Philos 41

“[I was left with] a riddle I haven’t solved, of how we judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding.” – A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley

In 1987, just after starting high school, I was riding in a truck with my father on our family farm. I did not know the next ten minutes would change the course of my life.

Days before, my father had suggested I join the high school debate club. I had never heard of a debate club. My father struggled to even explain, but made it clear this was one of my spiritual gifts. It was a short, powerful conversation. Yet, at school, I learned there was no debate club. Deflated, I reported this to my father. His answer:

“Then start one.”

I had little faith in this answer. Yet, with my father’s encouragement, I did it. Over the next four years, I went on to become a three-time state champion, with a wheelbarrow of awards. I spent hundreds of hours studying philosophy, rhetoric, intellectual approaches, and the complexities of discerning and explaining truth. We were thrown difficult questions, and worthy opponents. It was a crucible that molded me.  

Today, I am a writer, teacher, journalist, and owner of solely because my father taught me that I had the ability to think, and the freedom to build something from nothing.

It has been the most monumental gift. It cannot be overstated.

Today is my 41st birthday. A day for thinking about how to create a better me. So I face Jane Smiley’s riddle, how to “judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding.”

I want to be present yet kind, safe yet full of truth. But there is a gap -- as I judge those who have hurt me, what about the judgement of those whom I have hurt?

Change is the only coin you can spend in the next life. Hurt is catalyst for change. In my life, meaningful change often begins in no other way. Without the hurt, who would I be?

I am guided by Maya Angelou: “I am totally present. And sometimes to be there is to be difficult – not just to be there to submit. At some point to be there is to say ‘No, not me. Include me out. I’m totally here. Not. No.”

And this warning from 2 Nephi 7:11: “Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow.”

Between those quotes is where I live. I struggle to discern how to judge, how to honor, how to show gratitude -- and how to be safe. Perhaps only people who have been grievously hurt, and hurt again, can understand how hard it is to pick up and walk forward, knowing you can never feel safe.

I have also hurt people, I have also made people feel unsafe. I need forgiveness, and distance. Does gratitude count when it is shown from a safe distance? Does forgiveness? Does keeping your distance mean you are cradling the hurt?

In this new year, I want to be the person who faces the hard questions. The person who can say both “include me out” and “thank you.” The person who is grateful for the crucible, and safe.


  1. I like that post, very well written, as is everything you write.

  2. I was recently reminded of a truth I learned many years ago; None of us can truly understand what motivates another persons behavior or actions. ( At times even our own) For us to choose to take it as a personal assault or offense can be a great injustice to ourselves as well as them. This is why the healing power of the atonement is the only true source of peace any of us can rely upon. It is His perspective, His hope, His mercy and His love that allows us all to move beyond any offense. You are a gifted writer. Thank you for being so open is sharing your thoughts.