What is Influencing You?

[ 14 ] Comments

by Bonnie

Sheri Dew visited our area for a 3-Stake fireside Saturday night. I was exhausted from a lot of different things and did not go, but my best friend gave me a very comprehensive repeat with her extensive notes. One of the statements Sis. Dew made that struck those who were there (several people shared the thought with me) was the observation that we are living in a telestial place, with telestial laws and telestial results. She talked about the fact that we make celestial covenants because we intend to live in a celestial place with celestial laws and celestial results. We had ought to be careful how the world touches us, what voices we listen to, and what sorts of goals we work toward.

What, she said, is influencing you?

I’ve thought about that since, especially with a spiritual experience this past week in which the Lord told me something 180 degrees counter to what I might expect to hear from the world, and I’ve been deconstructing how much of my thinking is inspired by false, worldly ideals, mingled with celestial truths. I am a little nonplussed at how much of my thinking is influenced by worldly norms, even if I reject those norms. I still find myself pushing back against them rather than just going on my (hopefully) celestial way. While not necessarily following after worldly or secular goals, am I still influenced by them, feeling the need to justify myself, explain myself, or perhaps slightly alter my eternal trajectory to hit a few worldly highlights on my way through?

Some thoughts that have especially presented to me in the hours since hearing this question are how my chemistry has influenced me; how doubt has influenced me; and how Satan has co-opted virtues like respect for others’ individuality, modesty of expression, developing self-worth, courage, and unity with others of different perspective to produce something decidedly less than celestial. It occurs to me that Satan doesn’t have to alter truths to be successful; he just has to influence them.

  • How do you feel influenced by the world?
  • What forces are exerting pressure on you, altering your eternal focus and your eternal peace?
  • What do you do to recenter?
  • What has resulted from your efforts to disentangle from “the philosophies of the world”?

About Bonnie

Living life determined to skid sideways into the grave and say, "MAN, what a ride!"

14 Responses to What is Influencing You?

  1. Bonnie says:

    Crickets, eh?

    I’ve been thinking about this a great deal today and yesterday, and I find it interesting how often good impulses are suppressed in the name of some political correctness here or there. I think Satan has co-opted our manners to silence the Spirit. Satan has made us careful and risk-averse, when the spirit makes us courageous even in the face of social critique.

    I’ve been far too often influenced by the social mores of society, even ones that we’ve adopted for ourselves in our careful Churching. Can I talk about politics in Church? What if I talk about eternal truths? Can I warn someone I know that s/he is in danger of losing his/her soul? Where is the role of offense? These questions of culture swirl around me. Perhaps everyone else is changing diapers and editing code.

  2. Angie says:

    I’ve been thinking about your haunting title, actually. What is influencing me? We cut the cable cord several years ago, in part because I hated how suggestible my children were to advertising. It is easy for me to say to my recalcitrant 14yo daughter that some of her discontent with aspects of her life stems from the company she keeps. I was able to see some years ago, in retrospect, that discontent in my own life stemmed from the company I kept. By I am woefully bad at seeing things clearly for myself in real time.

    I agree that the PC world we live in is dangerously silencing. On my mission in blunt and beautiful Brazil, I was bold, I said what I thought, I testified of truth with clarity (and I hope not too much of the flippancy of youth). Everything in life these days requires such careful wording, such pussy-footing avoidance of things to avoid offense. I worry that truth is drowned in my throat as a result. I try to remind myself that offense requires agency. I cannot make you take offense (even if I intend it). I try to remind myself of the words of our SP to my husband (who was worried about some offenses taken in our ward when neither he nor the other leaders ‘causing’ the offense intended any)–he said that when people are offended, they are often taking their own spiritual temperature–waving loudly how hurt and ailing they are.

    And ultimately, I am pondering on the stunning phrase from Sister Dibb in our stake conference (regional broadcast for the stakes of Nevada) yesterday where she said ‘Satan doesn’t have a family; he wants yours.’

    Sometimes what influences me is as simple as hunger or exhaustion. Sometimes it is environmental or hormonal or even chemical. I am learning to sift through triggers–to learn where correlation and causation help and/or muddy the waters of understanding for myself and for my family. I worry about what stealthy half truths are allowed sway in my brain, in the brains of my family members and once allowed in are used to influence our family to detrimental ends.

    I don’t always actually know what is influencing me and that, I suppose is what concerns me most.

    • jendoop says:

      Angie, I think your husband’s thoughts about offense are apt. What is our reaction to this though? If someone is “Waving loudly how hurt and ailing they are,” what is our response to this display of pain? Often when someone waves loudly how hurt and ailing they are we in turn wave back that we’re hurt and ailing too or that we don’t care because they’re not meeting our standard for reason. In a foster parent training they pointed out that often we see a child doing something for attention and say, “They’re doing it for attention,” and proceed to ignore them. What if we actually gave people what their actions tell us they are begging for? What if instead of brushing off someone’s offense as unreasonable and inaccurate we took them by the hand and asked them how they are, what else is going on in their lives and gave them the attention they’re asking for?

      I also don’t buy into the famous quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Our emotions come in whatever form they come. What we do with those emotions is our choice. Sometimes that choice needs to be going to the person who helped create those feelings and working through it. All too often we think people need to deal with their emotions on their own and not get us tangled up in their mess, but I believe getting tangled up in each other’s messes is a bit of what the Savior asked us to do. (Obviously there is a healthy limit, even then we can be compassionate.)

      • Angie says:

        I agree with you that emotions come unbidden and that the choice comes in how we deal. Taking offense, to my mind is a choice made with uncomfortable feelings.

        My husband’s/SP thoughts about offense were to lead us to look less at the offense and more at what the source of the feelings really are (being offended the bishop didn’t shake your hand in Sac Mtg or the RS press forgot to wish you a happy birthday ). It isn’t the real problem: it’s a symptom of need or perhaps of doubt or even of sin. My husband (the bishop) and the SP need to be in the business of diagnosing the pain under the offense. The rest of us don’t. Our duty begins and ends with compassion.

        Compassion should influence our words and actions but I don’t believe the fear of unreasonable offense should which is why our PC generation drives me so nuts (all the while I find myself influenced by it)

  3. Paul says:

    What is influencing me?

    Two categories: immediate (and proximate) and longer term.

    I think the immediate / proximate concerns have influenced me more than I would like. Despite my best efforts to continue in scripture study and reading out of the best books (and blogs) to turn my focus to the longer term (read: eternal), I continue to be swept away by the immediate and the proximate. My present health does not help that perspective, but it is a battle worth fighting.

    I am really enjoying this year’s RS/PH lessons from President Snow; he has a way of speaking to me that engages my heart and encourages me forward with a more eternal view.

    Like Angie, we have chosen not to have cable, though we do select television via other sources online as a family. It is far less a part of our at-home kids’ lives than we’ve had in the past. Unfortunately, there are plenty of other influences to replace the TV. (I’ve taken to calling the computer the new “idiot box” much to my 16-year old’s amusement.)

    I am influenced by what I think others will think. This may relate to what you call social customs. I don’t want to be *that* guy… On the other hand, I am not shy about representing my view of gospel truth in a church setting. (As a former bishop in my ward, I have an odd social standing — a voice to be (at least politely) listened to because of What I Once Was; for that reason I try to be careful about what I say and how.)

    I have watched two generations of children grow up in my home (our oldest is 19 years older than our youngest) and it’s interesting to see the developments form oldest to youngest — developments in our way of teaching and training them, and developments in the world around us, and developments in our reaction to “the world.” I am today far more economically liberal than I was 20 years ago (though not enough for my all-knowing 16-year old), but not socially.

    For eternal influences, I turn most often to the temple. When I attend regularly, it is far easier for me to take the long view and to weigh even immediate questions with the long view in mind. I also turn to scripture study, though I confess that for now, my scripture study is less than thrilling to me.

    • jendoop says:

      Paul, I like your focus on the temple. I think that has a lot to do with what influences me. My visits there are never frequent enough to combat all the other days I spend immersed in the world.

      I hear you on the scripture study, sometimes it’s more about the desire to be obedient than what we get out of it in the moment. And when my obedience is lacking my scripture study is too, which is a dangerous combination.

  4. Deborah says:

    A wonderful post, thought provoking. I have been bedridden for 20 years, and have had the debilitating disease of muscular dystrophy since age 7 [I a member since 10]. My life has been highly protected by overly protective grandparents but, never limited to the reality of what is happening around us. Nevertheless there are influences even within a good home. We can’t be that sheltered that we cannot make necessary decisions for growth. I have always been very careful as to what I see, listen to, associate with, etc… not because I merely love Christ but, the realities of the beauty annd strength of our covenants are absolutely incomparable to anny earthly thing. We seem to get stuck in one major principle–that of forgetting our identity and, if Satan can get us to forget and then, forsake, we will never live up to our pre-existence covenants & promises.
    Wonderful And needed blog you have !

    Sincerely Deborah

    • Bonnie says:

      Thanks Deborah. Yours is a trying situation as unique as any of ours. I think often of my covenants when I try to ascertain the pressures asserting influence on me. The other day I was a little heavy with a phone call I received from someone who was unhappy with me. As I walked away, I turned in prayer to ask for the Lord’s help so that I wouldn’t let the people around me down. The answer came almost immediately: I pay the wages of those who work for me … mind your master. It was steadying, because the feeling that came with it was that he was happy enough with me at this time, even if others weren’t. I’ve been thinking since, and that thought process folded in Sis. Dew’s remarks, that I need to mind who my master is. Who am I afraid of displeasing? We’re glad you’re along for the ride, and glad you spoke up.

  5. Liz C says:

    An aspect of this topic came up for me this weekend during Relief Society, as we discussed a conference sermon in terms of Becoming Godly Parents, and supporting the family.

    One thought occurred to me related to influence: when we indulge in the crass, belittling “humor” that characterizes so much of “entertainment” these days, we play right into the adversary’s hands. If he can convince us that men and fathers are stupid and lazy, women are shrews or “hot” or insignificant, children are brats, teens are lower than human, and that all of this is *funny*, he doesn’t have far to go from influencing “comedy” to completely destroying our respect for one another. Humor becomes contempt and hatred when we internalize those influences.

    It’s made me look at the media and humor influences in our home with a sharper eye, and we’re having conversations about it with our kids, trying to help define why it’s okay to be clever and witty, and not sharp or hurtful; where the line is between “good fun” and “belittling.” It’s such a seemingly *small* influence, but my goodness, what huge potential effects!

  6. jendoop says:

    Bonnie, I think you heard crickets on this one because we were thinking. It takes a while for the gears to turn :)

    My initial reaction to your question is: everything. If we like it or not everything around us effects us, which is why we are admonished to share the gospel. That said, people make their own choices that may not be consistent with the gospel of Christ. That is where our long suffering, meekness, love unfeigned comes in. There is no escaping the evil influences that are rampant in this world. We can do our best to keep ourselves from it, but we would be naive and putting ourselves in a dangerous position to think it is not effecting us. This is the experience Heavenly Father sent us here to have – to learn to discern between the bitter and the sweet.

    This particularly came into focus for me this morning when I read an article based on an anthropological study. In essence it says that Americans are weird. For decades researchers have based research on American ideas and measures, when in fact most of the world sees things very differently than us. This illustrates how great an influence our culture has on us – these researchers goal was to produce unbiased studies, but their biases ran so deep that they couldn’t even see them.

    It leads me to think about the line from the hymn ‘O My Father’, “Something whispers I’m a stranger here.” (paraphrasing) There will always be a feeling that this place is not right, that we can’t quite fit in, can’t quite be successful, can’t quite put our finger on how it’s uncomfortable and wrong – because it is not the sphere we were created to thrive in, but one from which we can learn and eventually triumph over through Christ. CS Lewis has some good thoughts along these lines.

    Here’s the article I mentioned: http://www.psmag.com/magazines/pacific-standard-cover-story/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135

    • Bonnie says:

      Yes, I love your thoughts about being strangers here. I often think sadly of the pollution, persecution, inequality, and faithlessness of our whole sphere. We can’t be unified with this. We are strangers in a foreign land, but I am so grateful that we are “trailing clouds of glory.” We spend our time in the dark, listening for hints of the light. I think when we live in light we will be so grateful, memories of the dark following us. I have often thought that that is why angels are described as always singing God’s praises around his throne. We will be so grateful for the incredible lightness of it all. Meanwhile, we press forward with a perfecting brightness of hope.

    • Michelle says:

      “”It leads me to think about the line from the hymn ‘O My Father’, “Something whispers I’m a stranger here.” (paraphrasing) There will always be a feeling that this place is not right, that we can’t quite fit in, can’t quite be successful, can’t quite put our finger on how it’s uncomfortable and wrong – because it is not the sphere we were created to thrive in, but one from which we can learn and eventually triumph over through Christ. ”

      I’ve been thinking about this hymn a lot, too as of late. Jacob also talked about being wanderers in a strange land. Someone asked in RS the other day about what priesthood means to us. To me, it is what helps bridge that gap between where I am and where things are and where they can be — both now (bringing the Spirit and healing and God’s love and truth and forgiveness into my life now) and in the eternal sense of overcoming through Christ.

      “For decades researchers have based research on American ideas and measures, when in fact most of the world sees things very differently than us. ”

      This made something click in my mind. It’s no wonder the prophets keep reminding us to measure things against God’s truth rather than the world’s standards. How many ways that different approach could help us, I think, from our impatience with ourselves and each other to our ideas about how things ‘should’ run in the Church to even what battles to fight (and how to approach them) in a worldly sense (e.g., politics).

      Hm.

  7. JessK says:

    I think the distinction between our telestial world and our celestial eternity is so important. As I was thinking about the whole “pants” issue in December, it struck me that how the Church functions right now is probably not exactly how it will function in the eternities. I look to the temple as an example of how leadership there is different than in wards and stakes. And that is where a lot of our “offenses” within the church come from–we are striving to live celestial ideals within a telestial framework.

    • Michelle says:

      I could be wrong here, but as far as I understand it, the Church will not exist at all in the eternities. The keys will all be returned back to the Savior at some point. Those who hold keys hold them temporarily as part of the process of allowing us the opportunity to receive Christ and His Atonement. That key-holding process extends far beyond just this life; we know that they will even be used in the judgment process. But given the doctrine of the eternal family unit, I see nothing that suggests that that family will be tied to Church structure. I see that all as representing the journey to the celestial kingdom, not part of the structure of it.

      If I’m interpreting that close to correctly, that to me only increases the “hm” factor of the issues which which we sometimes struggle within the church. We try to impose a model that was never meant to be imposed for this probationary period.

      I have been thinking about the struggling for a celestial model and how that often probably does create feelings of pain. But it’s our Father’s plan that brought us here to bump around in this fallen sphere, so I think we have to be careful not to be impatient with what this sphere is designed to do. I think the gap between where we are and where we are supposed to be is supposed to be filled by Christ, not by us and our efforts (and dare I say activism (even as I’m sympathetic to the pain that drives people to such actions, and I believe ultimately their journeys are between them and God …again, part of the process of mortality and figuring things out).

      But I do think that *that* is where the pain really comes from and builds on itself. We often try to impose telestial solutions on our seeking for celestial things when the real solution is the Atonement.

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