Do you know who Dikembe Mutumbo is? If you like basketball you probably do. Dikembe is one of the top shot-blockers of all time. His specialty, rejecting a player’s shot multiple times, then wagging his finger at the victim. It was so familiar that Geico even made a commercial with him.
Now that we have established who Dikembe is and what he is famous for, I wan’t to switch tracks. (Typical MMM whiplash writing, to be sure.)
Last summer, Pixar released a pretty terrific movie called “Inside Out.” The film was set in the mind of a young girl, and attempted to explain how all the different emotions – joy, sadness, anger, disgust and fear all interplay in our minds.
I like the way the portrayed the different emotions jockeying for position, and the hilarity that ensued. But, at least in my brain, there was one character lacking: My Mental Dikembe.
You see, I have lots of thoughts and emotions that I express throughout each day. But I have learned one thing: Not all thoughts and emotions need to be expressed. That’s where my Mental Dikembe comes into play.
When I am ready to say, or type, something that I probably shouldn’t, I need my Mental Dikembe to step up and swat that thought right out of my head, wag his finger at me, and say, “Not in my house!”
I used to think of this idea as having a “filter” of sorts that would keep me from spouting of with things that I shouldn’t say, but I am finding that analogy flawed. Why? Filters are permanent, and they get more clogged, rather than less porous as stuff is run through them. And heaven knows, on some days “porous” is my middle name.
That’s where my Mental Dikembe comes in. He swats those thoughts away before they materialize as a rude, wrong, or inappropriate comment. Most of the time.
The problem is, every now and again, my “Mental Dikembe” takes a powder, and the temp that replaces him is more like a “Mental Danny Devito.” He can’t block a shot to save his life – nor does he want to.
Case in point: Last night, I had some petty thing bouncing around in my brain that I wanted to say to my EC. It was something that didn’t need to be said, and I restrained myself for several hours, mostly because every time I was going to say it, I knew Dikembe was there, waiting.
Eventually, there was a brief moment that either Dikembe wasn’t paying attention, or he was exhausted from my constant barrage, but the comment slipped through his defenses, and I said it.
As the very words came out of my mouth, I regretted saying them.
It made for a sad evening, and a repentant husband.
Years ago, Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a conference address in ’92 entitled, “The Tongue is a Sharp Sword.” It stuck in my mind because he used the term, “bashing,” which I thought was an odd term to use in a conference talk. Here is a snippet:
When King David was pleading for mercy in the fifty-seventh Psalm, he cried: “My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.” (Ps. 57:4.)
In the world today we are victims of many who use their tongues as sharp swords. The misuse of our tongues seems to add intrigue and destruction as the media and private persons indulge in this pastime. In the vernacular of the day, this destructive activity is called bashing. The dictionary reports that to bash is to strike with a heavy, crushing blow.
Such a popular behavior is indulged in by far too many who bash a neighbor, a family member, a public servant, a community, a country, a church. It is alarming also how often we find children bashing parents and parents bashing children.
We as members of the Church need to be reminded that the words “Nay, speak no ill” are more than a phrase in a musical context but a recommended way of life. We need to be reminded more than ever before that “if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” If we follow that admonition, there is no time for the dastardly hobby of bashing instead of building.
Some think the only way to get even, to get attention or advantage, or to win is to bash people. This kind of behavior is never appropriate. Oftentimes character and reputation and almost always self-esteem are destroyed under the hammer of this vicious practice.
How far adrift we have allowed ourselves to go from the simple teaching “If you can’t say something good about someone or something, don’t say anything” to where we now too often find ourselves involved in the bash business.
Seen any of that lately? It seems that I am not the only one who suffers from an overwhelmed “Mental Dikembe.”
Our coarsening political discourse has essentially become a non-stop litany of bashing – from almost every candidate and their surrogates, who use it to further their own agendas, to even highly visible church members who seek to “get attention or advantage” by bashing those they disagree with. Some say, “Oh, that’s just the nature of politics.” Perhaps. But that doesn’t make it right.
It is almost scary to go on Social Media lately because so many of us have actually kidnapped our Mental Dikembes, tied them up, and shoved them into a closet. Then we let the shots fly, with no one there to stop them.
Which brings me to one of my all-time favorite quotes:
“When you wrestle with a a pig, you both get dirty – but the pig loves it.”
More from Elder Ashton:
It should come as no surprise that one of the adversary’s tactics in the latter days is stirring up hatred among the children of men. He loves to see us criticize each other, make fun or take advantage of our neighbor’s known flaws, and generally pick on each other. The Book of Mormon is clear from where all anger, malice, greed, and hate come.
Nephi prophesied that in the last days the devil would “rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.” (2 Ne. 28:20.) By the looks of what we constantly see depicted in the news media, it appears that Satan is doing a pretty good job. In the name of reporting the news, we are besieged with sometimes graphic depictions—too often in living color—of greed, extortion, violent sexual crimes, and insults between business, athletic, or political opponents.
I imagine my Mental Dikembe standing in the recesses of my brain, exhausted from having to reject countless salvos that I thought to launch. Some slip through, but his rejection percentage is actually quote good.
If the adversary can influence us to pick on each other, to find fault, bash, and undermine, to judge or humiliate or taunt, half his battle is won. Why? Because though this sort of conduct may not equate with succumbing to grievous sin, it nevertheless neutralizes us spiritually. The Spirit of the Lord cannot dwell where there is bickering, judging, contention, or any kind of bashing.
Is there a way to lessen the demands on my Mental Dikembe? Elder Ashton offers some advice:
So what is the antidote for this bashing that hurts feelings, demeans others, destroys relationships, and harms self-esteem? Bashing should be replaced with charity. Moroni described it this way:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all. …
“Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.” (Moro. 7:46–47.)
Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.
Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of being a basher repulsive.
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet.
Once again may I emphasize the principle that when we truly become converted to Jesus Christ, committed to Him, an interesting thing happens: our attention turns to the welfare of our fellowman, and the way we treat others becomes increasingly filled with patience, kindness, a gentle acceptance, and a desire to play a positive role in their lives. This is the beginning of true conversion.
There you go. A different way to look at the “filtering” process we all go through a million times a day.
Restraint is good. Not needing it is better.