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Who Is Influencing You?

We have really been going the rounds as a family.  Fighting, bickering, blaming, yelling, screaming, shouting (and that's just Mom!).  We've tried talking about the inappropriateness of the behavior, emphasizing positive qualities of our kids to their irritated siblings, and praying for guidance as to what to do.  We have made efforts to increase our family prayer and scripture study, relying on the promise that increasing our time in the scriptures would increase the Spirit in our home.  To be fair, those efforts have all but disappeared during the summer, but it was a serious concern for us even as we made diligent efforts.  The contention seemed to be ever-present, even when (even while!) we were regularly studying. But in talking to one of my daughters about this problem, I may have hit on an aspect of it that we haven't addressed before.

She was particularly upset with one of her sisters.  I asked her how she thought Heavenly Father felt about that sister.  What words would He use to describe her?  She replied with loving, kind, happy.  Is that how she felt about her sister?  NO!  Then I asked how Satan would describe her sister.  As she thought, I asked her another question: are your thoughts and feelings about your sister more like Heavenly Father's?  Or more like the adversary's?

God, being our Heavenly Father, knows us perfectly.  He has known us for far longer than we have lived here on Earth.  He knows our weaknesses, sure--and we all have them--but how do you think He really sees His children?  When introducing His perfect Son to those present at His baptism, to the Nephites, and to the boy Joseph Smith, He called Him Beloved.  I think that's how He sees all of us, too.

So if that is not how we see each other, then who has influence over us?  Prior to this discussion, we talked as a family about anger and how it can trap you (for a really good analogy of this, read the first part of chapter nine in Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls).  I think that for our family, our natural feelings of anger have made us susceptible to Satan's lies*--"That person is so lazy."  "He is so irritating!"  "She is so bossy."  "He hates me."  "She always...." "He never...." And the list goes on and on in a seemingly endless, negative cycle.


Once we recognize Satan's lies for what they are, we can dismiss them.  We will still have angry moments.  Those negative feelings are part of this mortal experience.  They can even be helpful tools in personal growth.  The problem comes when we accept them, when we choose to own them, and when we falsely identify a person with a character flaw that they may have, but that is not in keeping with their TRUE nature. Particularly for parents, who want to help their children become their best selves, it is important to SEE them as their best selves--to recognize, emphasize, and celebrate the positive qualities that are their special gifts from God.

There was another thought that struck me as I considered this possibility for my family: what if, by accepting and holding on to these false ideas about our family members, we have been less able to identify the feelings of the Spirit?  If we are harboring feelings of anger, then how can the Spirit reach us?  Have we been missing out on spiritual blessings because we have been unwilling to let go of our negative thoughts and feelings about one another?

*I believe that the same things apply to the negative things we say and feel about ourselves.  Who is feeding us those lies?  If we believe them, who are we listening to?  I've struggled with this (and continue to!) but at least I am certain that my Heavenly Father sees me in a positive, loving way. With that assurance, I can banish those negative thoughts!


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