An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Posts tagged ‘Ego’

When Egos Collide

Our sons are both Libertarians. I enjoy sharing their takes on politics and economics and they listen respectfully to my questions and differing opinions. (We raised them well.) But I have two relatives, Dooby and Mama Grizzly, with whom I try to avoid political topics—not because of their right-wing views, but because of their rudeness when I can’t agree with statements like: “Obama is not a natural-born citizen,” or “Global warming is a conspiracy perpetrated by the science community.”

I finally realized that Dooby isn’t actually speaking to me when he insults my intelligence if I question his sources of information. Dooby lives in a blue state where his conservative views are viciously attacked by his liberal neighbors. When he brings up politics with me, Dooby is trying to make the points he wishes he’d made with acquaintances who probably insulted him.

Since her retirement a few years ago, Mama Grizzly spends her free time listening to talk radio. Mama G. latches onto pundits’ opinions as tenaciously as a stray dog defends a bone. Armed with her favorite talk-show host’s sure knowledge of the source of our national evils (Democrats and big-spending socialists),MG seeks to share her wisdom and perceives any attempt to offer a differing opinion as a personal attack. Possibly MG is trying to replace her lost career identity with a new persona—political guru.

A few months ago, a 16-year-old home teacher visited and offended us by demanding to know why we seldom attend meetings. He offered his conviction that we need to improve our lives with a rigorous application of church attendance. (We think we’re fine the way we are). Because young Brother Fervent is only 16, we smiled politely, thanked him for coming, and hoped he wouldn’t be back. I recently learned that his active Mormon parents have split up. Now I understand Bro. Fervent’s fervor for preaching the gospel. He needed to clutch at a source of permanence in his life as he watched his family disintegrate.

I’m always glad on the occasions when I keep my ego in check (i.e. my mouth shut) while dealing with the defensive egos of others. A wise person said that nearly everyone we meet is dealing with all she can handle at any given time. Extending compassion to others is less stressful than defending our own egos.


I asked my Relief Society visiting teachers not to present the lesson while they visited this week. I explained that I had read it and not found it relevant. The “senior companion” proceeded to give the lesson regardless. I do admire her dedication. And I did find one point of the August lesson with which I agree. I think we should all live worthy of worshipping and being in God’s presence—however we define God.

Of course, my definition of worthiness differs from the standard Mormon temple recommend interview.  While I believe that God cares that we are honest in our dealings with our fellow human beings and have good relationships with family members, I’m not so sure He cares much about some of the other items on the checklist. In fact, since we’re all so different—and so good at rationalizing—I’m pretty sure the same list doesn’t work for everyone on a meaningful level.

What works for me is to examine my own mind through meditation. To check out my real, sometimes hidden, reasons for my beliefs and actions. To see if my ego is on a rampage. I really like the Big Mind philosophy taught by Genpo Roshi at the Salt Lake Zen Center. I have also found practicing with Michael Mugaku Zimmerman Sensei rewarding.

I don’t maintain a personal checklist of things I should and should not be doing because that technique—like New Year’s Resolutions—has never worked for me. But when something bothers me, I find peace through meditation. Although I’m not particularly good at meditating, sometimes I’m able to address an emotion such as fear or anger—acknowledge and accept it—then find a way to deal with it constructively.

 My method does not provide me with a card proving my worthiness. And it doesn’t convince my visiting teacher that I don’t need her instruction. But that may be my ego talking.

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