For all of my language purists, I am writing about situational irony today: the kind where everything seems to point to the right answer as being one choice, but the true answer is something different.
Most people are used to seeing them in life, but I find the gospel is full of them, too. “So are my thoughts higher than your thoughts,” to paraphrase a scripture.
Life, also known as Mortality
- Perspective: I am thinking of the well-known stories of the police taking multiple statements at an accident scene and finding them vastly different, even though they share some commonalities. In dealing with adults, I have resorted to pulling out a quarter to make my point. We both agree that we are looking at a quarter, but if I see a right-side-up picture of a head, the other person is seeing the upside-down picture of an eagle. In relationships, humans often find ourselves arguing “our side,” convinced the other person is just flat-out wrong. When one person is completely unwilling to accept a differing viewpoint, relationships crash. From a history of codependency, I have learned to gain the strength to walk away. I can’t “fix” another person into wanting to accommodate my viewpoints, and there are viewpoints so basic to who I am that I am unwilling to change them for anyone.
- Good people often finish last: Let’s face it: cheaters win, or at least look like they do. People who play by the rules in life cannot compete with those who have no sense of honor or no concern for how their actions affect others. As much as we want to believe that good eventually comes out on top, in measures of wealth, power, and trappings of success, good people have a distinct disadvantage. What I have learned to accept is that people who are truly good have different motivations, and life satisfaction creates its own sense of success.
- The smartest people aren’t always the ones who are leaders: Part of this idea is a continuation of the preceding one, but people who are highly intelligent often have trouble with people skills and have other factors that decrease their likelihood of being chosen to lead. Smart people often end up in very “average” positions.
- What seems smart and logical to one person can seem foolish and irrational to another: This goes right back to the difference in perspective, but deserves its own bullet point because of the twist it puts on establishing truth and right. Humans seem to hunger for absolute truths, but reject any possible candidates that don’t mesh with their personal perspectives.
- Wealth, power, and other things that give us security can’t truly protect us from calamity: Jumping back now to the ideas that good people don’t always win and the smartest people aren’t always the ones in the lead, There is no amount of intelligence, wealth, power, possessions, etc. that can completely prevent death, halt tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters in their paths, or prevent the souring of important relationships. Power, wealth, intelligence, etc. may be able put the inevitable off for a while in some cases, but that is the best that it can do. No matter what someone’s station is in life, heartache and affliction will come calling.
In the gospel, I find ironies that I love:
- Our God of love is a God of growth: Somehow, there seems to be a common idea that true love means accepting us exactly as we are, making us feel good about who we are, patting us on our head, and sending us on our way. In truth, the people who love us most are the ones who are willing to challenge us to try harder and become better than we have been. A loving parent doesn’t let a child wallow in filth and stay there — it’s a recipe for disease and disability for the child! Heavenly Father is the same in this respect.
- The first shall be last and the last shall be first: Those whose goals are prominence in God’s kingdom, who try to cherry-pick what they do in service to God so that they always get the “best” assignments, or try to make sure that everyone around them sees how incredible they are have cheated themselves out of becoming the kind of person that God requires them to become in order to truly have eternal glory. God measures something totally different — the condition of the heart. Those that will be greatest are those who sought simply to do God’s will here on earth without concern for personal eternal benefits.
- Motes and beams: Not matter what the issue is, the mote, or sliver, is always in the other person’s eye, while the beam is in ours. That is because when we are working to make someone else overcome their imperfections and even sins, we are functioning in pride. (The exception would be those called and holding authorized positions in the church and who have the duty to guide and assist others in overcoming sins.) Pride separates us from God, drives away the Holy Spirit, and can over the course of time leave us standing alone outside the protection of the gospel. When we feel compelled to judge and then “assist” someone else, that should be a warning sign to stop and examine what is motivation us — pride is the greater sin.
- Swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat: Sadly, with recent events in the church, this one is starting to hit close to home. We come to the gospel steeped in traditions and beliefs that are simply culture. By accepting them as truths, we have swallowed a camel. Then, when something is said or changed by the ranking leaders in the church, people call the entire church misguided, sick, or other judgmental terms and go on their merry way. They swallow the camel that the wisdom of the world is greater than the wisdom of God by refusing to exercise faith past a small issue and by forgetting that in the instances where a “harsh policy” affects one of God’s children, compensatory blessings are given. The interesting pattern is that those who are most offended are usually ones who are not directly affected.
- Obedience brings freedom: Natural human inclination is to see rules as restrictions rather than protections. In my career of amateur running, I learned the hard way that taking the time to learn to do it right avoids injury and allows me to achieve my goals faster. So it is in the gospel. Obeying God’s law protects us from spiritual injury and allows us to progress faster than the cycle of getting hurt and recovering.
- Faith is a choice: It seems like many people believe faith is a characteristic you are born with, so you either have it, or you don’t. The truth is that faith can be very logical: faith is gained by examining the evidence you have and then choosing what seems most correct. Those who exercise faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have examined the evidence in the scriptures, in their own lives, and in the lives of others and found that the majority of that evidence points to their reality and their truthfulness.
- Faith first: Human inclination is to accept something after all the evidence is given. Because faith is a power that needs to be developed, Heavenly Father gives us enough evidence to make a choice and then rewards those who step forward in faith.
I hope you have enjoyed the ironies I’ve observed. I’m sure I will find more as I continue to study the scriptures, pray, and obey. I hope you will do the same.