Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting Along: 5 "Cure-All"s

There were two snippets of advice I got before my mission that served me greatly. 1) Don't compare. EVER. Just don't do it. 2)How to get along with your companion.

We're going to talk about the latter.

One of the most common fears before (and during) your mission is knowing that you are going to be glued to the hip of another human being. The only time you can be alone is when you're in the bathroom. The majority of the time, this other human being is a complete stranger that you don't know from Adam.

Will you like this other human being? Will they like you? Are you going to secretly wish to poison their food? Are they going to make you cry? Are you going to hate them? Are they going to dominate the companionship? Will they speak the same language as you? The questions go on and on.

Because of circumstances, I only had two official companions. Sis H in the MTC and Sis E in Novi Sad, Serbia. I will tell you more about them later. I say "official companions" because my first companion was my mom. Sis H was called to be a Sister Trainer Leader, which meant she was gone almost all day every Sunday, and often on Wednesday or Thursday nights and I was attached to other companionships during that time. My first few months on US soil I was still a missionary and as part of the rules, I still had to have a "companion" with me at all times.
Sis Hubbard was on of "my sisters". She was part of the
adopted companionship and my PE comp.

One of "my sisters". Sis S was also a part of my adopted companionship.

And here comes the spoiler... your companion isn't the only person you have to deal with. There's the street vendor, the other missionaries, investigators, teachers, members, nay-sayers, hobos, and so on. Being a missionary, and a human being, is a very social occupation. There is no getting away from it. You just have to deal with it.

So here is Dr Sestra with your vitamins and antidotes. Let's go with 5, eh? We'll end with the advice I was given. (It just might be my favorite.)

1.Pray for them- "I pray because I can't help myself... I pray because the need flows through me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me." C.S. Lewis (underline added). When you ask fro the well being of another, you cannot help but to become concerned for them, in however a small degree. That small concern, the tiny attachment, grows with each prayer. It may not change the one who is driving you crazy, but it will change you. Maybe you will stop doing little things to irritate them, whether or not you are doing it on purpose.

2.Pray for you- For those of you who don't know Moroni, he was a pretty cool guy who lived in ancient America. True story. In his last years, he was on the run from the crazy people, called Lamanites, who, at the time, did awful things. These crazy people killed his family and friends in horrific ways. Really. It's pretty graphic. While on the run, Moroni was alone. Not the kind of alone that you and I do, when we read a book, browse the internet or watch movies. His family and friends gone and his life at stake.
If that was me, I'd feel pretty bitterly towards those crazy people. I'd be gosh darn mad! I'd probably mop all up and down the ancient Americas. But what did Moroni do? What did he think about?
Faith, hope, and Charity. What? That's right.
Do you understand? He was utterly and helplessly on his own. He had seen things that defied all description of horror. He lost his father, his wife, and his children. But he chose to think about faith, hope and charity.
What does this have to do with getting along and/or praying for you? I just wanted you to know about Moroni, since I will be talking about what he said.
When I say "charity", I don't mean giving away means to the needy. Charity, in this case, is described as "the pure love of Christ." Whether you are christian or not, you can understand what that means. It means the purest and most abundant form of love.
How do you achieve it? Moroni says to pray for it "with all energy of heart."

Last thought to go with this section is the famous saying; Be the change you wish to see. Or in other words; You cannot change those around you, but you can change yourself. Pray for help to change. To be more tolerant and understanding. I know this works by first hand experience.
There was a sister in the MTC who I didn't love. I didn't hate her or dislike her, I just didn't love her. This was strange, since I loved everyone else. So Sis H and I decided to pray to have love for her. A week later when we followed up, we both found that our love for this sister had grown generously! Not only did I no longer feel like a bad person, but it made life so much better and so much easier.
Even though we would never had chosen each other as friends on our own, I could not ask for anything
better than Sis. H! I don't know what I would do without her.
(This was taken on my birthday last July, after enjoying the rain.)

3.Look for the good, ignore the bad- Or in other words, deal with it.
There is a saying that is seldom heard. Keep both eyes open during the courtship and half-closed after the wedding. You're not getting married to your companion. However, you are living, eating, breathing, and doing everything with them. This goes with all the other people you live with. You're not dating them, so keep your eyes half closed.
In the mission, there is a weekly practice called "companionship inventory". It's the time of the week you tell each other what to improve on or maybe what needs to be nixed. I was taught this formula: LOVE SANDWICH:
bread: something good about the person
meat: something the person needs to work on (in a positive way)
bread: something you like about the person

Love sandwich! This was my favorite time in the MTC because Sis H and I loved each other very much! We had an understanding that I have never known in any other situation. So our sandwiches would go something like this:
"Sis H! I love how you are so attentive to the others in class. You have such a gift with helping others to learn the language and to encourage them, especially when they get so frustrated. For the meat... Sis H, I'm sorry but you just got to turn down the awesome. If you could just do your best to stop being amazing, that would be splendid. I love that you push me to do better and be better. You're there for me before, during, and after a lesson. I really appreciate it!"
Love sandwich! Fast forward to Serbia. Honestly, we did not get along, at all. There was no understanding.  I was sick, and she had her own struggles she was dealing with. Both of us needed something we couldn't get from the other. In addition, we were each other's 'person'. The one that that rubs you wrong no matter what. The one that can just set you off! (And I haven't had one of those since elementary school) As you can see, this didn't make for a good pairing.
My brother told me to focus on the positive.  I couldn't find any. Probably because I wasn't in the best mood. So I asked her what her strengths are. True story.
She's a hard worker. She keeps a level head. TWO WHOLE POSITIVES! Woohoo! So these are the things I tried to focus on. I soon noticed that she has an immense love for the locals that they responded to. That's important to missionary work. Slowly, I started to see more and more positives to concentrate on. Did this solve everything? No. Did we laugh more? Yeah. It planted a seed. What happens to seeds? They grow!

4.Get to know them- This was touched up on a little bit in the previous section. When I asked Sis E about her strengths, I got to know her more. Will Rogers said:
Will Rogers
I bet you if I had met him and had a chat with him, I would have found him a very interesting and human fellow, for I never yet met a man that I didn't like. When you meet people, no matter what opinion you might have formed about them beforehand, why, after you meet them and see their angle and their personality, why, you can see a lot of good in all of them.
I have seen this to be true over and over again in my life. How can you focus on positives if you don't bother to learn them? How can you serve them if you don't know what to do? So much of loving another person depends on how well you know them. I was taught at a very young age that if you don't like someone, it's because you don't know them.

The more I got to know my fellow missionaries, the more I grew to love them. Sis H and I would love each other more and more as we found our commonalities and understood our differences. Sis E and I had a blast our last couple days together. (That's when I decided she really wasn't trying to kill me after all.)
Sometimes it takes a long time, as it did with Sis E, or sometimes it takes a short, yet meaningful conversation, a laugh shared while interpretive dancing, or when someone makes a comment and you go "I was thinking the same thing!'
How many times have we heard the story of the troublesome person, or child, and all it took was a teacher, friend, or bystander who was willing to take the time to get to know the individual which ultimately changes the individuals person forever. (Forever is a long time!)

5.Serve them- This is what I was told two weeks before entering the MTC. Find their love language and serve them. This changes both of your attitudes toward each other. I promise! If either of you don't know what love languages are, it's easy to find out. Ask questions like, "What is more meaningful to you? A nice note or an act of service? A meaningful conversation or a hug?" By doing this, you can discover how to most serve. This is my number one suggestion! If you do nothing else, serve those around you.

BONUS: If none of this is working (which have never heard of) and your companion insists on being a bumbler, be patient, be forgiving, and understand people change. None quicker than those on missions. Sis E and I are now really good friends. Both of us have changed. And I wouldn't trade her friendship for anything. These things work eventually. Make them a habit and they will become a part of your character.

What of it? Why should you love those around you? What difference would it make? Instead of answering and sharing why the people I love have been so important to me, I'm just going to challenge and urge you to find out for yourself. Try it. I dare you.

No comments:

Post a Comment