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today I’m going to depart from my usually lighthearted, fairly trivial posts and blog about something very significant for a change. I’ve thought long and hard about this post, and I’ve chosen my words very carefully to communicate my message. because of some of the tags I’ve used, I respectfully request that you read the entire post before you flame me ;\ it’s quite a lengthy post, even for me (ha!), and I apologize in advance for that, but every word of this is from my heart. if you DO in fact read the whole thing, thank you for spending your time w/me — I hope you feel it was worthwhile.

lately I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Tim 4:12 “…be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (emphasis mine) and wondering to myself, how am I doing? when people see my actions and hear my words, do they have any reason to think, “I wish more people were like that”…?

as a Christian, I believe very devoutly in doctrines that are not shared by everyone else. but does that mean my actions and words should only be Christian — kind, loving, charitable, helpful, etc. — around and toward other Christians, and that I can speak and act any way I please around and toward non-Christians? of course not! such a notion defies logic and would naturally and quite deservedly earn me the label of hypocrite.

the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to show love to everyone, not just our fellow Christians, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal 5:4). Jesus Himself taught that this is the second great commandment (see Matt 22:39 and Mark 12:31). so who is our neighbour? do we get to pick and choose? the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) indicates to me that everyone who may cross my path is my neighbour, whether he or she embraces the same values I do or not.

Christ also taught His followers to “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt 7:1-2). it’s humanly impossible for any of us to know what another individual has been taught; what he (or she) believes and why; how he has been influenced by people, circumstances, and events in his life; or what’s in his heart. if I hold anyone else to my standard of belief and degree of obedience, I’ll be hard-pressed to obtain mercy for myself since I did not see fit to show mercy to others.

the Apostle Paul prompted Christians, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom 14:13) — that is the original definition of tolerance, “[allowing] the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference” (Oxford American Dictionaries; emphasis mine).

as a Latter-Day Saint, I believe that we all come into this mortal existence w/something called agency, the God-given power and ability to choose for ourselves between good and evil. I cannot choose for you, nor can anyone else choose for me; even the Lord will not choose for us, as the words of the old  hymn remind us “That God will force no man to heav’n.” if we don’t make choices for ourselves, they’re not genuine and sincere, and we’re generally unwilling to adhere to them and be consistent in them. a brief personal story to illustrate: when I was a little girl, I used to LOVE sweeping the big red front porch at my Grandmama and Granddaddy’s house and could spend literally hours diligently engaged in the chore — sweeping every single bit of twig, every piece of leaf, every speck of dirt off that porch — but only if it was my idea; if I was TOLD to go sweep the porch, my enthusiasm for an erstwhile-loved task waned after just a few minutes, and I’d wander off to find something else to do: something I wanted to do, not something someone else told me I had to do.

what do we have so far? as a quick summary: truly living as a Christian requires that, among other things, I show love, show mercy, and allow others to exercise their agency. so where am I going w/all of this? well, now we get to the “very significant” part, and I anticipate being flamed from any of several directions for what I’m about to say:

I’ve been deeply saddened lately by news stories about several young people who’ve taken their own lives after being judged, ridiculed, humiliated, harassed, and tormented by others. did these people believe as I do? no. but does that mean I can’t be upset by their deaths? no. does it mean I can’t mourn them, even tho’ they did things I believe are wrong? no. does it mean I can’t feel compassion for their families and friends at the loss of their loved ones? no. not if I’m really trying to live as a true Christian; on the contrary, that itself means I’m obligated to do all of those things — Jesus Christ and His Apostles taught: “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).

just because I’ve been taught and believe that something is a sin does NOT mean that others believe the same way. I should still love them. I should still show mercy to them. I should still allow them to do things I think are wrong b/c they don’t necessarily think those things are wrong; I will not encourage them to commit what I believe is sin nor approve of it if they do those things, but I will not interfere w/their power and ability to make those choices for themselves. and that’s HARD. esp for Christians — b/c sometimes we’ve seen or experienced for ourselves how living at variance to God’s Laws can bring pain and sorrow not only to ourselves but to those around us, and we honestly don’t want to see others get hurt; however, it’s not our place to force someone else to live a certain way, to believe a certain way, or to do or not do certain things. if God Himself won’t force people to make certain choices, how arrogant is it for any of us to believe WE have that right or authority?

here’s the bottom line, and now we come full circle to what I want people to think of me as a Christian: I don’t want anyone — gay, straight, or otherwise — to be subjected to bullying, especially to the extent that they feel like their situation is so hopeless that the only way they can obtain any relief is through suicide. from a religious perspective, bullying is completely and fundamentally un-Christian; from a spiritual perspective, bullying is contrary to teachings of love, peace, and harmony; from a secular perspective, bullying is disrespectful, cruel, and violates another’s individual liberties.

bullying has to stop. together we all have the power to stop it, through our examples and through our actions. we can stand up for those who can’t or won’t stand up for themselves. we can treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated: w/kindness, respect, and love. we can enforce existing laws that protect individuals from invasion of privacy, harassment, assault, battery, and other breaches of their personal rights. and above all, we can teach our children all these things, so that the legacy we leave for generations to come is one of love, and peace, and liberty for everyone, everywhere.