At our church Christmas party last Saturday night, Liam acquired a sliver. It had worked its way under the skin, so with no protrusions I couldn't just pull it out. As we drove home, I had to prepare him for the pain that he was about to experience, that he would 1) not be surprised I would be inflicting pain on him, and 2) hopefully hold still as I dug into his finger with a needle.
"Liam, what I have to do is get a needle and poke the skin around the sliver so that I can get it out. It is going to hurt. BUT: if you go to bed tonight without getting the sliver out, it can go deeper and deeper into your finger. The deeper it goes, the more it can hurt, and by tomorrow we might have to use a knife to get it out instead of only a needle."
He went totally silent. At a stoplight, I looked back to see him sitting quietly in the dark, in his car seat, with big crocodile tears, yet not even sobbing.
After we got home, it took a few minutes to unload the kids and everything else. I then found Liam sitting in the bathroom, with still wet eyes, "Dad, I'm ready."
I explained to him what I was putting on the needle and on his finger (rubbing alcohol), and talked to him about how well he did in the Christmas Pageant, what he asked Santa for, and so on. He sat there as I administered to him, thinking that I was successful in distracting him. When we are all done, I exclaimed, "wow, Liam! You did great! You didn't even move or cry or anything!" His response revealed the motivation for his unflinching stoicism: "Good, 'cause I don't want you to cut my finger open with a knife!"
I surmise that the entire time, his motivation and focus was to avoid greater personal pain in the future, which enabled him to bear the sting of both the alcohol and the poking, pulling needle. The next day, we looked at his finger and he declared himself cured--and was very happy about it.
Yesterday, I was studying The Doctrine and Covenants when I read Section 1 verse 10:
...the Lord shall come to recompense unto every man according to his work, and measure to every man according to the measure which he has measured to his fellow man.In the first moment, into my mind came remembrances of individuals whom I have not forgiven entirely. Two, to be exact (or three, including myself). This is because if I measure to my fellow man a grudge, withholding forgiveness, the Lord will measure to me the same. This worries me. I need forgiveness. I do wrong every day, and I know it--and the Lord gently reminded me that I'd better get to my part.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:10
In the second moment, I thought of Liam's splinter and unchecked surface pain. I then considered deep tissue pain, and traumatic surgery. While I don't view myself as one who has allowed these two people so much power over my life that I have become embittered, on the rare occasion when they cross my consciousness, I simply think about something else--I neither dwell on them and their offenses, nor do I forgive them. And though I do not consider myself as a resentful person, even so my attitude is contrary to the Celestial Law:
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Doctrine and Covenants 1:31
In he first moment, the Lord spoke to my intellect, and appealed to my logical, pragmatic self. I recognized the issue (again).
In the second moment, he spoke to my heart, using as a metaphor the occurrence of two days prior; placing my son and my own words before me as an example of how the principle will undoubtedly operate in my own life. Needle now or knife tomorrow.
He spoke to me as he always does: through scriptures and the Holy Ghost, penetrating my mind and my heart. The idea of forgiving is no longer solely His--I have the intrinsic motivation to get it done, since it is now my idea. A change of heart will do that. And a man's heart has never been changed for the better but the Spirit of God was allowed to enter. There is only so much the Spirit can do:
...when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.The Holy Ghost carrieth it unto and not into the hearts of men. Put a think on that.
2 Nephi 33:1
And I'm grateful for this boy for showing me how to do it with a stiff upper lip: