Instructing with kindness

Whether we are the recipient of critical comments about our behavior or the dispenser of remarks about the actions of someone else, we need to think before we react.

No one likes to hear that his or her performance has not measured up. Likewise, when we are in a position to offer counsel on others' work, we should be careful with our remarks. In either case, what matters is that we offer constructive comments about the performance and, when on the receiving end, accept counsel as necessary for our growth.

The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, "The tongue is an unruly member — hold your tongues about things of no moment — a little tale will set the world on fire. . . . I do not want to cloak iniquity — all things contrary to the will of God should be cast from us, but don't do more hurt than good with your tongues — be pure in heart. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 239.)

This counsel from our early Church leader remains powerful advice for our day. Simply put, the Prophet instructs us: Hate the sin, love the sinner.

The Lord provides an example on how to correct with kindness. We are to "show forth" compassion, using persuasion, gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned. And then, having reproved someone "when moved upon by the Holy Ghost" we are to show forth "an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; That he many know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death." (Doctrine and Covenants 121: 43-44.)

These verses of scripture put a heavy responsibility on the person doing the correcting and equally show the person on the receiving end what wise counsel is all about. This is the true test of the Lord's way in handling difficult challenges. We do not shirk from the challenge, especially if we are assured that the Holy Ghost has revealed to us a correct course of action. After we instruct and counsel, then we are to show an even greater love toward those we have corrected.

President Gordon B. Hinckley admonishes: "I plead for understanding among our people, for a spirit of tolerance toward one another, and for forgiveness. All of us have far too much to do to waste our time and energies in criticism, faultfinding, or the abuse of others. The Lord has commanded this people, saying, 'Strengthen your brethren in all your conversation, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings' . . . then follows this marvelous promise: 'And behold, and lo, I am with you to bless you and deliver you forever.'" ("Faith: The Essence of True Religion," October 1981 general conference; Ensign, November 1981, p. 6.)

Both the Prophet Joseph Smith in his teachings and President Hinckley through his counsel say that the latter-day work of the Church is too important to be sidetracked by petty differences and unnecessary criticism of one another.

President Hinckley has said, "We live in a society that feeds on criticism . . . and there is too much of this among our own people. It is so easy to find fault, and to resist doing so requires much of discipline. . . . The enemy of truth would divide us and cultivate within us attitudes of criticism which, if permitted to prevail, will only deter us in the pursuit of our great divinely given goal. We cannot afford to permit that to happen. . . . I am asking that we stop seeking out the storms and enjoy more fully the sunlight. . . . I am not asking that all criticism be silenced. Growth comes of correction. Strength comes of repentance. Wise is the man who can acknowledge mistakes pointed out by others and change his course." (Teaching of Gordon B. Hinckley, pp. 150-151.)

As we all do our part to move the work of the Church forward together, let us try to follow the counsel of our leaders to treat one another as brothers and sisters in the gospel.

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