Our Clinical Material
Your lives, your friendships, your marriages, your families, your neighbors and coworkers currently constitute the sample of humanity which God has given you. We are each other’s clinical material, and we make a mistake when we disregard that sober fact. No wonder, therefore, we feel stress at times. The wise and insightful President Brigham Young said this: “There are no two faces alike, no two persons tempered alike; … we are tried with each other, and large drafts are made upon our patience, forbearance, charity, and good will, in short, upon all the higher and Godlike qualities of our nature” (in Deseret News, 6 July 1862, 9). Now, you are going to have days when people make a large draft on your patience, when they lay claim to your long-suffering that you may feel they don’t quite deserve. This is part of the chemistry that goes on in discipleship if we are serious about it, as we constitute each other’s clinical material.
It is within these circles of influence that you can strive to carry out all the dimensions of the second great commandment, including giving praise, commendation, and occasional correction. It is good for us to develop further our relevant skills. Paul prescribed, however, “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). There is something about others’ knowing that we love them which convoys, accompanies, and helps something to get through. We may speak the truth to a person who doesn’t like compliments. We may speak the truth to a person who can’t stand any sort of suggestion or reproof. If we speak the truth in love, however, there is a much greater chance that what we say will find its mark in the hearts and the minds of other people.
You and I can sense when people speak to us in love. I never have any question, for instance, about my wife, Colleen, when she gives me suggestions, even when I do not regard them as convenient. Yet I never have to stop and question her motives or decode the communication. I know she loves me, and I let what she is telling me, however inconvenient it may be, come inside. So it is when we do as Paul says and speak the truth in love.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus was the great praise giver, whether to the centurion (see Matt. 8:5–10) or, as already observed, to the woman of Samaria (see John 4:11–18), to Hyrum Smith (see D&C 124:15), or to the Saints at Thyatira? (see Rev. 2:18–19).
Much more often, we too can give others “the garment of praise” (Isa. 61:3). There are so many people with no such clothing in their wardrobes—or only a T-shirt. They shiver for want of a little praise. Meanwhile, each of us has far more opportunities for bestowing deserved praise than we ever use! How long since you’ve done that? Perhaps today for many of you. Maybe too long for some of you. (Neal A. Maxwell, Jesus the perfect mentor, Ensign, February 2001)