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Music and the Spoken Word: A choice we make

Posted March 26

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

It seems pretty much impossible to go through life without ever being insulted, mistreated, disrespected, or snubbed. We are surrounded by imperfect people who do imperfect things — people who are sometimes unkind, occasionally bad-mannered and frequently rude. So what can we do about it?

Someone once compared mean-spirited words and actions to a venomous snakebite. If you are bitten by a snake, you might feel so angry that you want to hunt the snake and kill it. But a wiser course would be to remove the venom from your system as soon as possible. Seeking revenge only gives the venom more time to do its damage (see "Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love," by Elder Marion D. Hanks, attributed to Brigham Young, Ensign, January 1974).

In a similar way, we can choose how we react to offenses or venom from others. In fact, it has been said that “to be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else" (see "And Nothing Shall Offend Them," by Elder David A. Bednar, Ensign, November 2006). And our choice can either help or hinder our healing.

Of course, there are things we should not just ignore — injustice, bigotry and cruelty, to name a few. We can and must do our part to right such wrongs and stand for civility, truth, and righteousness. But in most of our day-to-day interactions, for the more minor infractions of life, the best approach is often to let the snake slither away. The ability to make such a choice is one of the greatest gifts God gives his children.

When we feel overlooked or unfairly treated, we can decide what response reflects the best of who we are. When someone is rude, we can choose not to react with rudeness. When someone is thoughtless, we can choose to be thoughtful. The key is not to give away our day, our mood, our self-respect, or our inner peace to others.

That can be a challenge in this sometimes heated world, but when we hold on to the best within us, the venom cannot find its way to our heart. In this way, our choices can make us free.

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