Monday, June 27, 2011

The Civility Experiment

I taught a lesson yesterday (to the women of our local church congregation) about charity. The text for the lesson came from this talk. It's about how we view each other. I am convinced after preparing and hearing thoughts from other women, the greatest gift we can give each other is a loving and honest refrain from judgment. Thomas S. Monson defines charity as the opposite of criticism and judging.

Not always easy to do. For some reason we're inclined to criticize others actions or inactions, compare ourselves. Maybe it gives us a false sense of confidence? Maybe we do it to protect ourselves - so our own vulnerabilities won't be discovered? Whatever the reason, here's the reality.

"There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize." - President Thomas S. Monson

And this quote, from Virginia Pearce, flings my heart open.

"You and I cannot possibly know the hidden pain eating holes in individual lives... we [ought to be] kind to everyone, everywhere, all the time."

The women in my lesson discussed these thoughts, as well as this statement from President Monson I have memorized so I can repeat it to myself and my children again and again.

"Appearances are so deceiving, such a poor measure of a person."

Have you seen this short clip Doug showed me yesterday? It's the experience of a random New Yorker who was asked to discuss the topic of civility. I wish I'd used it for my lesson.

I have a new understanding of charity today. When mentioned in scripture, it is never discussed in the context of alms-giving, good deeds, or benevolence. It is deeper than that. Charity is the strongest, noblest, purest kind of love we can give.

"Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond the physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others." - Thomas S. Monson

While there is nothing wrong with cookies on the doorstep (I LOVE cookies and they're usually given with pure motive), there is a higher, more powerful way to love. But it doesn't come easily. It requires choice.

My girls showed me this kind of love Friday. After asking if they could have their third Otter Pop, I said no. (Funny. I don't think they have any clue what an otter is. They keep calling them "Odor Pops" and "Udder pops." We need to have a little English lesson on the naming of water animals.)

We didn't have any pops that were frozen so I shoved a handful of bendy liquid ones into the freezer. The girls wanted to drink them even though they weren't frozen, but I said no - it would be too messy. I continued sweeping the front porch. The girls went inside and a few minutes later, I stepped in to see what they were doing. I caught them red-handed - tearing Otter Pops open - fully stunned by the monstrous mess they were creating. You know how liquid Otter Pops are. Rip one the wrong way and it's like perforating an artery.

Red, blue and orange juice was shooting everywhere. The more they squeezed to stop the spray, the worse the projection was. Even I had trouble wrangling those darn things into the sink.

Without sharing all the details of how I reacted and what I said, I will just tell you, I was mad. I used strong language. I sent them to their rooms so I could cool off and clean up the mess. After I finished sopping up the floor and wiping down the refrigerator and cabinets, I heard their little feet shuffling up the stairs.

They stood in a row at the top of the landing with their heads low, their eyes searching innocently for mine. In front of their chests, they held hand-made notes. Eliza's said, "I am sorry I ate the otter (ODr) pops." Sami's said, "I love you Mom." And Ali's said, "I am sorry Mom."


They were showing me charity. The kind of love that forgives easily. The kind of love that manifests itself with tolerance, leniency, and patience. The kind of love I had failed to show them.

I broke down, knelt down, and wiped my eyes as I pulled them into my body for a hug. All four of us stood there for several seconds, wrapped and encircled.

I have so far to go. So much to learn. So many changes to make.

But I'm keeping this little pot Eliza made on the windowsill. So it can remind me of the pure love children share. Isn't it happy? All those colorful puff balls with something beautiful growing out of it.


This is what charity does for our homes. It brushes away the clutter and makes our hearts happy, pure places, where the most powerful kind of love can grow.

I am zipping my mouth this week - determined to be more civil, more kind. Convinced that I must show my children a more noble kind of love. An experiment of sorts.

Will you join me?

The need for charity is everywhere.


  1. this little lesson cuts deep.
    i will do better. xox

  2. Relatively new reader here, directed your way by Dave Younce. Thank you so much for the moving clip. Though I am not a religious person the sentiment of both the video and your post really resonated today and were much appreciated. Glad I'm reading.

  3. I came back from girls camp determined to have more charity with my children. I got home Sat, I was so nice. Sunday, still pretty nice. Today, it was hot and amidst the crazy I felt my resolve start to crumble.......But I will not give up! I will join you!

  4. Great post. I'm trying hard to be a kinder gentler person too - glad to have company.

  5. One of my mantras I repeat every day is: "Don't judge the live of others, for you have no idea what their journey is all about." Sometimes, however, I think all you can do is tp just wish people a good journey and let them go their way...

    (And as far as the otter pops are concerned: been there, saw that, done that, ;-))

    So long,

  6. Cristie - it cut deep for me as well. xo

    Karen - So glad you came my way via Dave. Love those Younces! They are an incredible family. Thanks for commenting. I so appreciated what you had to say. You have a darling family. And I loved this from your profile: "My goal is to help my son T become a happy, well adjusted, and decent human. It is way harder than I thought it would be. Way harder." I hear you. Motherhood has pushed me and tried me in ways I honestly could never have imagined. It's a good thing the joy equals the struggle. Hope to hear from you again in the future. Your honesty in the blog world made me laugh.

    Kristen - Alright, let's gird up our loins together!

    Knit one, knit two - Kinder, gentler. It's hard in the home sometimes. Thanks for your honesty.

    Corinna - love the mantra. And SO glad you've seen the otter pop fiasco first person. Crazy, isn't it?

  7. What a post, Cath! I love that video clip, especially the quote that finishes it. That talk by President Monson was one of my very favorites ever. Wish I could have listened to your lesson about it.

    So sorry about the otter pop fiasco! But, what a sweet moment of forgiveness and embracing your girls. We (us mamas) have all been there with you, fuming and overwhelmed. I had a "Jonah" day (as Anne Shirley calls them) yesterday and said to my boys at one point, "Why are you all acting like beasts today?". I felt terrible after saying this and a few other things (words have incredible power over me, and I HATE when I use them in an unkind way towards anybody). I apologized to them all today and assured them that it was me, not them...I was too tired and grumpy yesterday to see straight.

    Not judging...not comparing...yes, I am always reminding myself that it really is impossible to know what is in someone else's heart. Thank you for the post!

  8. Cath and Karen, you are way too nice, us Younces are glad to have friends like you. Love the otter pops - so funny in retrospect and so frustrating in the moment. My kids haven't experienced them yet, but they love Popsicles - except they call them ice lollies!

  9. Lovely as always; can I come hang out with you so I can learn from you every day? :) Cheers!

  10. Cath,

    Thanks so much for continually sharing little things you learn. I'm so grateful for your wisdom, knowledge and insights! I have so much still to learn as well. I had a mission companion who had more charity than anybody else I have ever known. I'm still striving for that Christlike atribute. Maybe I'll get a little closer this week. :)

  11. Brod - thanks for stopping in. Loving the release of your cover!

    Anne Marie - A "Jonah" day - oh. I forgot about the phrase! Made me smile. I'm trying so hard to watch my words with my kids - the tone, how I say things. I am with you - words have an incredible power over me. Using them, receiving them. It goes both ways. You were so good to apologize to your boys. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wonders where my sweet innocents tripped off to some days? Lately, everyone has just been mean. Love your honesty and understanding. You always inspire. Thank you!

    Shells - Ice Lollies! Can I start using that phrase? I decided today we're done with Otter Pops. Popsicles with a stick are the way to go at this point. Where have you guys settled? I need to email you for details.

    Jo - I think I would learn from you! Thanks for commenting. I love you.

    Mary - I had a companion who affected me in a similar way. I'd never seen someone love so selflessly. Thanks for your comment. xo

  12. Yes, after I get a tissue . . .

  13. You have such a good heart Cecilia. Hope you are well!

  14. This was so wondrous I read it out loud to my hubby in the car. Love you.

  15. I'm speaking on Charity (in the home) next Sunday in sacrament. Can I just read your blog post? I'll print the pictures poster size. Thanks for your words. I've been thinking about them for a few days and came back to reread today as I prepare.

  16. Brian - of course you can share anything from this post you would like. "Poster size..." lol! Sending hugs to your family via Melissa Bradford. Spent time with her this weekend at a writing retreat. Made me miss your family to think she had just seen you.


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