From the time that we were young, we as Latter-day Saints have intrinsically understood that the most important thing we can do as Christians is to love one another. When Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, he explained that the first and second great commandments are to “love the Lord with all thy heart…” and to “love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:37,39). We also know that charity is the “pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). From these and other scriptural passages, many interpret and use the term Christ-like to refer to words and behavior that are always loving. In Mormon culture, a common belief is that if we’re genuinely trying to be loving, like Jesus, we are always kind, happy, and positive.
As a therapist, I have seen how this pervading assumption that being Christ-like means we are always to be “nice” and never angry or upset can be profoundly limiting, and even damaging to the emotional health of many Latter-day Saints (particularly to women). By denying certain feelings that society often deems negative or not Christ-like, we not only misinterpret the true character of the Savior, but we also limit our own ability to have a full spectrum of human experiences. I ardently believe that a healthier approach to understanding what it means to live a Christ-like life will be enhanced by broadening our view of how we can feel a full range of emotions while being righteous disciples of the Lord.
A close study of gospel texts reveals that Jesus was an emotionally complex individual, and not at all a one-dimensional “nice guy” character that our culture has unfortunately so often stereotyped him as.