Probing Beyond the Surface

I've often heard people who consider themselves to be thinking and informed individuals (or groups) refer to others who don't agree with them as "sheep," or "sheeple." They believe that those who disagree with them, or those who still seem content or un-phased by their arguments, must not have given the matter much thought, or that they are, in fact, incapable of doing so.

This is a common mistake, and it is one that I myself have made before.

In church, we often listen to discussions about doctrine or social issues by members in our ward or branch. Sometimes their comments sound trite or rote, but the problem with that assumption is that we do not always know how they arrived at their conclusion.

Despite the growing worldwide trend to bare all and share all, many people still maintain an unseen and unshared life. This used to be something that was assumed, that effort was required to get to know a person; that their life experiences, personal struggles and attainments of wisdom were something that were revealed as you took the time to dig below the surface of the smile or scowl, the neat appearance or unkempt ways, the public projection.

Transparency is not always what we think it is. If we had true transparency, there would be no such thing as privacy, manners, fashion, brave faces, or smiles when we are feeling down. In church, it might become so difficult to get through with all the crying and arguing going on that no one would want to come any more. Your idea of transparency may not be the same as someone else's.

The same goes for doctrinal issues. The way that someone arrived at a conclusion may have nothing to do with what you think it is. Just because they disagree with you, or seem to repeat the same quotes and ideas that everyone else has done for decades, does not mean that they haven't struggled to get there. You haven't seen the trials and the tears, the study and research, the discussions and arguments, or the overwhelming and incontrovertible revelations that they may have received. You do not know their journey.

Memes and social commentary video clips love to remind us that appearance isn't everything, and that we do not know what someone may be going through, so treat them kindly. May I extend that reminder to those that you associate with in your religion. Don't make assumptions about the intelligence or ignorance of your fellow members. Don't mistake their conformity for superficiality or lack of depth. Get to know them. Ask some questions. Their knowledge and reasoning may surprise you. You may even learn something that you never knew before. So might they.

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