Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Duck Syndrome

I have been thinking a lot lately about judging. The more I reflect on my attitude, the more I can see how much improvement I need to make. This past semester I had the most wonderful roommates who have inspired me to be a better person. As I have been thinking about their examples, I realize how much further I need to go. I need to be more kind and generous. But most importantly, I need to not judge others. I need to see and work on the many moats in my eye before I even think about the beam that is in my brothers eye. Ironically, I came across this story unintentionally today and I thought it was so neat that I really wanted to share it.
The Parable of the Divers:

"Many years ago, when I was somewhere between nine and eleven, I participated in a community summer recreation program in the town where I grew up. I remember in particular a diving competition for the different age groups held at the community swimming pool. Some of the wealthier kids in our area had their own pools with diving boards, and they were pretty good amateur divers. But there was one kid my age from the less affluent part of town who didn’t have his own pool. What he had was raw courage. While the rest of us did our crisp little swan dives, back dives, and jackknives, being ever so careful to arch our backs and point our toes, this young man attempted back flips, one-and-a-halfs, doubles, and so on. But, oh, he was sloppy. He seldom kept his feet together, he never pointed his toes, and he usually missed his vertical entry. The rest of us observed with smug satisfaction as the judges held up their scorecards that he consistently got lower marks than we did with our safe and simple dives, and we congratulated ourselves that we were actually the better divers. “He is all heart and no finesse,” we told ourselves. “After all, we keep our feet together and point our toes.”

The announcement of the winners was a great shock to us, for the brave young lad with the flips had apparently beaten us all. However, I had kept rough track of the scores in my head, and I knew with the arrogance of limited information that the math didn’t add up. I had consistently outscored the boy with the flips. And so, certain that an injustice was being perpetrated, I stormed the scorer’s table and demanded and explanation. “Degree of difficulty,” the scorer replied matter-of-factly as he looked me in the eye. “Sure, you had better form, but he did harder dives. When you factor in the degree of difficulty, he beat you hands down, kid.” Until that moment I hadn’t known that some dives were awarded “extra credit” because of their greater difficulty.

I have a friend to whom life has been unkind. Though she married in the temple, her husband proved unfaithful and eventually abandoned her and their small children. Since he has never paid a penny in child support, my friend works full time to support herself and her kids. For several years she also went to school at night to improve her financial situation. Therefore, out of necessity, she could not be with her children as much as she would have liked and could not always give them the guidance and discipline they needed. It just wasn't possible in her difficult circumstances. One result of her less-than-perfect family situation was troubled teenagers. Now in middle age she is faced with raising some of her grandchildren--again, alone. Without a faithful companion, without the priesthood in her home, without the blessings that are realized where the ideal family setting is possible, it is almost inevitable that my friend should feel that her "scores" as a wife and mother, and perhaps even as a person, aren't very high. When she goes to church and sees other "ideal" LDS families, when she hears them bear their testimonies and give thanks for all their spiritual and temporal blessings, she sees in her mind the judges holding up scorecards that say 9.9 or 10.0. When she looks at her own life, her own failed marriage, her own troubled children, she knows that the scores are much lower, and she worries about her place in the kingdom.

Whenever I am tempted to feel superior to other Saints, the parable of the divers comes to my mind, and I repent. At least at a swim meet, we can usually tell which dives are the most difficult. But here in mortality, we cannot always tell who is carrying what burdens: limited intelligence, chemical depression, compulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, dysfunctional or abusive family background, poor health, physical or psychological handicaps—no one chooses these things. So I must not judge my brothers and sisters. I am thankful for my blessings but not smug about them, for I never want to hear the Scorer say to me, “Sure, you had better form, but she had a harder life. When you factor in degree of difficulty, she beat you hands down.”

I have thought about this story a lot. I think about all of my problems and issues that I need to overcome and resolve to be more like the Savior. He, as the perfect Son of God, has every right to judge us and to say that we are not good enough because we are mortal. However, He loves us and allows us to repent of our sins. When we do so with a sincere heart, He will forgive us and forget those sins. He will not hold us accountable for those things that we fix. He is the perfect judge. He will judge our actions and our desires and then extend His merciful hand to us as our Advocate.
At Stanford University there is something called "The Duck Syndrome." It may appear as if every one was just gliding across the river. Every one appears to be drifting along when, in reality, they are paddling like crazy under the water just to stay afloat. Even if we see through the Duck Syndrome and judge accurately in comparing ourselves, it still comes to no good because we are not doing what the Savior has taught. I think that humility is key. I have such a far way to go to become like the Savior that I have no room to judge others. I will strive from this day forward to not judge those around me. Instead, I am going to think about the changes I need to make in my life. I will not complain or gossip or talk about other people. I will work to serve those around me and to become more like my Savior.

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