In the April 2023 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson spoke bluntly about the evil nature of contention. “Those who foster contention are taking a page out of Satan’s playbook, whether they realize it or not,” he taught. “We cannot support Satan with our verbal assaults and then think that we can still serve God.”
He continued, “Contention is a choice. Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to be a peacemaker, now and always.”
It’s clear we need to eschew contention and embrace peace. However, in today’s toxic world, this isn’t always easy. How can we follow the counsel of a prophet to become peacemakers? Try following these five steps to eliminate contention from your life.
Pray to See Others in a New Light
We are all children of God. Sometimes, we forget to internalize this truth and recognize how profoundly it should guide our actions. President Rosemary M. Wixom taught, “Divine nature breathes into us the desire to serve others. The divine nature within us ignites our desire to reach out to others and prompts us to act.”
If you struggle to recognize the divine nature in others, pray to see them the way God does. This may seem trite at first, but who would you deem your greatest enemy? The person who stands completely opposite of you in terms of political, religious, or cultural beliefs? Can you pray for them? Can you see them as a child of God?
As you pray with increasing sincerity, the Lord can reveal to you things about another person that will soften your heart. Your patience will be increased and so will your knowledge of how to handle hard situations.
Avoid Situations Where Contention Dwells
The conditions of mortality mean we can’t avoid contention completely. We’ll all face moments where we feel anger, hurt, or bitterness. Still, the world provides ample opportunities to argue with one another. One of the most pervasive and obvious is the internet. Take some time and ponder those situations that are more likely to lead to contention in your life—is there something you need to cut out? Is there someone in your life who enjoys belittling or demeaning those who feel differently than they do? Does the worst of you come out on a comment thread or certain social media site?
Avoid these situations. Manage or end unhealthy or harmful relationships. Refrain from posting or replying. Step away from the toxicity in your life and allow the healing power of Christ to cleanse you.
Become an Active Listener
We all want to be seen and heard. We want to connect! When everyone is rushing to share opinions and screaming as loud as they can, it’s easy to become disconnected. Have you ever felt like you’re just shouting into a void? One way to combat this war of opinion and words is to become an active listener. An active listener is one who truly engages with what someone else is saying. They aren’t concerned with what they’re going to say next or proving a point. The goal is to not only hear words but to understand the meaning and intent behind them.
When someone feels heard, they are less likely to become upset and more likely to want to engage with your thoughts in return. By listening, you also allow for an opportunity to see more of someone’s divinity and heart. This will lead to greater charity.
Add Light Instead of Combating Darkness
Instead of focusing on combating darkness, focus on adding light. Here’s a good example. Someone posts something online that you disagree with. Instead of commenting on why you disagree, you could post your own opinion in a thoughtful or positive way. Better yet, you could post about truth from gospel resources, inviting others to come and learn about Christ. Darkness has a way of sucking you in. It’s easy to start something with good intentions and suddenly find yourself arguing, judging, or being fueled by intense emotion. Keep yourself within the guidelines of discipleship—to turn the other cheek, pray for your enemies, and try to show charity for all. Adding this type of light into the world can have a greater impact than you may think.
Ask: What Would Jesus Really Do?
But, you may say, what about those attacking the Church? What about those who may be attacking you? Shouldn’t you defend yourself? Shouldn’t you stand up for what you believe in? There isn’t one answer to how every person should react every single time. We should ask ourselves, what would Jesus really do? We need to dig deep and discover what He is calling us to do personally as His disciple. If we are humble, He can direct us in how to handle any situation that comes our way. By learning of His teachings, we will be more empowered to know how to be true peacemakers.
“The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade and inspire — no matter how difficult the situation,” President Nelson taught. “True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.”