The Adversary of My Soul

Posted on January 13, 2012


My nerves have been jangled most of the day. It’s fallout from a family conflict earlier, one of the things I detest more than anything else. My home is a haven and very often an extension of my inner environment, and infighting is like releasing a supervirus. I’ve long thought that harboring disdain and the tendency to call someone else a fool is one of the most destructive things we do to one another, masking our ability to be ourselves as surely as DNA-overwriting viruses hijack cells. Because I have a child who has for years gone to school to face the “mean girls” who say, “You’re so weird” in that uniquely teen-girl dismissal whenever she tries to be friendly, the momma bear is alive and well. Conflict has all kinds of fallout.

The melancholy persisted all day afterward, despite my greatest efforts to refocus.

While pondering on it this evening, the words suddenly entered my mind, “This was a distraction.” With them came the overflowing peace that I’ve lately had, despite deep concerns of many kinds. It is interesting that conflict proves so useful to inhibit all positive growth. The Adversary of my soul need only cause this little infection between people who love one another, and suddenly all is distrusted, the smooth flow of loving interchange is interrupted, and emotional and spiritual viruses multiply with wild abandon. All progress stops until the system finds balance again.

It reminds me of the story of a compass provided a family that traveled in the wilderness, whose spindles worked according to the heed that was given them and the harmony between family members. When there was conflict – whining, accusation, demands, and denigration – progress stopped and they wandered. Until people softened their hearts and released issues of no importance (repenting, though that’s considered a politically incorrect word anymore), everyone simply waited. One of my favorite prophets, Joseph Smith, found this to be true as well, and had to ensure harmony in his home before he could have harmony with God to translate.

This morning I was reading about the power of the law to stimulate the healing of the very wound it would appear to exacerbate. I was taken aback, after all, the last thing people need when they are struggling is to have pointed out what they’re doing wrong, right? In our world of tolerance, there is no room for standing for a principle or drawing a boundary, because it might offend someone and then they would feel bad, and we don’t improve if we feel bad about ourselves, right? If we are truly open-minded, we don’t focus on what we can improve, right?

The prophet, in my reading, said that it is because of our knowledge of the law that people can feel remorse of conscience. Without law, there is no fear of reprisal or negative consequence, and people break laws freely with no ill feeling and no incentive to change themselves. We are stuck. With a knowledge of law, there is an understanding of consequences and the spirit of truth is then activated within each of us. As this spirit, which brings remorse of conscience first, works inside us, it stimulates a powerful desire within us to alter the way we are, and the law provides the blueprint of where we need to be. We want to repent, or to reverse course, hoping for a more pleasant set of consequences and searching for peace of mind. We want our DNA back.

Remorse of conscience is our immune system, that which recognizes threats and weaknesses and activates processes to overcome them. It is a powerful friend to us, stimulating much of our positive growth.

Unfortunately, we are often so enamored of self-esteem and lifting one another through our periods of remorse that we inhibit conscience, rushing to assuage hurt feelings that result from appropriate boundaries that others have chosen to throw themselves up against. We would tear down the boundary to ease someone’s pain, hoping to prevent their remorse. We “make the law of none effect,” as the prophet described, and we steal from people their opportunity to be healed, condemning them to remain wounded or ill. And sometimes, we do it to ourselves, refusing in all kinds of ways to feel genuine, healthy, useful remorse.

Today’s lessons for me were profound. Throwing a system out of homeostasis by introducing discord is a powerful tool to grind a family to a halt. Like a toxin thrown off by an invading virus that irritates tissues and distracts the body into a rush to nurture that tissue instead of overcoming the invader, nothing else can happen until homeostasis is restored. Secondly, the rules are our very salvation, like the blueprint of definitions in our immune system that defines and differentiates between invaders and friendly tissue. To the degree that our body recognizes a substance within and can apply a rule to whether it is harmful or host, it can act. (It’s completely outside my point today to talk about autoimmune responses: the tendency to attack healthy tissue within ourselves. Sometimes experience causes us to hijack healthy remorse and overuse it on ourselves, and that’s not what I’m talking about.)

To the degree that we can recognize feelings of conscience and experience useful remorse like a fever and T-cell attack, we can overcome. If we interfere with that natural process, we will remain sick.

I was accused today of being self-righteous and my tissues are sore and irritated, but I’ve taken it very seriously. I certainly don’t want a virus of that virulence running free in my system, however I’m trying to determine if the fever is helpful or not. My gut told me that it was more an inflammatory reaction, a “distraction,” the Adversary of my soul simply running amuck because he was allowed to. That peace, a wonderful analgesic, is useful in cases of simple inflammation. It’s still entirely possible I am under attack by the self-righteous supervirus, however, so the T-cells are still numerous and watchful.

I learn something when I write, and each time I do (though it’s probably not obvious to anyone else) I mentally append to these ruminations on life that even as I find these guidelines useful, I am as often as not out of compliance with them. I simply value the boundary or the law or the little piece of it that I’ve discovered, knowing that it’s my guarantee that I will feel my own remorses too, and because the remorse is there, so is the promise of overcoming. I always write to bring peace, even if it’s the promise of peace after change, and even if it’s still in my own future. If what you find here disturbs your peace, I genuinely and deeply hope you will find balance, whether through deciding that you’ve overreacted (as I think my melancholy was today) or by deciding (as I often do too) that you have something to overcome.

Either way, consider it the reaction of a very healthy immune system. Fluids, rest, and call Him in the morning. Don’t let the Adversary of your soul run amuck.

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