Back in February, our son and his lovely new bride had their wedding reception in our backyard. It turned out beautifully, and was a perfect night. Of course, there was a lot of prep work done before the big event. Thankfully, most of it fell to the bride’s crew, but we did our part.
One of the things that worked really well is that we had lights strung up above the yard, crating a canopy effect. (You can get just a taste of it from the photo above.) It was beautiful, and really topped off the decor. Literally.
It took a lot of work. First, we had to figure out how to mount it high enough to look good and not be in the way. Then we had to figure out how to mount it so that it wouldn’t droop, and wouldn’t ruin the walls or the house. We decided on putting in posts with eyelets on one side of the yard, and screwing eyelets into the side of the roof. We then strung wire between the eyelets. The wire served as a support for the strings of LED lights. Hundreds of feet of light strands are pretty heavy, but we figured the set-up would work.
Decor Day came, and we started setting it up. It went according to plan – no surprises. But it took a lot of work to get it right. It took four guys several hours to string the lights. When we were finally finished, we were pleased with ourselves, but surprised what a task it ended up being. Job well done.
Fast forward 11 weeks. The lights were still hanging there in the backyard. (I am proud to say that they still weren’t drooping). I hadn’t taken them down yet. I had this notion that they might be useful for something else. (In all honesty, I was just procrastinating.) So yesterday morning, I dragged my youngest outside with me to get the job done. He wasn’t thrilled either.
Remember, it took 4 guys several hours to put them up. Can you imagine how long it was going to take me and a teenager to undo all that work?
Taken down coiled, cleaned up and stowed away for some future party.
As I was thinking about the contrast in the amount of time it took to create the canopy vs the time it took to tear it down, it reminded me of a simple truth: It is much easier to destroy that it is to create.
For those of you who are more visual:
How long do you suppose it took to design and build that building. Now how long did it take to bring it down?
That truth applies to much more than decorative lighting. I see it in so many of life’s endeavors. There are “builders” and “destroyers” all around us. Some people are attempting to build, some are attempting to tear down. Both sides find great satisfaction in their labors. Both sides can be wildly effective in their labors.
There are those who build, and those that destroy people as well. I’m sure you have dealt with both. I am sure that you have seen them both at work. It can be either inspiring or devastating to witness. I am also sure that we fill one of those two roles on a regular basis. Yes, that is a scary thought.
A few years ago, President Uchtdorf explained that “The world needs builders, especially bridge builders, not destroyers.” (link) Ain’t that the truth.
To make matters worse, I believe we are somewhat pre-disposed to make the job of the destroyers easier than we make the job of the builders. Case in point: I can post something that I have put a lot of effort into, and a hundred people can tell me how much they like it. Then, one person writes a critical comment, and boom! That is the only comment that matters to me. I’m sure you have had that same experience. A husband can tell his wife a thousand times how beautiful she is, but if he tells her just one time that he doesn’t like the way she did her hair…. Well, you know the rest.
We tend to give disproportional credence and weight to the destroyers in our lives. We can live our lives surrounded by people who love us and are trying build us and help us grow, but someone on the outside can skewer us in a way that shakes us. I don’t know if it stems from a lack of self-confidence, self-worth, a lack of faith, or some sad validation of all these, but we have all felt it. Just this past week I wrote a post about caring less about the things that are outside of our control. I would suggest that we should also make an effort to “care less” about the opinions of those who do not have our best interests at heart. The destroyers.
The way we let people get under our skin really is odd, but very, very normal. It is not merely our mindset as people, it is a societal problem as well.
Our culture and our media find great joy in building up some celeb du jour, only to tear him/her down for dramatic effect and ratings. When someone spends their life building, and then hits a rough spot, it is all over the news. Especially if the faux pas of the celeb du jour runs counter to the societal or moral goals of the news purveyors. (Sorry about the French idioms – they just seem to fit.)
For example: Just this week a mildly famous LDS pop star decided to revolt against the Church and released a new video excoriating the Church. Up until then he had been working to make his membership work with his lifestyle. You can guess which effort the media picked up on. The “building” process was lightly covered over many years, but the one time “destruction” phase is all over the news. And this is the norm. There can be a million faithful, practicing Mormons in any given area, but the one squeaking wheel gets all the headlines.
Back to the more personal level. When we see those “destroyers” taking aim, or when we feel their sting, what can we do to fend them off? One counsel the Lord has given us was important enough that He included it in the Book or Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, AND the Bible.
“Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” (link)
Fiery darts of the wicked. If that doesn’t describe the destroyers, I don’t know what does. Also, the term “destroyer” is used as one of Lucifer’s names. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Satan’s grand purpose is to destroy God’s plan, and by association, us. Another one of his nicknames is “the adversary,” which makes it all the more personal.
Inevitably, the destroyer – or one of his helpers – will give up on the fiery darts and simply start to wail away on the foundation of our faith with a sledgehammer. How do we stand strong? How do we “keep the faith?”
First, the very definition of faith requires that it be based in truth. (Alma 32:21) If our testimony, values, and self-concept are not based on truth, the take-down can be quick. If our self-concept is based on distortions, falsehoods, worldliness or fantasies, it doesn’t take much to knock us off our moorings.
If our foundation is in Christ, we are much safer. It is the key to having faith that is strong enough to stand against the destroyers.
A few other things we can do to bolster our faith:
• Read our patriarchal blessings often. They offer us a glimpse into who we really are, and what God sees for us. It is a blueprint for building our faith and our lives.
• When the world turns ugly, run home. Turn to those who truly have our best interests at heart – parents, leaders, friends. I most cases they want to build us up, not tear us down. “The best place for individuals to build faith and strong testimonies is in righteous homes filled with love.” (M. Russell Ballard)
• Keep a journal. If we document those experiences in our life that build us up, we have somewhere to turn when we are feeling torn down. Sometimes we can forget how strong we really are, and can feel more vulnerable than we really should feel.
• Keep at it. Elder Richard G. Scott said, “We exercise faith by doing. We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.” (link)
• Turn to the scriptures. “Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3)
• “Service in behalf of others, study, and prayer lead to faith in this work and then to knowledge of its truth.” (President Gordon B. Hinkley) From Jesus on, we have been taught that serving others helps us to get out of our own heads and find purpose, happiness and faith.
It is so much easier to tear down than it is to build. But it is also possible to keep the destroyers at bay. Our lives are not fragile houses of cards that come crashing down as soon as Tiger runs into the room. They should be built on a solid foundation, protected by faith.
We need not provide the destroyers in our lives and our society a work permit to wreck our lives. We need to be about building up, not tearing down- for both ourselves, and our fellow man.
PS: In case my Tiger reference was too obscure, here is a link.