The Art of Chastisement

August 30-September 5

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Towards the end of December in 1832, the Lord commanded the Saints to build a temple in Kirtland; this commandment is recorded in Section 88. Five months later, at the beginning of June, the Lord chastised the Saints for their procrastination in building it. 

Chastisement can bring up some cringy feelings sometimes. It can bring up memories of embarrassment and mistakes. But I have also seen examples of chastisement that don’t seem to evoke those kinds of emotions at all. I remember observing my fellow missionaries while serving, and I was always perplexed by some of the elders that seemed capable of correcting other missionaries without repercussions. At the time, I believed it was just something you had or something you didn’t have. Some people could chastise others without making them feel defensive, and then other people simply couldn’t do it. I sincerely felt that I would be one of those people who could never correct others without evoking a negative emotion; I was one of those people who “simply couldn’t do it.”

I am so grateful that the Lord chastised me and taught me how very wrong I was. There is an art to chastisement, and it is a surprisingly simple concept to learn. So if you’ve always struggled to know how to correct someone with love, this is the lesson for you. I was someone who always brought out the defensive side in people, but now I rock at chastising people. Just kidding. But seriously. The Lord has taught me what chastisement is truly about, and it has forever changed my relationships.

How chastising should feel

I remember a time very distinctly when the Spirit chastised me for wanting to chastise in a way that didn’t reflect the Savior. I was frustrated with my husband, probably over something petty and worthless because sometimes I’m imperfect. I know…hard to believe, but it’s true. Anyway, I was frustrated and we were headed to church of all places. I wanted to correct my bad attitude before taking the sacrament, but I also wanted to correct my husband. I was so annoyed, and I was taking it so personally. I decided that I was going to wait on it a bit because I recognized that my attitude was not in the place it needed to be to have a decent conversation with him and give him the respect he deserved as an adult human being. I finally calmed down a bit, and as I took the sacrament, I had an epiphany. 

As I said, I already knew that my attitude was bad. I knew that the manner in which I wanted to talk to Conner did not reflect how the Savior would talk to him, but I feel like we all understand that concept. We all get that you’re supposed to chastise with love, so what’s the big secret? What’s the epiphany?

Chastising with love goes far beyond controlling your voice and patting the other person on the head like a child. It’s about flipping the situation inside out and completely focusing on helping another person live a happier life. If you want to chastise somebody, it can’t have anything to do with you regardless of whether it’s affecting you.

This may not seem like a big secret until you examine your own motives for chastising others. 

Are you chastising your child for not putting their shoes away because it’s making your house look like a mess? Or are you chastising your kids for not putting their shoes away because being responsible and aware (even in small things) will legitimately fill their life with meaning? Are you chastising your husband for making an off comment in front of other people because he embarrassed you or are you chastising him so that he can live closer to the spirit? Are you chastising your youth group for fighting at girls camp because they’re driving you bonkers or are you chastising them because living catty lives are going to ultimately make them miserable?

If you really want to make a difference and live a Christlike life, chastising others can’t have anything to do with you. It has to be about the other person.

When correction comes from a place of sincere love for the other person, it doesn’t often bring out the defensive side of people. I say “doesn’t often” because there are some people out there who will feel that embarrassment regardless. But. In most cases, you’ll find that people can be extremely reasonable when you care about them. I am a firm believer in the idea that people can almost always sense how you feel about them whether it’s subconscious or not. If your motives are selfish, your correction will be met with embarrassment or anger. If you SINCERELY (and I mean very sincerely, truly, all the way down deep) care about and respect the person, you can really help those you love. You have to make sure it’s sincere though; I can’t emphasize that enough. 

If you really want to reflect the Savior in your chastisement, it comes down to every. single. choice. You may love your spouse or friend or child or parent or sibling or whoever in general. You may think about them and pray for them and love them, but that love has to be shown in the tiny, individual situations that occur day to day. You can love your child and still selfishly chastise them for leaving their shoes out. It’s not enough to generally love them. You have to love them in the individual situations. Your motive in each individual moment will be what determines the outcome of the chastisement. General, overarching love goes a really long way, but the selflessness in individual moments is unbeatable when you’re trying to encourage change in a person. It may take a while but when you can master that skill as well as the Master, you’ll find that you can influence people for good in incredible ways.

How the Savior chastises

So the story behind these sections is interesting. The Saints had been commanded to build “a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God (DC 88:119).” The Saints originally believed they were supposed to be building a schoolhouse; they didn’t realize they had been charged with building a temple. Because of their failure to begin, the Lord wasn’t given a chance to lift their eyes to the importance of what He was asking them to do (There is an immense lesson in and of itself right there). So the Lord chastises them. They hadn’t even started building which led to a lack of revelation and blessings, and it simply had to be corrected. So the Lord gave the following…

Doctrine and Covenants 95:1-2

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—

2 Wherefore, ye must needs be chastened and stand rebuked before my face;

The Lord always chastises with love, and this doesn’t seem like some big secret. However, as I learned what this truly meant, my life changed.

How does the Lord chastise us every single time? The Lord is always turned towards us when he chastises. 

We often betray our perfect Brother, and He feels it. He may be perfect, and He may be a God, but He also loves us deeply. It wounds Him when we turn away from Him because of how badly He wants to help us. But. When He corrects us, His correction is never based on His own wounds. His correction is always given because He wants us to live fuller, more complete, happier lives. He loves us enough that it wounds Him when we purposefully rebel, but He also loves us enough that He still turns towards us as He corrects us.

And beyond that? He not only corrects us so that we can be happier, He went above and beyond and suffered beyond comprehension for us. He never made His life about Himself. He loved and served.

How the chastising should look

You’ll find that as you make these individual choices and your heart changes by tiny increments, chastisement starts to look different than what you might have thought.

Sometimes chastisement may look like putting their shoes away for your kids every once in a while and laughing about it instead of being ready to kill them. Chastisement may look like wrapping your arms around them because you don’t need to say anything; the Holy Ghost has already told them they did something wrong. Later on in Section 95, the Lord promises that He will give them power to build His temple if they follow His commandments. 

Doctrine and Covenants 95:11 Verily I say unto you, it is my will that you should build a house. If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it.

The Lord didn’t want to embarrass them for not doing the job. He didn’t want to make them feel bad so that He could feel better about them not listening. The Lord wanted them to step up and work so that they could receive further blessings. In the same spirit, our chastisement can look like, “Hey let me help you do the dishes,” instead of giving a cold shoulder until they “get the point.” There are a million ways that chastisement may manifest when you shift your perspective to the belief that you’re trying to help someone live a fuller life in the way that Christ did.

The “Art”

So the art of chastisement has little to do with specific words or saying, “I love you,” enough times. The art of chastisement comes from a legitimate love and respect for the person you are chastising. It’s not about being really cool or good with people. It’s not about fear or delicacy or subtlety or manipulation. It’s about genuinely caring about someone else. 

I’m not going to pretend that I have my kids in mind every single time I’m attempting to stop them from screaming. This high ideal of being selfless in every situation was only achieved by Christ, Himself. It will probably be a long time before I naturally think of others constantly, but knowing my weaknesses is exactly the step I need in order to get better. Be patient with yourself as you become refined and selfless. Take every opportunity you can to remember to be selfless all the way down into your heart.

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