Dear Ann Cannon • How can I find a way to forgive a Mormon bishop who excommunicated my 23-year-old son for being gay? I am an active member of the church. My testimony is still intact. But I am struggling.
— Help Me
Dear Help Me • I think we can all agree that forgiving those who give offense is often more healing for us than it is for them. When we forgive, the burden of pain we carry becomes lighter. Sometimes it disappears altogether. So I both understand and applaud your desire to find a way to forgive this bishop. Forgiveness is always a worthy goal.
However, I’m not going to give you advice about how to forgive him. Instead, I want to remind you that there’s no statute of limitations where forgiveness is concerned. It can happen anytime — in the near or distant future. The problem is that others often urge us to forgive quickly — for our sake and, frankly, for theirs, too. Pain is messy. Anger is messy. It’s only natural that people want a comfortable status quo to return as soon as possible.
So. How about this? Instead of rushing to forgive, give yourself time to freely grieve, and if grieving involves being furious with your son’s bishop for a while, then be furious with your son’s bishop for a while. As a loving mother and a believing member of the LDS Church, you’ve sustained a huge body blow. It’s going to take time for you to heal, and that’s OK.
Meanwhile, be kind to yourself and see where that kindness eventually leads you. I wish you and your family all the best during this season of sadness.
Dear Ann Cannon • How do you silence the voices, internal and external, that tell you you’re not good enough?
Dear Listener • Oh, I wish I knew. I hear those voices myself. Most of us do.
A friend of mine who deals with a diagnosed anxiety disorder employs this strategy. He’s given those voices a name — Doris. And whenever the voices start up, he says, “Step off, Doris! I don’t have to listen to you!” Then he doesn’t. This seems to work for him at least some of the time. It could be worth a try. But whatever you do, don’t let those voices shut you down. Carry on!
Dear Ann Cannon • How does a person find time to read? I mean actual books instead of emails and posts?
— Not Reading Much These Days
Dear Not Reading Much • A friend of mine recently observed she reads fewer books now that she spends time on Facebook. I’m guessing this is true for many of us. Electronic communication, of course, has its advantages. But the downside is that it can get in the way of other activities. Like reading actual books, for example. Not only that, but the way we constantly check our phones for emails, tweets, Instagram pictures and Facebook updates has seriously compromised our attention spans. Or at least it’s compromised MY attention span, which was only marginal in the first place.
Here’s what I recommend. Deliberately carve out and then ruthlessly protect 20 minutes a day to read. Turn off your phone. Stay away from your computer. Sit in a chair and stay there. Open a book. And read. If you do this on a daily basis for a few weeks, chances are good you’ll re-establish the habit of reading books.
Here’s another thing to think about. How many of those emails do you really need to answer promptly? How many of them need to be answered at all? If you’re a conscientious person by nature — or even a little OCD — it’ll be hard to let go of the feeling that you should respond to everything that shows up in your queue. But guess what. Even if you allow your inbox to swell with unanswered emails, the sun will still come up tomorrow. President Trump will still be tweeting. Stores will still be selling Christmas decorations, even though it’s only October. Those annoying Shane Company commercials will still be airing on the radio.
In other words: Life will go on.
Here’s to reading!
Do you have a question for Ann? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Ask Ann Cannon page on Facebook.