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THE GREAT MEASURE OF DISCIPLESHIP
(by Kenneth L. Southwick, CES Administrator)
(excerpt from BYU-Idaho Devotional, May 29, 2007)

Imagine yourself in the post-mortal realm, and the announcement is made that it is time to give a report on the great measure of your discipleship… This question might occur to your, “Well, what is the great measure of my discipleship?” Write down this sentence: “The great measure of my discipleship is….” Then take a moment to consider how you would fill in that blank.

I think there are a lot of correct answers possible for that question. You may have written something like “living by the Spirit,” “obedience to the commandments,” or “keeping covenants.” I believe all of those are correct. They are great measures of our discipleship. For our purposes today, however, I would like to suggest the following: “The great measure of our discipleship is how we view others.”

That may come as a bit of a surprise. I would guess that few, if any, would choose that phrase. Some of you might very well have chosen the phrase, “The great measure of our discipleship is how we treat others.” I would agree with that; that is also a correct answer. What I would invite you to think about today is how we treat others is determined by how we view others. We need to pay particular attention to how we view others.

Let me say it this precisely: Our judgments about, our conclusions concerning, and our actions toward others all grow out of how we view them. If this is the case, then the question becomes: do we see others as a spirit son or daughter of God, as a person, as a human being, as a soul of infinite worth? Or do we see them as something less? Or do we fail to see them at all?

Some bad things come of our failure to see others for who they really are. Some of the world’s greatest evils can be traced to this failure. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, misogyny, and a whole list of other ills all flow from it. But, of course, none of us are guilty of those kinds of things, and we will not be talking about them today.

What I will propose is that the failure to see others properly is widespread. You and I do it all the time. Most of us are not even aware that we do it. And finally, and most importantly, failing to see others for what they truly are makes us less like the Savior.

How does that work? When we see others in the proper way, we cannot help but love and lift them—just as the Savior would. When we fail to see them in the proper way, we almost always devalue and dismiss them—like Christ never would.

Now what do I mean when I say, “We see others as something less than what they are?” I will give you give examples and try to explain myself… For each of these five examples, I am going to [state them as] an object lesson. I do this on purpose, because when we see others as less than who they really are, we see them as objects.

The first object is a checklist… Sometimes instead of seeing another as a person to be served, we see them as a task to be accomplished ["I'll visit Sam, then Evelyn, then Carl, then I'm done."]. … The next object is a bunch of grapes. Sometimes we see others not as an individual, but only as a member of some group. We are unable to distinguish them as an individual person. [For instance,] This is very easy to do when someone has a different skin color than we do, and we succumb to racial stereotypes and prejudices. The third object is a can of bug spray. Sometimes we see others not as a person but as a pest or a nuisance, an annoyance to be dealt with, postponed, simply endured, or avoided altogether. You may think to yourself, “Brother Southwick, I don’t ever do that.” Have you ever looked at the caller ID and saw who was calling and thought, “Oh I don’t want to talk to them right now.” Have you ever been walking by yourself or with friends and changed your route because you saw someone up ahead that you did not want to talk to? … The next object is a TV remote…. We view others as an interruption [like if your son asked you to shoot some hoops with him and you pause the evening news long enough to play with him a few minutes before the next program comes on]. … The last object is a mirror. Sometimes we see others as a mirror. When we do this, what we are most interested in is the reflection back about us. We treat that person a certain way not because they deserve to be treated that way, but because we want to be known as a person who treats people that way. We are more interested in the other person’s opinion of us that we are the other person … If we were in a classroom, we could share other ways that we have of viewing others …

I am going to share a list of commandments that deal with interpersonal relationships. Pay attention to these commandments and imagine how your ability to live these commandments would be impacted if you consistently sought to view others in the appropriate way.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34) “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged. But judge righteous judgment.” (JST Matthew 7:2) “But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you.” (3 Nephi 12:44) “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men. (D&C 64:10) “And verily I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear. (D&C 63:16) “And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking.” (D&C 20:54) “And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. (Mosiah 4:16)

Ponder how our ability to keep those commandments at the level the Savior desires us to keep them can be enhanced if we seek always to view others in the right way. …

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The central factor determining our level of spiritual growth is the degree to which we have lived for the sake of others.

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