So no doubt everyone has already heard more than they want to hear about 50 Shades of Grey. Myself included. But this afternoon I was reminded of something I wrote about 8 years ago entitled “Gray”. I’m a religious person, and I was writing to a religious audience, and I hope no one missed the intentional fact that the guy in this book/movie is named both Christian and Grey. The author did that for a reason. I’m posting this for a reason, too.
Those of you who know me even just a little recognize that I personally see almost everything as either black or white. I don’t like gray weather, the color gray, or gray situations. Granted, just because I don’t like those things, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I’m not that naive. They do. But I think more often than not, gray areas are really black things we wish were white. Here is is again. More often than not, gray areas are really black things we wish were white.
Think about that honestly for a minute. If you’re able to be honest, especially about the gray areas in your own life, I bet you’ll agree.We’re human. And too often we wish black things were white, so we rationalize, justify, and excuse. We argue (sometimes with others, but mostly within ourselves) that ‘so and so says’ or ‘such and such did’, or ‘everyone else is’ or ‘it’s really not that bad’. We allow too many circumstances to become gray in our own heads when in reality, they’re still black.
Probably the most common debate involves the last example. The ‘it’s really not that bad’. Well I have a solution for that and all the others. Stop asking yourself if something is right or wrong. Don’t ever do it again. You’ll wear yourself and everyone else out deliberating about it. Don’t tally up the numbers of how many people are doing it, or who said it was ok.
Instead, simply ask yourself “Is it right?”
What a difference those three words can make.
By changing the question, we’ll stop living our lives trying to see how much we can get away with, and start living to be the best we can be. How liberating!
Admit it — mental and moral vacillation is exhausting. Anyone with teenagers can attest to it. Too often we give in, because we’re worn down. So just rephrase the question and see how much easier it is to arrive at the correct answer. Save yourself the effort of deciding every Sunday whether or not you’re coming to church and staying for all three hours. Just come every time. For the whole time.
I can think of dozens of examples where those three words, “Is it right?” make tough decisions simple. How about cheating on your taxes or keeping the extra money the bank gave you via their error? How about calling in sick at school or work because you just want a personal day? How about calling your kids in sick because you need them to babysit? How about showing up 10 minutes late and leaving 15 minutes early, but still taking pay for a full day’s work? How about doing your kid’s homework ‘cuz they’re too tired, or staying up too late on Saturday, so you skip church Sunday to catch up on your sleep? How about being too tired to read your scriptures but not too tired to watch a movie? How about expecting your spouse to do more than you do? Or blaming everyone else for the circumstances you got yourself into? How about justifying anything that isn’t specified in the Word of Wisdom or a Temple Recommend interview? How about talking about your neighbors or co-workers behind their backs or excusing gossip because what you’re discussing is true? How about watching skanky shows on TV because after all, they’re on TV? Or reading trashy novels, or wearing ‘iffy’ clothes?
Is it right? If it isn’t, then don’t do it. If it is, then get after it.Even if everyone else around you is doing the opposite. Even if it’s costly, or embarrassing, or inconvenient. Even if you wish it were pale gray, or slate gray or even charcoal gray.
Much of life and almost all of parenting involves establishing and enforcing rules of right and wrong. The scriptures are full of examples where God sets standards (black and white rules) and then allows His children the agency to obey or disobey.
There are also examples (scores of them) where He corrects, punishes, or chastises those who disobey. Hebrews 12:6 “For whom the Lord loveth he chaseneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” He does it because he loves his children, just like when we correct our children for the same reason.
D&C 95:1-2 “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you–Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face.”
Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to chastise and I really don’t enjoy being chastised. By anyone. Including myself. It stinks. So I try to make good decisions. But I don’t make nearly enough. And too often I’m worthy of chastisement. Most often I’m worthy of it when I’ve pretended black areas are gray. When I’m more consumed with “Is it wrong?” or convincing myself that “It’s not that bad”. That’s when I warrant chastisement. Just like my kids and yours. But if instead I do my best to only do ‘what is right’ I need less correction. Just like my kids and yours.
What’s interesting is that when I attempt to discipline my thoughts and behavior by asking myself “Is it right?”, I still stumble. I still fall short. And I still need correction. But in those circumstances the correction comes more in the form of refinement, than chastisement.
And though I know without doubt that I’ll always be deserving of God’s chastisement, I hope to require less of it. And I hope to grow to the point where I not only accept, but actually welcome His refinement. Because although chastisement and refinement may be similar, they are not synonymous. The difference may seem subtle, but it really isn’t. Just like the difference between “It’s not that bad” and “Is it right?” is bigger than most of us would like to admit.
It’s the literal ‘change of heart’ we’re all supposed to be seeking. It’s the point where anything contrary to God’s will actually lose it’s appeal. It’s where we no longer not only deny ourselves of all ungodliness, but we no longer even desire anything ungodly.
Here’s what we’re promised if we do:”Ye come unto Christ and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”
“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.” (Moroni 10:32-33)
Sounds good to me.