed and want to continue working with you. I suggest we move on and let you do your job.” Needless to say, I was relieved. We completed a successful and well-designed project that was delivered on time and under budget and is producing revenues for that city today.
Although many lessons were taught such as telling the truth, taking responsibility for my actions, fairness, giving people the benefit of doubt, etc.; I learned something about criticism.
Early in his ministry Christ was invited to the house of a Pharisee named Simon for dinner. A woman from the city who was a sinner entered the house and knelt at Christ’s feet behind him and washed his feet with tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed his feet and anointed his feet with ointment. The record states:
39 Now when the Pharisee [Simon] which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. (Luke 7:39)
That was big-time criticism. Simon criticized the woman and more importantly the Savior which took the form of: “If you were a prophet you would have…” Christ’s gentle rebuke was loud and clear, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee…” Christ then taught the parable of the creditor who frankly forgave both debtors. Christ then told the woman, “Thy sins are forgiven thee… Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” (Luke 7: 47-50)
Criticism and its close equal gossip and carrying a grudge may be somewhat subtle to see for what they really are. They are the act of being unforgiving. How often do you say, “If you were a good Bishop or quorum leader or Relief Society President…,” or “If you were my friend…,” or “If you did your job as a District Leader should, you would…,” or in my case before the city council, “If you were a good engineer…” In every case, the Savior says in response to you, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee…”
The opposite of criticism, gossip and carrying a grudge is forgiveness. All of these attributes are habitual behavior and can be changed. Forgiveness is critical for your salvation. Consider the following statements:
1 … inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you. (DC 82:1)
8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (DC 64: 8-10)
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:5)
Here as well as many other places, the Lord has said he will freely forgive and He can heal you on condition that you forgive one another. You are commanded to forgive all men, He will forgive who he will.
An interesting example of the human frailty of criticism and the virtue of forgiveness is Captain Moroni and Pahoran. Captain Moroni is and should be everyone’s hero. He was an example of righteousness. His attributes included: strength, perfect understanding, he loved freedom, gratefulness, firm faith in Christ, deep commitment, etc. We read:
17 … if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men. (Alma 48: 11-17)
Yet with all his greatness, Alma 60 contains 36 verses of scathing criticism from Captain Moroni to Pahoran. In this instance, Pahoran forgave Captain Moroni before he even apologized.
9 And now, in your epistle you have censured me [Pahoran], but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. … (Alma 61:11)
In our church we must work together. We are all volunteers and we all have a job in the church. The church is somewhat like a business. Organizations and activities are set up and operated, people are called to run the organizations and do various jobs. Everyone is entitled to inspiration from the Lord to do their job properly and they feel they are inspired. Supervision is layered with various levels of people with assigned accountability over the same person. For example, a Sunday school teacher and father of a family has a Sunday school president, his Elders quorum president and the bishopric for guidance. We go to church on Sunday but unlike many other churches, we are also busy all week long with numerous church activities where we must interact and get along with each other. This setting is rich with opportunity to learn and grow but also to take offense, criticize, gossip and carry a grudge. You can become so busy establishing the gospel and its activities in your life that you forget to establish the gospel in your own heart. People say they forgive but still carry the grudge as evidenced by driving miles each Sunday to attend church in another ward. People say they forgive but still avoid interaction with certain others.
You have this time while you are on your mission to make a habit to forgive and avoid the habit of criticism, gossip and grudge carrying. Do not get yourself in a situation where the Lord says to you, “Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee…” President Robinson