Motherly Love — Brotherly Love…
The beginning of May always draws my mind to thoughts of my dear mother and the indelible lessons that I learned at her knee. They are many, from taking my first steps to uttering early indecipherable words, but the lessons I learned from her by the example she set for me far exceed any intentional teachings. One such example was her capacity to set aside anger and forgive offense.
My mother, Lucille Dorene Malcolm, did not live a very long life. She passed away after many years of serious illness when she was only 62 years of age, quite young when compared to the longevity of her own mother of nearly 102. She lost my dad six years earlier and never quite recovered. That was one of many hardships I watched her endure during my 35 years of life that intersected hers. I will not revisit here a preponderance of all she suffered, but I will say this much, many of the things, the heart rending tragedies and ensuing depression that she did suffer, were brought on by the unkind or unthoughtful actions of others, things that I watched her forgive.
This may be where one might think I am going to go into all her saintly qualities of never uttering a negative word or getting angry, that would simply not be true. My mother was indeed a goodly woman of great measure, however many times I witnessed her get angry, and justly so, and even consider getting revenge, but I also saw the Spirit of God distill on her like a gentle rain the ability to forgive others who had wronged her. I am grateful beyond words for that example she shared with me, and for God’s tender mercy.
French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac (1799 – 1850) said of the capacity of a mother to forgive, “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.” It is like he was speaking of my own dear mother when he uttered those words. I remember times in which I was the recipient of that deep abyss of forgiveness, and so my gratitude wells profoundly in my soul still.
“The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
Honoré de Balzac
Through Moses to the children of Israel Jehovah commanded, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord,” (Leviticus 19:18). Once healed by the atoning power of the Savior in each instance of offense, I watched my mother let go of anger and thoughts of retaliation, showing forth love for her fellow-being and forgiveness of trespass. There is often an understandable cooling off period, a time for the Redeemer to heal the angry heart and calm the contentious spirit, but when we give ourselves to the Lord’s will, we can set aside wrath and even turn to love.
Earlier in the week I stood with friends and my sweet Monica, the dear mother of my twelve children, at an almond industry event on a balcony overlooking the busy Pacific Coast Highway. We were engaged discussing the necessity for people to kindly nurture and care for those in need. From where we were standing we could see miles of beautiful beach and the sun descending over the endless sea in the western sky. It was a beautiful and breezy early evening. How could anything be wrong in the world?
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.”(Leviticus 19:18)
Suddenly, just yards away from where we stood, a melee broke out between drivers of two vehicles on the road. One man hopped out of his vehicle and started punching the other through his car window. After the first man returned to his pickup, the second man rammed the pickup with his car, and then attempted to speed away through a very crowded intersection. A pursuit began and in the middle of the intersection the pickup rammed the other car as they circled through the large roadway out of vehicular control as well as in anger and emotion. Then as fast as it began the two sped off down the highway, glass and debris all over the road, in apparent pursuit of further revenge. I shudder to think of how this might have ended somewhere down the road. Clearly this is a case where someone decided that revenge and anger should take the place of forgiveness and brotherly love. It cannot and should not.
There is so much anger in the world, so much of seeking recompense for words spoken or deeds done, but we can be better than that, as our mothers have taught us.
“The teachings of the Lord are clear. There is to be no contention, no disputation.”
President Russell M. Nelson
When asked by best selling author Sergio Rubin about extremists whose violence is motivated by religion, Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, stated, “The teachings of the Lord are clear. There is to be no contention, no disputation.”
It is true. While the wheels of justice must be allowed to turn, and there will always be differing opinions about religion, politics, boundaries or a myriad of other things that people hold extremely dear, we as children of God must set aside anger and revenge to seek understanding, forgiveness and eventual love to overcome the blight of incivility that cankers our world. I turn to my mother, and so many other mothers with the deep capacity to show love and forgiveness, that forgiving love offered us by the Savior Jesus Christ. We must free ourselves of contention and disputation, seeking empathy and understanding, that all may heal and find peace.
Even as trust must be earned, and we should never expose ourselves to abuse or unkind assaults, it is not ours to ultimately decide who deserves love or forgiveness. That power exists exclusively in the hands of God, and is demonstrated keenly in a mother’s love. As Jewish philosopher Erich Fromm (1900-1980) wrote, “Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.”
“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.”
If something is cankering our hearts we need only to open our arms in understanding and empathy and we will find love as our reward. While man may not always reward our efforts with loving returns, the Savior stands ready to grant us the power of feeling love in spite of any efforts to the contrary by so-called enemies.
I am grateful for my sweet and loving mother, the gift of those years that I shared with her, and her capacity to forgive and love beyond what is natural for men to do. May we follow such motherly examples, allow the Savior’s healing touch that we avenge not, bear no grudge, and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is my prayer and my loving thought for my dear sweet mother, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.