True Adventures in Turning the Other Cheek, Pt. Two

November 3, 2009 | 82 comments
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For the next several weeks, I attended church when I could. Participation often included lowering my eyes when the bishop or his first counselor walked by and gave me stern “We’re watching you” stares. In some ways the whole business interested me so I wasn’t suffering as much as some might suppose. But given the treatment of these two ward leaders, I did feel somewhat cordoned off. Perhaps that’s why when a prettily decorated invitation to a special R.S. council arrived in my mailbox, in a fit of high irritation, I nearly tossed it. Arthur’s admonition to go to the women of the ward stopped my hand in the act of dropping the note in the trash. I arranged for my husband to let Parish get by without him for one evening while I took Arthur’s words to heart and attended this council.

The meeting proved to be a kind of summit. Including the R.S. presidency, twelve women sat in a circle in the living room in one of the women’s houses. The R.S. president explained that the ward’s homemaking program had died on the vine and that she had called together what she and other members of her presidency identified as “special needs women” to ask what might entice them to attend homemaking meeting.

Musing on how hopelessly complicated my life was, I decided I had nothing useful to say. Other women talked while I turned over in my head thoughts like “I could be home dealing with my own troubles instead of here being asked to deal with someone else’s.” The R.S. president stopped the discussion. “You’ve been quiet,” she said to me. “I’d like to hear what you have to say.”

Out it came. “I have a lot of problems, and if Relief Society can’t help me solve them, I won’t be coming to the meetings,” I said. And other things—can’t remember more than that. Probably, I made disparaging comments about crafts.

At the end of the meeting, the R.S. president thanked me for attending and said, “Don’t be surprised if we call on you.”

Call on me they did. Shortly after, the R.S. president phoned to ask how I’d feel about being called to be the homemaking teacher. Astonished that anyone would ask a woman as desperately overloaded as I was to take on yet another level of work, and not understanding that the homemaking lesson was only a 20-minute affair, I said no way. But later, when I understood that the lesson was short and not often required, I decided that if accepting the call didn’t qualify as “going to the women of the ward,” nothing did. I called the R.S. president back, apologized for my brusque refusal, and said I’d be happy to teach.

The next task was to get through the official extension of the calling, which the bishop’s first counselor made. As we sat in the ward clerk’s office with the door to the bishop’s office open and the bishop in it, the first counselor asked if I would accept the calling to teach the homemaking meeting lesson in Relief Society. When I said I would and thanked him for asking, the counselor went quiet. He stood up and strode into the bishop’s office. “She accepted!” I heard him exclaim to the bishop.

So I didn’t get the translation department job, but I did get the homemaking one. It proved a very good fit, providing the teaching/social outlet I desperately needed while not adding too much to the load I already carried at home. At first, I taught to a classroom empty of everyone except the Relief Society presidency. No problem; I love an audience regardless of how small. I threw myself into the work heart and soul. Occasionally, the bishop or his first counselor sat in on my lessons. Over the following months the room began to fill, sisters bringing other sisters until the flames of the homemaking program roared back to life. I don’t know how much I had to do with this success. The R.S. presidency gave me much of the credit, but who knows why people do the things they do.

Which brings us to the next turn in this story. As the R. S. sisters folded me into their bosoms, stories began surfacing of another woman who had moved out of the ward just before I moved in. If older readers will think back to the late 80s and a turbulent chapter in BYU’s history, they might remember how a group of feminists amassed some influence in the English department. Their sometimes very strong activism placed the university in a dilemma. Some of these women openly challenged church leadership on issues such as the brethren’s conservative views on abortion, on the reservation of the priesthood to the church’s male population, and so on.

One of these women had lived in my ward-to-be. We just missed each other—except that in some very important ways, we didn’t. The second counselor in the Relief Society—I’ll call her Sister L—told me about her experience with this woman. Shortly after having her fourth baby, a boy with a shock of flaming red hair and of whom she was justifiably proud, Sister L went to visit teach the woman in question—I’ll call her Sister S. Sister L announced she was busy with her new baby, and Sister S asked, “So how many does that make?” Not knowing she was walking into a trap, Sister L replied, “This is my fourth.” Sister S asked, “How could you do that to your body?” As Sister L stammered at Sister S’s question, Sister S explained that she planned to leave provincial America to study music in Europe. According to Sister L, Sister S avowed how having children would be an unacceptable obstacle to her pursuing that goal. My friend felt thoroughly devaluated, an essential quality of her character having been demeaned even as she offered it, she thought in friendship. The fact that several months later she still carried in her heart the barb of Sister S’s words told me how deeply this episode affected her.

More stories emerged about how Sister S had disrupted Sunday school classes, challenging teachers and class material, transforming the classroom into a combat zone. Most members of this ward were of modest circumstances, just folks who were working hard at their jobs and in their church callings. They weren’t really equipped to deal with the rhetorical storm that was Sister S.

Hearing these stories helped me piece together what had happened in the bishop’s office that day I went for a temple recommend interview. Because I had a degree from the BYU English department, because I was (perhaps annoyingly) well spoken and had (maybe) an obnoxious amount of confidence, to the blackened, sore eyes of the ward members, I looked like another Sister S. The resemblance was only superficial, but these people were shell-shocked and their judgment impaired. I came to understand that during that anti-interview, the bishop said to me what he wished he’d said to Sister S those months she had walked church hallways enlightening everyone on the meaningless of their beliefs.

One day, as I walked past the bishop’s office, someone inside called my name. I looked in; the bishop had a question about my family’s membership records. As I entered the room, the first counselor emerged from the ward clerk’s office. Seeing me, he said, “My wife says of you, ‘Now that’s an intelligent woman.’” I took this compliment to mean that the fever had finally broken.

As it turned out, my former professors’ guidance proved brilliantly sound, both Arthur’s “Go to the women of the ward” and the mystery professor’s counsel to “submit” to the trouble. Though I don’t think that the women of the ward knew what had happened in the bishop’s office, they came through in ways that went well beyond what I imagined possible. And turning the other cheek instead of fighting my way through and trying to exert control over what I thought of as my situation made it possible for others involved—not just the bishop and his first counselor but unseen others as well—to be free. Free of what is their business, but at the very least, I can guess they freed themselves of behavior they probably would rather not have engaged in.

For me, this episode has proven a gift that continues to open itself, a flower of long efflorescence. Nate’s post reminded me of the story, and revisiting it, my thinking about what it means to turn the other cheek turned again. It’s not simply a matter of being long-suffering or submitting passively to abuse as you wait for justice to set matters right. It’s not an act of defiance, a display of “you can’t hurt me” willpower.

Now I’m coming to see turning the other cheek not as a single movement of thought or act of endurance. It’s not “not doing” something–it’s not simply not striking back. Rather, turning the other cheek is full-bodied, long-term engagement in the life of the environing circumstances—a boundless region where lives touching lives extend beyond the visible horizon. Moment-by-moment staying your hand when others lift theirs against you frees some–not all, but some–from the urge to hit again. As it turned out, the bishop’s behavior toward me was not related to anything I had done. At a time in my life when it seemed most unjust, I had the privilege of taking blows for somebody else. But mm, mm, mm, mm! It was an exquisite adventure in faith, in teaching my hands–physical, intellectual, and spiritual–not to hit back or grab, but to let it go. To open my hand and let go, then not limit through expectation that world beyond my grasp that opens wide in response.

82 Responses to True Adventures in Turning the Other Cheek, Pt. Two

  1. jks on November 3, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I was eagerly awaiting part 2. Thank you for sharing your difficult and beautiful experience.

  2. patricia k. on November 3, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Thank you for reading, jks.

  3. document on November 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

    Thank you for this post. I have been struggling with hurtful and judgemental views from both membership and leadership in the church recently. You have given me hope, and a lesson (for me) in humility, love, and submission.

    Again, thank you.

  4. Adam Greenwood on November 3, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I don’t know how much I had to do with this success. The R.S. presidency gave me much of the credit, but who knows why people do the things they do.

    Good line.

    And a very worthwhile experience to share.

  5. adam e. on November 3, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    The two pieces of advice, “submit to it” and “go to the women of the ward” are sermons in themselves. Your mentors showed tremendous wisdom and courage in giving it, and you showed just as much (or more) wisdom in living it.

    I hope I can act with as much forbearance if I am ever in a similar situation.

  6. Jacob F on November 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Thank you for these posts, Patricia. Your experience is a good reminder to give others the benefit of the doubt, and to not judge harshly.

  7. Wm Morris on November 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

    “Rather, turning the other cheek is full-bodied, long-term engagement in the life of the environing circumstances—a boundless region where lives touching lives extend beyond the visible horizon.”

    Yes. And it’s an acknowledgment of how little we know — which means we need to rely all the more on those glimmers of inspiration (wherever and however they come) as God attempts to nudge us all around each other and in to positions where we can love.

    Thanks, Patricia.

  8. Dan Sinema on November 3, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Many of us have had similar, but not exact, experiences. This all involves people, imperfect people, and with that, there will be many inequities. The lesson I learned is that no one, no one, can keep me from coming and worshipping, no matter how badly I was treated. As in this story, in time everything was resolved, but it was a little lonely for a while.

  9. john f. on November 3, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Great story and resulting insights. Thanks for sharing. How heartbreaking about your child. It sounds like you were and still are a god-send to such a spirit.

  10. Coffinberry on November 3, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks for this. I needed it.

    (Could’a used some mentors like that. Still could. How blessed you were to have them.)

  11. Angie on November 3, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    I can relate to many of the feelings you describe. For me, the most important part of this kind of experience has been feeling God’s acceptance of my heart and actions, even though a few people at church think the worst of me.

  12. Martin on November 3, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. Every time I get a chance to walk vicariously in someone else’s shoes, I feel a potential to be a bigger person, and it’s particularly true here.

  13. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    #3, document,

    Something I learned that freed up more of my heart and mind to deal with matters like strange or harsh judgment is that more often than not people’s hurtful remarks and behavior are related to something that’s going on in their own lives and when directed at you is only superficially personal. That is, if it wasn’t you they were troubling, it would be someone else.

    What, then, is your role in such circumstances? I don’t believe there’s just one answer, but however it might be possible for you, give bread for stones. Can you bake? I mean, for months, maybe years at a time?

    I hope I made it clear that submission is more than just putting up with. At this stage in my life, I think of it as a form of being/becoming more deeply involved in life and seeing more clearly. But I fully expect that idea will change as I continue thinking about this story.

    Best wishes in your own situation. Hope is powerful in its own way. It keeps us open to the unexpected.

  14. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    # 4, Adam G.

    I felt very nervous about putting this story up, so thanks for your interest in it.

  15. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    #5, adam e.

    I really didn’t know what I was doing. If it hadn’t been for those two men helping as they did, I couldn’t say how the story might have turned out.

    Concerning the “submit to it” advice. I’m not sure that professor would have given such advice to anyone. I’m pretty sure he’d leap to the defense of anyone he thought needed defending. I think that he knew me well enough to understand I was fully capable of escalating the problem if I didn’t deactivate my own urges for self-defense. My dropping my eyes when I encountered aggressive stares wasn’t just a matter of showing submission. It was me disarming my “You guys don’t know who you’re messing with” missiles.

  16. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    #6, Jacob F. I appreciate your reading this post. My husband and I had a lot to deal with during those years that in many ways we’re still recovering from. Being able to tell the story to a willing audience helps in ways I can’t express.

  17. Karen on November 3, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this. As the mother of a special needs child and a woman with strong opinions, I appreciate learning how you dealt with this situation. It has given me much to think about in how I turn the other cheek in my own life.

  18. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    # 7, Wm.

    Thanks for picking up on that line, Boss.

    And it’s an acknowledgment of how little we know — which means we need to rely all the more on those glimmers of inspiration (wherever and however they come) as God attempts to nudge us all around each other and in to positions where we can love.

    Of course, what we’re talking about here isn’t really just submission or longsuffering(ality), it’s love. I think that’s exactly right.

    I like looking at this story that way.

  19. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    #8, Dan,

    Many of us have had similar, but not exact, experiences. This all involves people, imperfect people, and with that, there will be many inequities.

    I can only imagine the inequalities perfect people might bring to the table simply by being there. It’s not too hard to mistake good for bad if you’re looking at it wrongly.

    As in this story, in time everything was resolved, but it was a little lonely for a while.

    Yeah, I get how that feels. For me, at times, the loneliness was harder than the other stuff.

  20. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    #9, john f.

    Thank you for reading the post.

    How heartbreaking about your child. It sounds like you were and still are a god-send to such a spirit.

    We’ll see. That’s a tough story that’s unfolding still in several directions, some I probably can’t even read due to lack of awareness. Nobody understands very well what to do in cases like hers. Preventing what happened to her would have been nice, but then, it’s possible I wouldn’t know some of the things I know now if M hadn’t come to us as she has. I wouldn’t live in the world I live in now if she hadn’t taken me there. “Deeper, Mom! You’ve got to go deeper or we won’t make it.”

  21. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    #10, Coffinberry,

    I like that you raised the mentor issue. Yes, mentors are a tremendous, unending source of wisdom, comfort, and even companionship, even after they pass on, as is the case with Arthur King. I still feel his presence in my thinking. I didn’t always agree with what he said or did, but when it came down to it, what really mattered was his capacity to love.

    Lots of stories there. Maybe I’ll tell them some day.

    BTW, it’s never too late to find mentors!

  22. Kristine on November 3, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Thank you for telling your story, Patricia.

    I wish we had Sister S’s voice, too.

  23. Kevin Barney on November 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    What a great story. Thanks for sharing. I especially liked Arthur’s advice to “go to the women of the ward.” I don’t think that would have occurred to me, but he was very wise that way.

  24. Rosalynde Welch on November 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Patricia, you know I’m a fan. This is a good story, well told. On the few occasions you’ve shared your experiences with infant M., I’ve been so moved to think of your tender continuous care for her, that enormous investment in what was both a great unknown and an inescapable fact. Knowing that you offered it under such trying circumstances only increases my admiration for you.

  25. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    #11, Angie,

    For me, the most important part of this kind of experience has been feeling God’s acceptance of my heart and actions, even though a few people at church think the worst of me.

    Perhaps it’s because I’ve reached my middle years–the middle of my middle years–and perhaps it’s because I’ve lived through much, but usually, I don’t worry myself about what people think of me. I do, however, worry deeply about what I think of them. In my funny imaginings, that’s what I think God looks at twice–how others look in my inner mirrors.

  26. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    #12, Martin,

    I’m really grateful you read this story. Like I said to Adam G., I felt nervous telling it. Uncomfortable. Knowing the story matters to others helps me deal better with the risks of telling it.

  27. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Karen, #17,

    As the mother of a special needs child and a woman with strong opinions, I appreciate learning how you dealt with this situation. It has given me much to think about in how I turn the other cheek in my own life.

    Heh, as a mother of a special needs child and a woman with strong opinions, you probably understand that sometimes, for that kid, you have to take off the soft gloves and put on the spikey ones, be the scary advocate.

    The problem I had in the earliest days of the special needs kid drama was handling the social situations more gently than I did the school/medical/hospital ones.

    I guess I’m still in some trouble there, still trying to figure out what to do and how.

  28. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    Everyone,

    I have to go to school for a while. I’ll be back as soon as I can be.

  29. ZD Eve on November 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I’m really grateful you read this story. Like I said to Adam G., I felt nervous telling it. Uncomfortable. Knowing the story matters to others helps me deal better with the risks of telling it.

    It matters to me, too. Thanks for posting it.

  30. Ellis on November 3, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful story and insight into what turning the other cheek actually means. it resounded deeply within in me.

  31. kevinf on November 3, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Patricia, I always enjoy reading your posts ,whether it’s talking about your daughter, or walking the southern Utah deserts at night, they are always wonderful stories. This one is so personal that I can understand the difficulties in telling it, yet the lessons learned are invaluable. Thank you for sharing.

  32. Carlos U. on November 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    I commend you for handling things so well and for having the humility to accept counsel to humble yourlself. I don’t know that I would have handled it nearly as well.

  33. Course Correction on November 3, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so glad it had a happy ending. Your experience with a bishop who was identifying you with someone else and mistreating you reminded me of a similiar, but less intense experience. Several years ago, our family moved from Seattle to a small town in southern Utah. My husband became active and we sought temple recommends to be sealed as a family. When the stake president interviewed me, he grilled me about child abuse. I was totally blown away by the implicit accusation. My husband also was grilled this way.
    We apparently satisfied the SP because we left with signed recommends, but were puzzled about his attitude. Finally, it occurred to me that he must have confused us with another family that had moved into our ward at about the same time–a family with many problems.
    Since our situation was with the SP instead of our bishop, we did not have to deal with it again. By the time we needed our recommends renewed, the other family had moved on and the stake presidency were cordial.
    Mistakes will always be made by imperfect human beings. What a blessing that the advice from your mentors and your own ability to control your anger and hurt allowed the love of the sisters in your ward to heal you.

  34. Raymond Takashi Swenson on November 3, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I am glad it worked out for you. But if it had happened to me, I would have gone to my ward’s high council member and asked him to help me air things out with the bishop and find out what was bugging him. Since I have served on a high councils myself, I would not feel any reason not to do it. If the prophet is not infallible, certainly a bishop is not. The reason a high council and stake presidency exist is because not all bishop judgments are correct. There is a formal process of appeal from a bishop’s judgment, and members should be willing to use an avenue that is provided in scripture. I have sadly seen people think that a bishop’s misjudgment is the church’s final word on a matter, and it has affected them adversely. The caution in D&C 121 about abuse of the priesthood was directed to church leaders. While we need to support those doing their sincere best, we have no obligation to enable abuse of a priesthood office.

  35. Tatiana on November 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    A great story, Patricia. So painful and so important. I don’t know what to make of it, though. I can’t get around the idea that injustice should be stood up against. Unless from exhaustion, maybe. I just don’t know. I’m glad it worked out for you in this instance.

    As someone who was abused as a child, I always wrestle with the idea of turning the other cheek. Sometimes I think it’s better to defend. But what did Christ mean by his admonition? Was he wrong? There’s obviously something I’m misunderstanding.

  36. my viewpoint on November 3, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    thanks for sharing, I admire your strength during such a difficult time for you.

  37. Karen on November 3, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    Yes, Patricia, I do have to put on the spiky gloves sometimes. Finding balance has been hard. I had someone dear to me tell me that because I had become a strong and bold advocate for my child (as was needed) I had become vocal and opinionated in many other areas of my life also. And this person feared that my sensitivity, tenderness, spirituality, etc were being suppressed. That was quite a shocker for me, hurtful in a way, but something for me to think about and work on.
    It seems like as soon as things seem comfortable and smooth, something changes and I have to get out the spiky gloves once again.

  38. Stephanie on November 3, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I loved both posts, but I think I liked this comment of yours the best of all:

    I don’t worry myself about what people think of me. I do, however, worry deeply about what I think of them.

    It reminds me of a poem my mom once shared with me about dishing dirt – someone about being grateful that you were the one who got it and not the one who dished it. Wish I could remember it better because it had a powerful influence on me.

  39. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    #23, Kevin,

    Arthur liked and worked well with women. I hadn’t considered his advice in that light ’til just now.

  40. Patricia Karamesines on November 3, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    #29, Eve,

    Very kind and much appreciated.

  41. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2009 at 12:06 am

    #32, Carlos U,

    and for having the humility to accept counsel to humble yourlself.

    I hope the word “submit” doesn’t mislead in the context of this story. Submitting in this case means making decisions at each crossroads to keep going and get more involved in the situation rather than to withdraw in a huff or a fit of scorn.

    I was tempted again and again to just hang it up. Sometimes these things can go on for a long time while everybody resolves his or her part. If humility is having the faith and attention span to stick with the matter for however long it takes for events to finish unfolding, then I’m with you.

  42. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2009 at 12:10 am

    #33, Course Correction,

    Good story. Thanks for adding it here.

  43. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2009 at 12:18 am

    #34 Raymond,

    You raise a very good point. I have at least once relied on channels of authority to rescue me from abuse of power in a situation where I needed the help. In that case, I came to a point of paralysis because I didn’t know what to do or where to go. The other person involved had sealed off my options.

    Here, however, doors opened at every point and I was able to continue on this journey. That’s how I think of it–a journey, and I wasn’t the only one on it.

    I am glad it worked out for you.

    I think the whole business did better than work out for me.

  44. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2009 at 12:26 am

    I should add, Raymond, that I think your counsel sound. As you say, “we have no obligation to enable abuse of a priesthood office.”

    Like I said to my husband, though, I think of the people involved as suffering injuries and upset that had thrown them off. I think that in the end, the bishop involved understood that he hadn’t handled things very well. If it helps you feel better, at the point in the story where the first counselor said his wife said “Now that’s an intelligent woman,” I looked at the bishop and said, “In some parts, that’s a scurrilous accusation.” He looked down at the top of his desk and shuffled papers.

    I remained the ward’s homemaking teacher for the next couple years until we moved. Just before we moved, I spoke with the R.S. president about what had happened, just in case she needed to know.

  45. Patricia Karamesines on November 4, 2009 at 1:04 am

    #35, Tatiana,

    As someone who was abused as a child, I always wrestle with the idea of turning the other cheek. Sometimes I think it’s better to defend. But what did Christ mean by his admonition? Was he wrong? There’s obviously something I’m misunderstanding.

    First, Tatiana, I’m deeply sorry you suffered abuse as a child. Such cases transcend the turning the other cheek admonition. What did Christ say about people who had done such things? Something about a millstone? The weight of the wrong is theirs. In the case of abuse, children need protected precisely because many tend to turn the other cheek without discretion; for them, it’s the hallmark of their vulnerability.

    My ideas about what Christ meant by this or that have changed over the years and I expect them to keep changing. At the moment, I think that the turning the other cheek admonition was meant to confront the eye-for-an-eye reciprocity elements of the Mosaic law. In other words, at the point Jesus spoke those words, the cultural expectation was that if somebody hit you, well, you hit them back, and hard. But Jesus understood that justice of that sort isn’t enough and it certainly isn’t redemptive. It fact, it often leads to escalation.

    As I tried to illustrate with my story, I don’t think of turning the other cheek as simply submitting to abuse but engaging in the circumstances in such a way as to make it possible for others to choose not to strike again. At times, turning the other cheek could include grabbing someone’s had mid-strike to stop them because letting them continue would be wrong.

    In this case, if the women of the ward had not opened a way to me to change my environment, I’m not sure I would have hung in there like I did. This is not to say I acted at any point with certainty that matters would work out well. I really had no idea what would happen. Also, I’m quite capable of standing up for myself when the need arises and I was ready to do that, if I decided that “submitting” didn’t do anybody any good.

    I would not behave in all cases of abuse in this way, because not all cases of abuse are alike. And there have certainly been times where, looking back, I wish I had drawn my sword more quickly and defended myself and others with greater vigor.

  46. Stephen M (Ethesis) on November 4, 2009 at 9:38 am

    It was an exquisite adventure in faith, in teaching my hands–physical, intellectual, and spiritual–not to hit back or grab, but to let it go. To open my hand and let go, then not limit through expectation that world beyond my grasp that opens wide in response.

    I’d have loved to have read this story in the Ensign.

    As for child abuse, Tatiana, we should always defend others. Sometimes the appropriate methods are hard to know or find, and sometimes the truth is not as obvious as we think (e.g. Course Correction’s experience being grilled by mistake for someone else’s sins).

    Which is why Rather, turning the other cheek is full-bodied, long-term engagement in the life of the environing circumstances.

    Thank you for this post and for the comments.

  47. J. Nelson-Seawright on November 4, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Patricia, thanks for this story; it was fascinating and intimate. I’m saddened by the fact that telling your story has to involve taking positions against people who have also been marginalized and victimized.

  48. patricia k. on November 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    JNS,

    I’m saddened by the fact that telling your story has to involve taking positions against people who have also been marginalized and victimized.

    It’s hard to tell, because you’re making your point without supporting it, but it seems to me that if you’re saying that this story took a position against Sister S, and that she was “marginalized” and “victimized,” then what’s to say that you aren’t limiting her (and my story) through your own characterization?

  49. Crick on November 4, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    [copied ans pasted from Part I comments...can't seem to get that right]
    #34 Raymond: I don’t think seeking every redress of grievance available for oneself is always mandated, even when one feels injustice has occurred (think Thomas B. Marsh). Conceptually I think you are correct, but in Patricia’s case, here was a murky “injustice” in the making—one that had not been finalized yet. And so in her journey, she sought counsel which ended up being inspired. Had she “appealed” under the circumstances, doing so might have hardened the misconceptions about her even if she had “won”. She would be demanding justice and possibly eliminating a chance to prove herself by accepting callings. Often the best way to get someone to know they are wrong is to step back and allow them to figure it out for themselves. To militantly show them up front often has the opposite of the intended effect.

    As a teen (imperfect analogy I know) I often submitted to my parents even when I believed they were wrong and I found value in that. Patricia was not an individual who was congenitally shy or who needed to learn to stick up for herself—instead, like Karen (#17 and 37) this was partly a way of learning when to use one’s gifts and options and when not to. I also find value in showing loyalty to the Church through accepting callings, submitting to constituted authority and being willing to prove (and re-prove) one’s loyalty. (Yes, Patricia, I think that element of loyalty = longsuffering and therefore = charity).

    Someone said she would like to hear Sister S’s side of the story. I would also like to hear the Bishop’s side of the story, although Patricia has done a good job of alluding to what the ward was going through. Imagine the frazzled Sunday school and RS teachers who had probably agonized over every sentence, wondering if the Sister S bomb was going to go off. Imagine being a bishop and wanting to keep the peace without exercising “unrighteous dominion”. Having witnessed Sister S, the ward may have been trying to head Patricia off at the pass. Were they in error? Clearly! Should they be forgiven? Of course. One of the most honest and poignant parts of this story is the admission of Patricia’s own [understandable] misconceptions. When she thought she had been purposely passed up on the sacrament, she was making assumptions similar to those of the bishop toward her. By wisely motioning to the brother who passed her, she was able to get an accurate read on the situation. The bishop took longer in getting his accurate read but Patricia’s patience paid off. Much of this story is about human perception, how it is created and how—with difficulty—erroneous perceptions can be corrected.

  50. Crick on November 4, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    #47: The story rests much on perceptions. The perceptions of the ward were the apparent basis of Patricia’s treatment. Whether the ward’s perceptions about Sister S were right or wrong, Patricia is simply recounting the RS sister’s accounts of S and I don’t see how that has caused her to take a position against her.

  51. Alison Moore Smith on November 4, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Patricia, I appreciate you sharing your very personal and difficult story.

    I would not question whether this particular counsel was right for you at this time and may be the right thing for many others. But I worry a bit about anyone generalizing too much from it. Bishops simply should not be attacking people and withholding temple recommends from person A because they’re bothered by person B.

    I’m not advocating some kind of retaliation. But directly dealing with such a situation — in a Christlike way — is probably USUALLY the better approach, IMO.

    You say, “I think that in the end, the bishop involved understood that he hadn’t handled things very well.” But from everything you wrote, it seems he never SAID as much, and couldn’t even bring himself to be complimentary when the counselor was. How many other women did he take out and deny temple access to until, maybe, he figured it out? Unless you were the only well-spoken woman in the ward, you probably weren’t the only one mistreated.

    When I was the RS President, I messed up all the time. I did too many dumb things to count. But I did my best to address them, fix them, and apologize for them. Even though the worst I could do was disallow someone from visiting teaching. And is that really so bad? :)

  52. Molly in the Jello Belt on November 4, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve been struggling with figuring out how to turn the other cheek with a personal situation, and it helped to hear your thoughts.

    In my case, my mom started opening up to me about how badly my father treats her. I got overloaded and started making abuse accusations (verbal and psychological abuse only; dad didn’t beat his kids very often, and he never hit his wife). Mom told all my siblings I had become psychotic and no one should believe a word I said. After using me as a marriage therapist, she turned everyone in the family against me. I believe it’s because she’s so afraid of my father, and she didn’t want him to find out she’d been talking about him behind his back. That’s the most charitable explanation I can think of for her betrayal. There is a lot of anger and hatred in our family, because we were raised by such a mean angry man. I’ve been the target of a lot of that, despite my apologies, retractions, and outright groveling.

    My parents and siblings are all temple-sealed, temple-attending people. I grew to hate temple work because being trapped in an eternal family with people like my parents and siblings sounds more like hell than heaven.

    When the bishop called me to be the family history consultant, I burst into hysterical sobs and turned him down. A couple weeks later, I told him I would accept the calling. I can’t handle much contact with my family right now. The betrayal, cruelty, and disdain that I’ve gotten over the past year and more is severe. I’m just not strong enough to get kicked in the teeth again by the people I grew up with. But I’m trying to find a testimony of temple work and eternal families. That’s the most I can do about turning the other cheek right now, is to not entirely reject the doctrine even though the reality is so hypocritically horrible. It would be easier if my entire family didn’t hold temple recommends and callings. But I just shudder to think that I’m sealed to unforgiving people for eternity.

  53. Raymond Takashi Swenson on November 4, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    To Molly (#52): It has always been my understanding that “the Lord looketh on the heart” and that no matter what kind of hypocritical front we present to others, even in the context of the Church, our eligibility for eternal blessings will be based on the actual thoughts and intent of our hearts. Thus, if a particular ancestor was evil and unrepentant, and thus unredeemed, he would not qualify for the Celestial Kingdom and would drop out of one’s eternal genealogy. Temple ordinances will not exalt someone who has not in fact put off the natural man, and become humble and submissive to God’s commandments to love and forgive. Nobody is going to be sealed for eternity to someone who hates them.

    On the other hand, we are all in progress, and to some extent that includes the spirit world. If somehow we can otherwise qualify for Christ’s redeeming grace, it has the capacity (if we are willing) to literally change us. I am sure, for example, that my wife is counting on such a change to remove some of my annoying characteristics, so she can stand to be with me for eternity.

  54. Raymond Takashi Swenson on November 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm

    To Crick (#49): I was referring to the right to appeal from a bishop to the High Council as a reason to understand that a bishop’s judgment on you is not the final word of the Church. Just as individual members may be at fault, and need correction and admonition from a bishop, just so a bishop can also be in need of being admonished and corrected. The structure of the Church, with wards and stakes and leaders for each, is not designed to force everyone to conform to the views of their immediate leader, but to promote a condition of mutual love and understanding, a Zion society.

    If your bishop, or elders quorum president, or Relief Society president, or just your home teaching companion, is making false accusations against you, there is a failure to communicate. If you are unable to communicate the facts to the other person, then you need to get someone who has oversight over him or her to facilitate that communication. You are not doing a kindness to someone by allowing them to labor under a false understanding. If I were the person making the false conclusion, I would be upset if I learned weeks or months later that I was wrong, but I was not simply told that I was wrong.

    I work as an attorney. So many of the issues that end up in court are a result of people being unwilling to communicate with each other. That includes divorces. If someone says “If you really loved me, you would understand how I feel without me having to explain it,” that tells me the speaker does not care enough about the person they are addressing to make the effort toward clear communication.

    I served twenty years in the military. Even in a society in which disobedience is a crime, there is the defense of unlawful orders, and formal opportunities to bring abusive behavior by superiors to the attention of their superiors. The notion promoted by Hollywood, that soldiers must do whatever they are told to do, no matter how unlawful or immoral, is blatantly false. An officer who gives an unlawful order has no authority to force others to aid and abet his criminality. Understanding that makes for better officers.

    On my mother’s side, I come from a Japanese heritage. There is a strong trait in Japanese culture that expects people to perceive the feelings of those with whom they have close family or working relationships, without making the other person explain the painful details. However, the net result of this practice is deception and misunderstanding and submission to authority figures who have no check on their abuse of others. It makes for a source of much of the drama in Japanese TV shows, but drama is a low value compared to communication and understanding.

    It can be a cancer even in Church relationships over there. The tendency among Japanese is to respond in a passive-aggressive way, withdrawing from Church activity to punish the offender. It does do that, but it punishes the Church in general as well.

    I am not saying that a person should react to an unjustified dressing down by a Church leader with an effort to get revenge, to have the leader released or disfellowshipped or disgraced. But if we think we have any duty to sustain a leader in the Church, we owe to him or her the right to know what the facts really are, to know that they have misjudged us. If it takes intervention by a High Council or Stake Presidency member, so they will sit down and hear you out, then you should do it, out of love and respect for your leader.

    If communicating the truth doesn’t work, you can still try the route of forbearance and patience.

    Frankly, it seems to me that, apart from the confrontation, the bishop in this case should have been working to try to help this family through a major crisis of both health and income. There should have been some home visits and efforts to help with jobs and perhaps Fast Offering aid. And that is so, even if everything he said in the accusation were true!

    If I were a member of the high council assigned to that ward, and learned of these facts, I would have asked the bishop about those things. I would have asked him, even if he thought he was moved by the Holy ghost to rebuke someone, where was the increase in love unfeigned that he is required to show?

  55. J. Nelson-Seawright on November 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Patricia, sorry — I had thought my point was reasonably clear, but I guess it wasn’t. Some specifics, then. It seems to me that the story as you tell it provides direct evidence of the victimization and marginalization within our society of Sister S, and if she reads this post, may even constitute another act of such.

    When you tell the story of Sister L, Sister S, and the baby, you’re repeating gossip, aren’t you? The story may well have happened along these lines, although it sounds like the sort of thing that’s been exaggerated or misunderstood in the retelling. But whether or not it’s accurate, neither you nor I were there, and so as good Mormons we ought neither to believe nor to repeat this stuff, don’t you think? Likewise the accounts of Sister S’s alleged behavior in church meetings. And the fact that the bishop wanted to say to Sister S the horribly inappropriate — abusive, never acceptable, counter to the revelations — things that he in fact said to you is further evidence that Sister S had been marginalized by those in power in the community.

    As I read your story, you don’t intend to state that Sister S was necessarily at fault, but rather that it was a poor fit between Sister S and the community. This strikes me as a charitable and useful perspective on your part. But repeating the allegations against Sister S, without calling attention to the fact that they are gossip and may be unreliable, seems to be a perhaps unintentional act of taking sides against her. It seems unfortunate that your full belonging to the community seems to be predicated to some extent on this.

  56. Jim F. on November 4, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    As you know, Patricia, I have great admiration for you as a person and for the things you write. Thanks.

  57. Patricia Karamesines on November 5, 2009 at 12:42 am

    JNS,

    Thanks for being clear. Now I’ll be clear.

    When you tell the story of Sister L, Sister S, and the baby, you’re repeating gossip, aren’t you?

    My repeating the Sister-L-Sister-S story is not repeating gossip–it’s repeating Sister L’s perceptions to support a point (see Crick’s #50 above). Along with others’ perceptions of Sister S’s behavior in Sunday school, I present Sister L’s perceptions as evidence for my belief that the bishop said to me what he had wanted to say to Sister S.

    But repeating the allegations against Sister S, without calling attention to the fact that they are gossip and may be unreliable, seems to be a perhaps unintentional act of taking sides against her.

    Again, since my purpose in providing these details is to support my belief that the bishop’s unjustified attack on me was misdirected anger he felt toward Sister S, the question of their [possibly] being gossip is irrelevant. If the stories are reliable, they support my point. And if the stories aren’t reliable, they still support my point.

    It seems unfortunate that your full belonging to the community seems to be predicated to some extent on [a perhaps unintentional act of taking sides against her].

    Your point that I might have unintentionally taken sides against Sister S is alleged but not proven (“seems”). The rest of argument sounds vaguely familiar … “Your full belonging with these [allegedly] marginalizing and victimizing people seems established by/based upon (predicated to) your perhaps unintentional act of taking sides against her. Therefore, you would seem to be one of these [allegedly] marginalizing and victimizing people.”

    Oh yes–it’s like the stance the bishop took during his non-interview. While your argument isn’t exactly like the bishop’s guilt by association fallacy–”You look like one of these people who took a side against us; therefore, you must be one of them”–it’s close enough to be mildly interesting.

    J. Nelson, you seem to want to take this story as a blueprint for marginalization and victimization. If that interpretation is important to you, you can have it, it’s yours. Others commenting here seem to take the story in ways that stand opposite to how you take it; that is, it gives them ideas for how to resolve/avoid similar trouble.

  58. Doug Hudson on November 5, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Thank you for this post.

  59. Kristine on November 5, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Patricia, JNS is not the only reader who sees the problems he does. Your “resolution” depends in large part on getting people to realize that you are not like Sister S. That’s fine, of course–we should all be known as individuals–but to the extent that your resolution does not involve ward members also realizing that Sister S. was a sister in need of compassion, it is incomplete. To the extent that you also fail to “turn the other cheek” to Sister S. in the telling of your story, it is inconsistent. I don’t especially want to get into an argument about what is in some ways a lovely and helpful post, but it seems important to register the questions, particularly as you’ve dismissed JNS’ voicing of them.

  60. Frank McIntyre on November 5, 2009 at 9:30 am

    Patricia, although I’m sure there were far more important and meaningful parts of the story, by far my favorite was when you called the young man back to get the sacrament. What a great example of how often innocent mistakes can lead to unintentional pain, and how we should not presume too much from other’s actions.

    “but to the extent that your resolution does not involve ward members also realizing that Sister S. was a sister in need of compassion, it is incomplete.”

    Also, world hunger.

    “J. Nelson, you seem to want to take this story as a blueprint for marginalization and victimization. If that interpretation is important to you, you can have it, it’s yours. ”

    I’m going to have to steal this sentence sometime.

  61. J. Nelson-Seawright on November 5, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Fair play, Patricia. Only your post doesn’t explicitly qualify the stories about Sister S. as unreliable perceptions; the narrative constructs them as true. Sister S.’s actions are presented as the causative agent that puts “barbs” in the heart of Sister L., Sister S. is the “rhetorical storm” that unsettles church meetings, and so forth. If your text directly characterized these claims as unreliable gossip presented for the sake of explaining why the members of your ward had mistreated you, that would be better.

  62. patricia k. on November 5, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I’m booked up on work and household duties. I won’t be able to come out to play today, guys.

  63. J. Nelson-Seawright on November 5, 2009 at 11:34 am

    A quick point of clarification — the reason I think the gossip status of the stories told about Sister S. matters is not because of their role in Patricia’s overall narrative. Whether the ward maligned and misinterpreted Sister S., or whether Sister S. bulldozed through them with little love and compassion, Patricia may well be right in concluding that the Sister S.-ward relationship was the cause of her initial bad reception.

    The problem is that this narrative usage of the Sister S. stories doesn’t, as it were, baptize the stories themselves. The stories remain one-sided and accusatory toward a woman who is silent here. Whether the intent of including them is to repeat gossip or not, the fact is that the post repeats gossip.

  64. Tatiana on November 5, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I appreciate how deeply personal this story is, and how it’s offered to us as a gift, that we might learn from it. I’m struggling with how to understand it, still.

    There are a couple of circumstances in which people I’m in contact with try to pick fights with me in ways that initially make me angry, then I realize that there’s no need for me to fight with that person, that it’s important that I don’t fight with them. In the one case, I have to be around the person only about 5 times in a year, so I just let it go. I completely ignore the person’s attempt to pick fights with me. I just stop and look at them mildly for a few moments of silence, then change the subject to something unobjectionable like the weather.

    The other person I need as a member of a team. She does her part pretty well. We both are imperfect. We’re both trying to do our best, though. Occasionally she will pass along unjust barbs that sting me, but I realize she’s hurting and insecure and possibly afraid maybe I might be doing a better job than her. I realize that we need to work in harmony and not to fight. So I just let any anger go from my heart and my mind, and don’t let myself defend or lash out in return. I know that she has trouble with her interpersonal relationships. I try to love her unconditionally. I’m grateful for her part of our partnership. I appreciate all that she does. Probably I should tell her that more often.

    In both those cases I’m in a relationship of equality with the other person, so I feel completely able to let things go without any defense. Maybe this is the model you’re teaching with your story. A non-defense from a position of equality or superior strength.

    In a case where a person is in authority over me, though, I’m not sure what the right thing to do is. It seems to me that correcting any error quickly is the best way about it. Here’s how I’ve responded as a female in an overwhelmingly male profession when upon occasion I believe I’ve been treated unjustly. I state firmly and definitively my position with the full expectation that things will be resolved favorably. I do it without anger, openly, and in a way that leaves open paths to friendship and professional connection. I try to do it with factual information and logic, and just make an assumption that naturally we all will want to fix this because it’s only an oversight that I know we will quickly correct.

    This question is a real problem for me because growing up abused puts a person automatically in the inferior position, on the defensive, and likely to be abused again. It’s the most natural thing in the world, so I have to rethink my immediate intuitive responses. I have to pray and make conscious choices to stand up for myself, because I feel automatically as though I must be in the wrong in every case.

    See, that was internalized early on. The anxiety, the fear, and the self doubts will never entirely be gone, but being willing to stand up against injustice is very important, I think. It helps me feel that life is worth living. I feel like I’m helping everyone else in the system by so doing. I’m helping to correct wrongs that are in the system, by having faith in it as a system, and trying to work within it to get it right. I think a lot of our systems only work if they’re able to self-correct as they go, which requires people willing to admit something is wrong and commit to setting it right. Does that make sense?

    I feel like the courage to do that is one blessing that came from having grown up in harsh circumstances. Many times people privately thank me for addressing issues they were unwilling to risk committing themselves to in public. I have no hesitation doing that because of my background.

    So that’s why your story troubles me. Because perhaps I’ve been badly wrong in my approach all this time. That’s why I’m asking for more light, because I realize I don’t understand what Christ meant by turning the other cheek. Turning the other cheek is what I thought I was doing while I was growing up, following Christ in that particular way, and it turned out to be a bad idea. I now think I should have defended myself powerfully at the earliest opportunity.

    I wish I’d taken Aikido starting about age 3. I think this would have been far better for the abusers as well, to be trained all their lives not to abuse. I see that the abusers are far worse off than I am, in the same way that the master is worse off than the slave, because they can’t even see that it’s wrong, and as a consequence it destroys their lives and damages who they are. Much more so than the abused ever suffers, because we can more easily come to know that it’s wrong. So we’re being merciful when we stop people from abusing their powers. We’re helping to show them a better way, and to train them in following it. In the long run it’s a great mercy, I think. But your story still troubles me and makes me feel I’m missing something.

  65. Crick on November 5, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    Raymond (#54): I knew you were referring to the right of appeal as stated in the D&C (hence the reference to Thomas B. Marsh and the cream, who President Monson alluded to as having taken his (Marsh’s) appeals too far by going all the way to the FP when he should have accepted the decision of a lower council.
    That aside, I must say I think your response was very good and quite persuasive—at least for most situations in life. I tend to think that Patricia’s circumstance revolves around perceptions and perceptions OF other’s perceptions. Even Patricia’s interview with the bishop must be seen in the context of her perceptions, that “[h]e seemed to have some idea that I was an aggressive apostate…” and [h]e was never clear about what doctrines he believed I had attacked… he just seemed certain I had—or would—attack something.” (That’s a lot of “seems”).
    So to me it appears to be a difficult situation. A higher council or authority might help clear it up, but maybe not. In any event, an appeal can at times be seen as an escalation and like the marriage/divorce example you gave, sometimes I think the best thing to do is ride it out and let your behavior do the communicating. I think this is especially true in professional situations where going over someone’s head while still unfamiliar with them might poison a relationship that could otherwise bloom. As a corollary to the “pick your battles rule” I would add “in new relationships, wait to pick battles unless absolutely necessary.” Where there was apparent prejudice toward the perceived outspoken feminist in this ward (and perhaps the stake) at the time, and where Patricia had only just met this Bishop, taking things to the next level could have hardened those perceptions and been detrimental to her activity in the church. Nonetheless, were I to write a “manual” on the general principle, I would take your side.
    Going beyond generalities, I was particularly impressed by your wise observation that “[One is] not doing a kindness to [a leader] by allowing them to labor under a false understanding. If I were the person making the false conclusion, I would be upset if I learned weeks or months later that I was wrong, but I was not simply told that I was wrong.”
    I find the above line persuasive because it seeks to get beyond one’s own perceptions and see things from the other person’s (in this case the Bishop’s) view. There is no better way to try and correct someone than to do it from a golden rule perspective.
    And
    “If communicating the truth doesn’t work, you can still try the route of forbearance and patience.”
    Well, I guess you know we already agree there.
    As for your allusions to reproving when moved upon by the Holy Ghost I tend to be biased in favor of leaders, that as judges in Israel they are in tune to the Spirit and I tend to give more weight to their perceptions, than my own. That is a product of my own background and personality.
    Raymond, I always enjoy your thoughtful comments. Contrasted to the comments section of the local online newspaper, this blog is quite a forum for informed discussion.

  66. Raymond Takashi Swenson on November 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Croick (#65): Thank you. It is good to get feedback–which is the main point of my previous post.

    Earlier this week something I wrote in an email was taken as sexist. Fortunately I was given a chance to explain what I was trying to say. I was aided by finding out about the false impression I was making right away. If we can reflect back to people the things they say that offend us, we can help them clarify their real intent, and avoid nursing a silent grudge, or avoid a flaming retaliation that makes us feel guilty.

  67. John on November 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    I, too, appreciated your story. I was accused by my mission president of something I did not do and was on the mission troublemakers’ list for months. But I was young then and completely in awe of priesthood authority.

    Today, I’m inclined to agree with Raymond Swenson about going to the stake, except I think I would go directly to the stake president. I don’t see anything disrespectful in that. You deserved to know what exactly was going on. Your bishop had power over you and was exercising it unfairly, whether in ignorance or not.

    I am no longer in awe of priesthood authority because I know those who have it are as fallible as I am. But I hope I still respect it.

  68. patricia k. on November 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Frank, #60:

    I’m going to have to steal this sentence sometime.

    Sure, Frank, go ahead. In the case you do, it might help to know that there’s an actual social ethic behind those words. I really do believe it’s wrong to try to take away from a person something that’s truly important to him or her, including and especially beliefs. It doesn’t hurt, though, to point out that the person involved still has a choice.

    If J. Nelson’s words had tested positive for real fear–if he had persisted in his stance against reason–then on that matter, I would have backed off and let him keep the ground he needed to protect. As it was, he stepped off that ground himself.

  69. patricia k. on November 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    #65, Crick,

    “[h]e seemed to have some idea that I was an aggressive apostate…” and [h]e was never clear about what doctrines he believed I had attacked… he just seemed certain I had—or would—attack something.” (That’s a lot of “seems”).

    That’s right, that is a lot. And you’re absolutely right that the energy of this story walks of the waters of perception. As Jim Croce says, “Isn’t that the way they say it goes?”

    I guess that if I simply asserted that others’ words and behavior mean only what I say they do instead of allowing for the benefit of some doubt, the fabric of my arguments would be seemless, if unfitting.

  70. patricia k. on November 6, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    To everyone expressing concern I didn’t appeal to a higher priesthood authority for the righting of this strange wrong:

    If it’s your way to do that, follow it. It’s not my way, except under extreme circumstances where I hit a wall or the other person in authority over me effectively seals off my movements–a very, very rare problem for me. To my thinking, this situation didn’t come anywhere near that.

    Just to remind everyone, I did go to my “higher priesthood authorities” at the outset–two friends whose priesthoodly sensibilites I more or less understood and definitely trusted. They gave me the talismans I needed to help myself. A happy feminist reading of this story might run something along these lines: “Cool! She developed the ability to (presumably) work something out without having to rely on a male power structure to rescue her. You go, girl!”

    I like that bishop. I don’t care that he didn’t apologize for the trouble he contributed to my life at that time. Because of that adventure, I came home with some spiritual and intellectual booty, including little jeweled boxes I couldn’t open at the time. Just recently I found their hidden switches, the lids popped open, and there was stuff inside that came as a complete yet totally delightful surprise.

    The fact that the bishop didn’t persist in his troublemaking was lovely enough for me. Kind of like J. Nelson, when I pointed out that his approach appeared very similar to the bishop’s in the opening steps of that dance. J. Nelson didn’t apologize, he simply didn’t persist in that approach, and that was good enough for me. Whether he quit because he actually was taking a similar approach and realized it was wrong, because he wasn’t but feared his appearing to might provoke me to tears, or whether he stopped for a different reason (or combination of reasons) altogether, I don’t care. He altered his stance, and that was good enough.

    Finally, having a severely brain-injured child has taught me the very important difference between behavior modification and persuasion. In behavior modification, a person exerts influence through conditioning or positive reinforcement or aversion tactics to change another person’s behavior (among other ways). It can be effective. It can be necessary. When my daughter threatens to bring the house down with a tantrum that will put other family members at above-average risk, I resort to it.

    However, I discovered way back that in spite of her lacking large portions of her brain and her at times seemingly barely there consciousness, some spark of agency remained to her. I began fanning it and trying to find fuel to feed it. I submitted myself to long-term exertions whose outcome I had no ability to predict. To my absolute surprise and relief, M’s agency caught. It sometimes took years for certain elements of it to emerge, yet emerge they did. The physical therapist who came to our home noticed it and said, “I don’t know what you’re doing, but keep doing it.” Eventually, the pediatrician noticed, in his “What do you know?” way. Rather than simply reacting to what to her sensory-impaired brain were harsh assaults with severe, sometimes days-long panic attacks that threw off her feedings and caused other problems, she began creating for herself then choosing from widening ranges of possibilities.

    Because of this experience, I’ve become very agency-oriented and have maybe an above-average attention span for waiting to see what happens–years, if necessary. Going to the stake president, especially when things were going so well–maybe not what I expected or intended, but still quite interestingly–would have seemed to me to run closer to the behavior modification model for altering the circumstances of another. Despite all the uncertainties, I just didn’t see that as being necessary.

    But as somebody pointed out nearer the beginning of this discussion, this approach might not be for you or you or you.

  71. patricia k. on November 6, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Tatiana,

    Thank you for your honest words. Would you like to continue the discussion here in public, or would you like to talk via email?

  72. E on November 6, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Fabulous story, Patricia.

  73. Crick on November 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Here is my last volley for a story I never thought would create a debate (but the most profound always do):

    I think the gossip charge ultimately fails for a different reason, that Patricia is telling this story 17.5 years after the fact and has inserted letters for names. If I’m wrong and it is gossip, it is just as much gossip about the Bishop as Sister S. Doesn’t he turn out looking the worst here?

    I don’t see any other appropriate way for telling this story then recounting the perceptions of the RS sisters about Sister S. Are we to honestly believe that this Bishop was just arbitrary and capricious? If such things were more common, then Raymond’s appeal’s process would be right 100% of the time. And yet usually human actions are really re-actions and our empathy expounds when we learn what the original actions were. I am sure that Sister S has a compelling story, but this isn’t her story, its Patricia’s. Yes, plenty have written on world hunger and Sister S is free to weigh in any time she likes.

    I believe in science, but where intrapersonal relationships are concerned, perceptions and anecdotal evidence are as good as its going to get. I trust that Patricia’s account (but saying that is in no way detrimental to the validity of the perceptions of others in the story).

  74. Juliann on November 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Patricia, I am so glad I dropped by. This is such a beautifully crafted tale told with such care and kindness. Thank you for having the courage to tell it despite some predictably less than kind responses.

  75. Patricia Karamesines on November 7, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you very much for reading the story, Juliann.

  76. Tatiana on November 7, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    I love to continue this discussion by email, if you have time. thetatiana AT gmail DOT com. I also want to know more about how you stimulated agency in your child.

  77. patricia k. on November 7, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Great, Tatiana! Internet is spotty in my area this weekend; I’ll be in touch ASAP.

  78. Ol' Man Mose on November 9, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Bravo Patricia K.
    Because of your willingness to “submit”, or “turn the other cheek”, you now have an additional and priceless insight into the magnificent and divine character of the Savior. He being totally innocent, was abused and betrayed well beyond anything we can fathom, not only by strangers but by those who knew Him best. “Blessed are they who are persecuted . . . .” I think this unique blessing somehow comes to some of us through a similar hands on experience, hopefully resulting in an increased understanding of His divine ordeal and thus His eternal character.

  79. Jonovitch on November 9, 2009 at 3:42 am

    Patricia, I am also very interested in your agency vs. behavior modification methods. Can you add me to that conversation? My email is jonovitch at gmail dot com. Or perhaps another public post on that subject?

    I find myself actively reminding myself to give my energetic 5-year-old boy chances to make real decisions, rather than trying to manipulate him into doing what I want. Not always easy.

    BTW, I loved this story and the conclusion, but whatever happened to the company? your husband’s job? your search for employment? How did your family end up surviving?

    Jon

  80. patricia k. on November 9, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Mose,

    Thank you for reading. This experience did spark some insight into Jesus’ advice on how to treat with “enemies.” Not that any of the actors in this drama were enemies.

    All these years I’d been thinking of turning the other cheek as an act of forebearance–not doing something bad back to someone who did something bad to you, and that’s all. The new insight–brand new, still wet behind the ears–is that turning the other cheek is actually full engagement (as far as you are able to achieve it) with the other involved, in winding as deeply into relation with all involved as you can.

    Hence, “full-bodied.”

    Of course, I’m not silly enough to think this insight gets me far in crossing the distance between Jesus and myself. It’s just a new and exciting level of belief.

  81. patricia k. on November 9, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Jonovitch,

    We’re no longer with that company. We make a modest living as Internet merchants. My husband chose that route so he could be at hand to help with M’s care–a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year job–rather than leaving me to fend for myself. Blessings on him for that. Otherwise, my circumstances would keep me quite, um, hemmed in.

    Re: agency vs. behavior modification–let me think about that. I’m wrapping up a difficult semester and will be busy for the next while. I do have other posts here at T&S about M, some of which might give you a few ideas. The formatting switch muddied them up and I haven’t gone in to pick out all the strange fonts, so they can be hard to read.

    Meanwhile, I’ll keep your questions in mind.

  82. patricia k. on November 10, 2009 at 10:56 am

    As I lay abed this morning, waking to the world, turning over once more in my mind the gift this experience has proven to be, I realized that I neglected in all the language I’ve set down here to include one very important thought:

    For the gorgeous unknown of the adventure;
    For the wilderness of possibilities rising up to a broken road;
    For the lengthening sigh of love, the deeper-drawn breath to support it,
    Quick turns of heart, unlooked for arousals of mind;
    For the widening of prayer’s eye;

    For the unbounded blessing of encounter,
    Thank you, Sister S, whomever and wherever you are.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.