Choosing to Act- Sunday, February 7, 2016
One evening two young friends were walking together when they passed a neighbor standing in his front yard. One of the young men called out, “How are you, Bill? It’s good to see you.” But Bill ignored him—he didn’t respond or even look up.
“Well, he’s a grouch today, isn’t he?” the other boy observed.
“Oh, he’s always that way,” his friend responded.
“Then why are you so friendly to him?”
“Why not?” he answered. “Why should I let him decide how I am going to act?”1
Most of us would agree that it’s impolite to shun or ignore someone. Even in a world that seems to be getting less and less civilized, the common consensus is that rude behavior, though widespread, is wrong. And yet, when someone is unkind to us, we might get the idea that our responsibility to be kind is somehow waived. So we may turn a cold shoulder toward someone who was mean or critical. Or we may give up on someone who keeps making mistakes. In other words, we let someone else determine how we are going to act. Instead of acting for ourselves, we react to the actions of others.
People who react are, in a very real sense, prisoners. They are controlled by the world around them. They allow the choices of others to determine whether they will be rude or gracious, crabby or cheerful, critical or supportive. As a result, they tend to be rather unhappy people.
On the other hand, people who act for themselves have decided beforehand what kind of person they want to be in every situation. Control of their attitudes and actions is in their own hearts and minds, where it belongs, and they are determined not to let someone else’s poor choices change them.
Of course, that determination gets tested often—it’s not always easy to choose to act instead of react. But isn’t that really the task of life—to learn how to take control of our own lives, to be kind and hopeful amid any difficulty? Happy are those who strive to replace hasty reactions with perspective, patience, and purposeful action. Happy are those who, rather than reacting, choose to act.
-Lloyd D. Newell
1. See Marvin J. Ashton, in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 36.
Feb. 7, 2016
Broadcast Number 4,508
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
How Lovely Are the Messengers, from St. Paul
Placare Christe servulis
American folk hymn; arr. Mack Wilberg
On a Clear Day, from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
German hymn tune; arr. Mack Wilberg