Friday, August 3, 2012

Contrary Action, The Secret to a Happy Life

There are lots of irritating people in daily life.  We get cut of on the freeway; people ignore us and cut in line at the supermarket. Some personalities just rub us wrong.  These little interactions can cause us to be irritated and are a part of everyday life.  Sometimes family members irritate us.  They may try to control us, they say mean, insensitive things, and sometimes they experience more material wealth.  These events can occur many times during a typical day and cause us to be irritated, upset and even angry. Who irritates you?

How does it work?

When we feel hurt, angry, or envious, we may assign dark motives to the other person to justify our negative feelings, which makes us feel better.  We don’t like being upset or angry or irritated, but after all, people out there are deserving of our ire, aren’t they?  We don’t need to look for reasons to be upset; they come up automatically every day. So most days we find ourselves with things in our hearts that we don’t want:

We are now left in a quandary because we know it is uncomfortable to have such feelings and yet we do.  What we desire is a heart full of charity, a heart full of mercy.  What can be done?  We can’t ignore irritating situations; they are in our workplace, on the freeways and in our own families.  How do we change from an irritated heart to a merciful one?



The answer comes from the Savior. "I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matthew 5:44 

Story 1. There is a man in AA who constantly talks about going to the Betty Ford clinic every time anyone talks to him.  He does this over and over.  Chad feels that the man’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard.  So Chad decides to take contrary action.  He greets the person weekly and asks how he is doing.  Chad takes a genuine interest in the man and slowly the irritation goes away.  Chad now reports and he feels perfectly comfortable with the man even though he still hears about the Betty Ford Clinic with every encounter.

Story 2 Now Chad proactively makes sure people don’t irritate him.  He doesn’t think about it all the time but when he gets a sense that he is going to be irritated by someone he moves into action before they have a chance to irritate him and is warm and friendly to the person by trying to find ways to help the person.  He is proactive in taking contrary action!

Story 3  Two girls as school tattle on girl number 3.  So I ask them, “Do you like girl number 3?”  They both huddle close to me and whisper a definite “NO”.  So I say to them teasingly, “Do you want to drive her crazy?”  They gleefully say, “Yes”.  I instruct them, “Here is what you can do, try being super nice to her, it will confuse her.”  Oh they like this plan.  I have just asked them to take contrary action. 

Story 4  Before my father died he had one fear.  He worried about seeing Emma Scholl, his mother-in-law, on the other side.  She had been mean spirited to him over the years and told him directly that she hoped her daughter would pick someone else in the next life.  I pleaded with Dad to take contrary action to let the past go and view Emma in a different way.  Sadly, he was unable to view her any other way in this life.

Story 5 Farmer Brown Journal, February 18, 1962:  “Last evening a phone call from Harold’s wife Mary convinced me again that I am not emotionally mature for she upset me physically.” Farmer is right.  This is emotionally immature.  All he has to do to correct the situation is to take contrary action, to look for ways to serve her, help her and show her that he really cares about her.  As my wife often says, “She needs more love.”

Story 6 Rod was waiting for the plane to take off but a few more passengers were entering the airplane.  There were a few more scattered seats throughout the middle section of this jumbo jet.  The seats were about 10 across and before long a 400 pound man stood at the door looking for a seat.  Everyone on the plane with an empty seat thought to themselves, "Please don't sit next to me."  Rod like the rest thought to himself, "Anywhere else but here."  The large man came down the isle and sat next to Rod with his body spilling out of his seat encroaching on Rod's body.  Rod then thought, I should talk to this man.  He did.  Rod reported that he was one of the most interesting people he had ever met.  They talked about a variety of subjects including religion.  When Rod walked out of the plane he thought to himself, "That was one of the most interesting people I ever met."
Story 7  Jeff and Robin have made for themselves one of the best marriages I know.  They have complete respect for one another, they do volunteer work together; and their children, now grown, reflect their emotional healthiness and serenity.  The road leading to this unity has had more than its share of obstacles and treacherous ruts, but they've handles these unselfishly and cooperatively, and this I think has had a formative impact upon the children.

But their marriage didn't start out this way.  In school Robin had been the trophy girlfriends of the boys with status, and she reveled in this glory.  She had picked out Jeff as the one she wanted most and deploying all her instinctive wiles, caught him--much to his parents' concern.  When the wedding ceremony ended, it quickly beame clear that she had invested about as much in the relationship as she was going to.  She lost none of her chjildish hedonism.  She stayed in bed till noon, refused to acknowledge any domestic duties, shopped in the afternoon, and took off on her own at night for parties and dance-hall hopping with her old friends.  jef's friends and family mourned for him; what they had predicted had come to pass.

But Jeff didn't mourn for himself.  Not once did he complain.  In fact, he consistently showed his gratitude for Robin.  He got up early to make breakfast and leave her portion for when she arose; he cleaned the apartment at night; he treated Robin with unwavering respect.  He was an unflagging embodiment of the principle of forgoing the taking of offense.

A year when by and then two.  Robin started showing signs of disillusionment with her party life.  She complained about the selfishness of her friends.  She wondered why they couldn't be more like Jeff.  Then she began to worry about the possibility that Jeff might leave her and told his mother he had every right to do so.  His quiet undaunted love didn't fit into "the world according to Robin."  in which people acted only to please themselves.  That confused her; she couldn't figure him out.  Why didn't he ever tell her he'd had enough of her/  For a while her worry became so great that she seemed almost depressed

then one day she announced that she wanted to accept Jeff's parents' invitation to Sunday dinners, which she had almost always refused, and a little later she started visiting his mother, asking her questions about their family and about making a home.  In time, she told jeff she wanted to become a mother and do it in the right way, and she did.  From the Bonds That Make Us Free by Terry Warner

Story 8  On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.   Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages and shot ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five, before committing suicide in the schoolhouse.   The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location.

Story 9  Last night we were invited to a friend house and upon arriving we looked at the people and realized we were going to be given a sales pitch to be involved in a multi level marketing plan.  I hate sales pitches.  In the car on the way over to the home my wife commented that this might happen and she wisely said, “If this happens let's be as friendly and warm as can be.”  

I took my wife's advice and after some selling we began getting to know the couple.  At one point in the evening they told us about the things that mean the most to them in life.  I looked at them and said, “The two things that mean the most to me are my cat and my wife.” 

My wife jumped in and said, “He’s kidding about the cat, some days he’d like to kill it.”  The woman responded with, “Oh and I was going to commend you on your wise choices.”  When we got home we had a good laugh over that.

When we take contrary action we change roles.  Instead of being acted upon, we act.  That is what Jesus Christ did.  Every person he encountered, he viewed as a person he could help and he did so in the moment.  When missionaries begin serving in the mission field they are self-centered, but before too long, as they serve, they find they love the people they are serving.  The reason: Christ-like service brings mercy into our hearts.  Can you imagine an irritated, upset, angry or vengeful missionary?  It rarely happens because their hearts are changed and they think about people in a different way.  They also act accordingly.

“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions, the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts, the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2012.  This is a challenge for every person on this earth. It is a work that never ends. 

Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh were married for 20 years.  When she died:  In his autobiography, Olivier described his "grievous anguish" as he immediately travelled to Leigh's residence, to find that Merivale had moved her body onto the bed. Olivier paid his respects, and "stood and prayed for forgiveness for all the evils that had sprung up between us", before helping Merivale make funeral arrangements. Before her death she said: Merivale proved to be a stabilising influence for Leigh, but despite her apparent contentment, she was quoted by Radie Harris as confiding that she "would rather have lived a short life with Larry [Olivier] than face a long one without him".[

This I believe that: As we take contrary action with people that irritate us our roles and perceptions change.  We can come to a point where we are not irritated or upset by others ever.  Then comes the peace the Savior talked about.

How to structure a lesson on Contrary Action:

Readiness: Begin by giving some examples of how you or someone you know got irritated.  Once they have that idea firmly in their minds draw two hearts on the board side by side and put a question mark between the hearts.  In one write irritated, upset, angry, in the other write loving, calm, good feelings.  Ask the class how they get from irritated to calm.  This is an important question so give it some time.  

Participation: Go around the room and ask individuals what they do to get calm when irritated.  Get MANY responses and write them down.  You will get lots of different things that may or may not work, write them down anyway.  It would be nice at the end of the lesson to take a photo of the board.

Once they have produced the list tell them you have something so novel, so unusual and so dramatic that you are not even sure if you should present it.  Tell them the answer is found in Matt 5:44.  Have them turn to the scripture.  Read.   Then tell them that in AA this is called Contrary Action.  Share your stories (from the website)  and ask if anyone has ever tried Contrary Action.  

Application: Commit them to trying Contrary Action and tell them that everyone struggles with this principle, and you do too, tell them that this single scripture for most people is the most important verse in all scripture. Bear testimony, close and take a picture of the chalkboard.  Keep the lesson moving and control participation.  Time is the coin of teaching, spend it wisely.