Know. Do. Become. This is the motto at Brigham Young University-Idaho. This is what it means: What are you learning? What are you doing with your new knowledge? What are you becoming because of what you are doing? Each of my religion classes included a Becoming Project. Each project was based on developing a Christlike attribute.
For my Becoming Project in a recent class, I took the matter to the Lord to determine which Christlike attribute He wanted me to develop. After several days of study, prayer, and pondering, I was prompted to work on tolerance. I was a little surprised by this prompting, yet I knew it was right. I knew that the Lord knew that I needed to become more accepting, more loving, more understanding, and less judgmental of other people.
I did not know exactly what it meant to be tolerant, so I went to the Topical Guide and a dictionary for some assistance. I determined that a good definition for tolerance includes patience, self-control, and being non-judgmental. I searched the scriptures for further assistance in knowing how to practice tolerance, and I found several. This scripture stood out to me: “In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:19). A footnote to “possess” defined it as “preserve, win mastery over.” This means that I must have patience or self-control in order to possess or have mastery over my soul.
Another scripture that added meaning to my project is Matthew 5:43-47 where I found the following principle: I should love my enemies, bless them who curse me, do good to them who hate me, and pray for them who use and/or abuse me. The referenced verses tell us that it is easy to love those who love us and do good to those who treat us kindly, but it is much more difficult to love and respect those who use or abuse us. These verses tell me that I must rise above the negative comments and treatments that occur in my life. I must take the higher road and show forth love and kindness where I am treated with discourtesy. I must not be offended even when offense is intended. In turn, I must pray for those who hurt me, do good deeds for them, and even come to love them. It is not an easy task to develop Christlike attributes!
I determined some weekly “learning opportunities” and worked diligently on them. Here are some ways that I actively strived to become more tolerant of others. 1) When in difficult situations, I tried to empathize with the other person and see the situation through their eyes. 2) Before jumping to a conclusion, I asked questions and sought for understanding. 3) I fostered my own self-esteem and became capable of showing more tolerance to others. 4) I analyzed my intolerant feelings to determine why I felt that way. 5) I focused on issues and tried not to personalize the conversation. 6) I consciously exercised patience with my husband when he frustrated me. 7) I prayed daily for various people. 8) I tried diligently to understand the motivations of others whose actions seemed hurtful. 10) I sought guidance from the Lord.
I feel that my project was successful. I found many verses about patience and self-mastery as I studied about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I was more aware of my thoughts about others and changed them to be more tolerant. I found numerous ways to complement my husband. My feelings toward the sister in my ward are much softer than they were at the beginning of the project. I love my little Primary children and enjoy being with them each Sunday. I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost more often as He guided me.
My husband has an autoimmune disease and often does not feel good. He is grumpy and difficult to live with on his good days and worse on his bad days. He had a hard day last week, the day after a sleepless night for both of us. I was sleep deprived but still trying to function. I asked for clarification on some of his statements instead of getting upset with him. The situation stayed calm because I did not become defensive as I have done in the past.
I was particularly impressed with the change in my feelings toward the sister in my ward who had previously grated on my nerves. As I prayed for this sister, I found myself wondering about the circumstances of her family. I wondered about the trials she might face with her challenging children and how being a military wife affects the way she deals with other people. I felt real empathy for her and prayed for blessings in her life. She may not have been affected by my prayers for her, but my feelings toward her certainly changed.
I have several little boys in my Primary class who struggle to sit still and stop talking for even seconds at time. Because I am praying for them and earnestly striving to love them, I find that I have more patience and empathy towards them. I was surprised when I heard these words come out of my mouth one Sunday: “You are having a hard time sitting still today, aren’t you? Can you hold on for just one more minute?” The little boy nodded his head and was able to sit still while I bore my testimony. I love these little children and enjoy my Primary calling.
The greatest difference is my feelings towards Jesus Christ. As I studied the assigned scriptures, I recognized a personal need to come to know Jesus Christ better. Even though knew the story of His life, I realized that I fell far short of loving Him as intensely as I should. It is as if His experiences were previously just words on a page and not the sufferings of a Man that I profess to love and follow. My awareness of this personal weakness brings great sorrow to me. As I studied and visualized His final days on earth, His death, and His resurrection, I realized that my feelings for Him have changed. I experienced a new depth of sorrow for Christ’s suffering and a more comprehensive gratitude for His love and sacrifice. I was daily in tears as I studied the abuse shown to Him and the majesty with which He withstood it. It was as though I was there in person, and the words on the page were no longer just words but a personal experience for me. Jesus Christ and His followers became real to me in a way that I never previously experienced. I even felt empathy for Judas as he realized the result of his betrayal of Christ. I am a different but better person than I was at the beginning of the semester. I am confident that I am definitely more tolerant and understanding of others.