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Ronell Hugh

Ronell Hugh

22 Aug. 2017

Transcript

The Three Sides of Love

Thank you. Thank you for the music, and thank you, too, to this institution and to President Kusch for having me here today. It’s quite the honor and privilege to be able to share a few thoughts with you. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity over the last couple of months to think about it and prepare.

A life journey is a fascinating experience to participate in. For me, I have spent six of the last seven years in my work career learning about consumers—how they think during a purchase process, what things they take into consideration, why they consider what they do, what ultimately influences their decision, and their level of satisfaction once they have purchased the item. I’ve worked with development and engineering teams to develop products that consumers want in hopes of meeting and exceeding their expectations. Now, this was all done in the entertainment industry.

I can tell you that even though it may have seemed challenging to understand how to influence purchase intent and deliver value to my customers, it was extremely gratifying to see their faces when they made their purchase or experienced the product I was working on. It’s a moment of pure joy. It’s a moment of exhilaration. In many ways, it is a moment of pure love. People love things. We are a consumer-driven world, and the acquisition of goods is something that we all do.

It is with this same lens of how people love their consumer goods that I want to share some thoughts on the topic of love. It is not the love that ends with two people getting married, so you don’t have to worry about me addressing that topic. In our Church, Jesus Christ’s experience with the Pharisees is well-known and often quoted. When He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”[1] most members could repeat His answer verbatim:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

This is the first and great commandment.

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.[2]

We often deduce from these verses in the New Testament that the two great commandments are love God and love your neighbor. In my personal and professional life, I have come to understand the importance of these two commandments. They are key attributes of the Savior that we must all develop to help us truly become who He hopes and knows we can become. We will revisit these two well-known commandments later, but for now I want to focus on a less talked about side of love.

I find it fascinating that the Savior said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” What does He mean, to love someone “as thyself”? Whenever I read these verses, this question comes to my mind. It’s not a new question but more a reminder to me of who I am and how important I am to the Lord. I’ve inferred from this scripture that we should learn to love ourselves. Loving ourselves is as important as loving others and loving God.

I think this is something that we don’t think about and is not often on our list of important items. We find time for activities that we enjoy, for friends, for work, for school, for exercise, and for food. But we don’t find time to truly love ourselves in the ways that we need.

What does loving yourself mean? Loving yourself can mean many things. The first thing is to know who you are as a daughter or a son of God. We hear this a lot. I think we don’t truly understand how vital this is to each of us, fulfilling what God has in store for us. President Russell M. Nelson says this: “Who are we? We are children of God. Our potential is unlimited. Our inheritance is sacred.”[3] To know that we are daughters or sons of God is to know our full potential in every sphere of mortal or eternal life. This knowledge means knowing that He loves each of us individually and cares deeply about the things that are important to us.

This understanding first hit me on one specific occasion. Prior to my mission, I had the opportunity to work as an Especially For Youth counselor. At this point in my life, I had been a member of the Church for five years. I had attended the summer camp the two prior summers and always felt that it would be a great opportunity to become a counselor myself. It was a busy summer, with several weeks of working with amazing counselors and youth across the United States.

The week prior to reporting to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, I worked my final session in upstate New York on the campus of Cornell University. It was an amazing experience to me, where I had the opportunity to visit Palmyra, New York, area and to spend time where the Church was organized and restored.

For those who haven’t attended EFY before, it’s a week full of gospel topic classes, dances, food, and fun among other kids of the LDS faith. Typically on a Thursday night, the session director gives a talk on the Atonement and then each group breaks out to provide opportunities for the participants to share their testimonies.

As I sat there listening to some amazing testimonies from the youth in my group, one of the boys started to cry hysterically. It caught me somewhat off guard, and I realized that I needed to comfort this young man. To this day, I don’t remember his name, but I remember pulling him out and asking him what was wrong.

Through his tears and sniffling, he shrieked out these words: “He did this all for me! Why? Why did He do that?” The young man was asking a very good question. He—speaking of the Savior—did do all what He did for each one of us, His sisters and brothers.

I learned a very important point that evening, seven days before I was supposed to enter the MTC. I am that important to my Heavenly Father that He would sacrifice His Son, Jesus Christ, for me. We have been taught this doctrine, but have you ever let it sink in, like this young man? Do you truly understand what that means for you and your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ? Each of us as an individual is unique, special, and important to both Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

In addition, I believe that to love yourself means to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. These three words—mentally, physically, and spiritually—have personal meaning to me. I have learned that as I take care of myself in these three areas, I am better equipped personally and professionally.

I prioritize these areas most every day. I arise at 5:00 am most mornings to study the scriptures for about 40 minutes, then I head to the gym to exercise for about an hour and 15 minutes. On the drive to and from the gym, I listen to BBC News to get an update on world events. By 7:00 am, I feel that I have started my day with the three critical areas I need to show love for myself. I am feeding myself with the essentials I need before I embrace the day with my family, work, community, and Church responsibilities.

When we develop and learn love for ourselves, we must remember not to be conceited. What is conceit? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that one of the definition for conceit is “having or showing an excessively high opinion of oneself.”[4] You can also call this pride in oneself.

President Ezra Taft Benson gave an extraordinary talk on pride in April 1989 General Conference. He said,

Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philip. 2:21.)[5]

Don’t let your pride be the downfall of you truly getting to know and love yourself. There are small but pivotal events in your life where Satan will insert himself to drive that wedge, to build the enmity that President Benson stated.

In recent years, there has been an increased body of research focused on self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in self-compassion research, defines it as having compassion for oneself when having a difficult time, experiencing failure, or suffering in some way.[6] There are three main components that she highlights: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.

Self-kindness is when people “recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.”[7]

Common humanity is “recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of shared human experience—something that we all go through rather than something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”[8]

“Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive [mindset] in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be ‘over-identified’ with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.”[9]

Having self-compassion takes introspection and truly being willing to love yourself more fully despite what you may deem as flaws and failures. The world would do its fair amount in telling you that you are not perfect, not the best, and not capable. My experience in the business world has taught me an important lesson as it relates to self-compassion.

During my time at both Walmart and Microsoft, I slowly started to recognize the feelings of stress and discomfort people put on themselves to be successful. I realized that for me, to be truly successful I needed to be comfortable with who I am, not to take myself too seriously, acknowledge my weaknesses and seek feedback to correct them, and to do my best always. I was able to keep my perspective by keeping my life balanced with objectives outside of work—coaching soccer, Church service, community activity, and, most importantly, family time.

However, I internalized that success in corporate America was ratified when I was having a mentor meeting with one of my mentors at Microsoft. His name was Matt Bartlett. At the time, Matt was leading Xbox Games in product marketing, and we had developed a good relationship. At this point, we were having a mentor meeting, and at one point in the conversation, he asked me, “What do you do outside of work?”

I shared with him my roles serving in the clergy for my local LDS congregation, coaching two soccer teams, and staying busy with my family of four kids. After sharing this with him, he looked at me and said, “I wish I would have had that type of balance at the same stage in my career, and I wish more people on my team had this type of balance.”

That experience was another revelatory moment in my personal and professional life. Yes, I do have personal and professional aspirations, but because I know who I am and my potential, I am willing to strike a balance needed to stay true to myself.

The North Carolina state motto comes to mind when I think of this topic, to love yourself. The motto is “to be rather than to seem.”[10] Let’s be who we can be, rather than seeming like it. Remember to love yourself.

Loving ourselves is essential in our ability to love others. Loving others requires us to look at others around us in a different way. It requires us to see them as our sisters and brothers—that’s every woman, man, and child in this world. Something I think LDS members forget is that the entire population of earth—with their different cultures, languages and beliefs—are members of our Heavenly Father’s family. Nothing must be done to obtain inclusion in Heavenly Father’s family.

This commandment fascinates me both in a personal and a professional way. Personally, I have found that the Lord has reminded me that caring for others is one of the most important things we can do. I was raised in three distinct cultures and learned how to embrace people and those cultures. I learned to love their differences in a way that allowed me to be more open and inclusive of others.

A lot of what I learned as a child was about respect for myself and for others. In a way, I feel that loving others is a sign of respect for those individuals. My exposure to others creates an opportunity for dialogue. That dialogue fuels an opportunity to understand others more deeply than at surface-level. Understanding allows for more acceptance and love for others, even though we often have distinct differences. In my mind, it is a simple equation: exposure leads to dialogue; dialogue leads to understanding; understanding leads to love and acceptance of others. Each of us can make an impact on others’ lives. Much of that begins with our ability to learn to love those whom we don’t know.

Think about the sons of Mosiah and their desire to take the gospel to the Lamanites, their Lamanite sisters and brothers. It started with a desire in their hearts. They fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of His Spirit to go with them and abide with them, that they might be instruments in the hands of God.[11]

Ammon was one of these sons, and he departed from among the Nephites to go to the land of Ishmael. When he arrived in their land, he was taken captive by the Lamanites, “as was their custom to bind all the Nephites who fell into their hands.”[12] When Ammon was brought before the king, before King Lamoni, he “inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people.”[13]

Ammon said, “I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die.”[14] This is a great example of the type of people we need to be to develop love for others. We must desire it. In many instances, we must pray and fast for it. And finally, we must learn to be among people who may not be just like us—people who don’t look, believe, or act like us.

I remember, when I returned from serving my mission in the summer of 2000, I would ask myself in prayer every day and ask the Lord to provide me with the opportunity to serve and help someone in need. This continues even until today. There are multiple experiences that came from continued petitions, but there is one that stands out in my mind.

It was the fall semester of 2002 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and I was commuting from over in west Orem, across the highway from Utah Valley University. During the winter months, it was snowy and cold, as you are all aware if you live in Utah. It was either in November or December, and I found myself passing the same male student walking every day down a hill on State Street in Orem. I’m not sure how far he walked to school, but when I would pass him it was about three miles away from campus.

Every time I passed him, this thought—now I know it as a prompting of the Spirit—came into my mind: “Stop and offer him a ride.” Day after day I would see him, and I heard this little voice in my head, “Stop.” But I ignored it and would continue on with my really important world. Finally one day, after seeing this young man, I decided to stop. I pulled over and asked him if he needed a ride. He accepted. On the drive to BYU campus, we got to talking and he shared with me that his car had broken down over a month earlier. This meant that for the last month or so, he had been walking five-plus miles from his apartment in Orem to BYU in the cold. He had been working to save the money to fix his car, and finally he had saved enough to have it fixed. He then shared with me that his car would be ready to pick up the next day.

I dropped him off on campus and never saw him again. This experience taught me a very important lesson—and no, it’s not to pick up every stranger that I see walking during the cold winter months. I learned the importance of following the promptings of the Holy Ghost in directing me to help others. I’m a firm believer that God will use us to help those who are around us.

Because of this experience, I love this message on serving others from President Spencer W. Kimball:

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom. . . . So often, our acts of service consist of simple encouragement or of giving mundane help with mundane tasks, but what glorious consequences can flow from mundane acts and from small but deliberate deeds![15]

I firmly believe that we all have a role to play in each other’s lives if we truly seek, listen, and act. We can’t do this, though, if we haven’t loved ourselves first and put ourselves in positions where we can have a foundation to do it. During two separate times, I served as a clergyman for my local LDS congregation for a combined eight years, and I learned something very important: people need to be loved and not judged. People need to be supported and sustained. People need someone to listen and understand. People need pure empathy motivated by charity, “the pure love of Christ.”[16] Simply put, they need unconditional love like the Savior would give them.

During this most recent service in the bishopric, I remember having a conversation with my wife. She expressed to me her concern about a specific member and that individual not doing what she thought they should be doing in their calling. Essentially, she wanted this member to pull their weight in the functioning of the ward. We all do this, right? The natural man steps in, and we begin to build stories of these people in our mind. These stories start to form into reality because of our focus on this concern.

At one point in this conversation, I asked my wife if she wanted to know what was going on in the life of this member. The following dialogue occurred:

She asked me, “What do you mean?”

I said, “Well, I know what’s going on.”

She said, “No, I don’t want to know.”

There are probably more pieces in this dialogue that I’m leaving out, and you should know that my wife is an amazing woman and teaches me so much. She even edited my talk for me. What occurred to me during this conversation is, does it help if we know what is going on in others’ lives, to help us love them? Or should we love others because they need our love? That is the example the Savior set before us.

Another example of loving others is when I worked at Walmart. I had the fortunate opportunity to work on the gaming and movies and music categories. It was an exciting business with a ton of energy and content. The first person I met on the merchant side of this was a gentleman and now a dear friend named Eric Bright. Eric, at the time, was a senior buyer for video games and one of the most influential individuals in the gaming industry. He now works at GameStop, where he oversees all the merchandising for the company.

When I first met Eric, I was new to the gaming industry. He had years of experience in the entertainment industry and retail. Eric took me under his wing and taught me a lot about the industry and our vendors, like Nintendo, Activision, or Xbox. We spent a ton of time together working and traveling to grow our share of the video game business at Walmart. Over the two-plus years I was at Walmart, we became close friends. I looked to Eric as a confidante about my personal and professional life.

 After leaving Walmart, I had the opportunity to go to Dallas to speak at a diversity event at a high school on behalf of Microsoft. I naturally reached out to Eric so that we could connect and do dinner. We spent a couple of evenings dining and talking about life and work, and for some reason, I knew Eric wanted to share something with me.

On our second night, we were driving back to my hotel, and Eric shared with me that he was gay. I responded, “I know.”

He said to me, “You know? Why didn’t you say anything?”

I told him, “Because it doesn’t matter.”

Eric went on to state that, “Your church believes that marriage is between a man and a woman.”

I shared with him, “That is what I believe, but I’m not here to force my beliefs on other people.” I also shared that we could still be friends even though we believe differently. We then had a lengthy conversation about how two people who have different beliefs, political views, religious perspectives, and a slew of other things, could still be dear friends. This experience in friendship continues to be a testament to me of the importance of acceptance and love of others.

Ultimately, what I have recognized is the need for increased empathy, and there’s no one who has articulated what empathy is better than Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston. She has spent the last sixteen years studying several topics, including empathy. Let’s listen to what she has to say about this topic:

[Recording of Dr. Brené Brown:]

So, what is empathy, and why is it very different than sympathy? Empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection. Empathy—it’s very interesting. Theresa Wiseman is a nursing scholar who studied professions—very diverse professions—where empathy is relevant and came up with four qualities of empathy: perspective taking—the ability to take the perspective of another person or recognize their perspective as their truth; staying out of judgement—not easy when you enjoy it as much as most of us do; recognizing emotion in other people; and then communicating that.

Empathy is feeling with people. And to me, I always think of empathy as this kind of sacred space when someone is kind of in a deep hole, and they shout out from the bottom, and they say, “I’m stuck. It’s dark. I’m overwhelmed.” And then, we look and we say, “Hey, I’m down. I know what it’s like down here. And you’re not alone.”

Sympathy is like, “Ooh. It’s bad, uh-huh. Uh, no. You want a sandwich?”

Empathy is a choice, and it’s a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling. Rarely, if ever, is an empathic response begin with “At least . . . ” Yeah—and we do it all the time. Because you know what? Someone just shared something with us that’s incredibly painful, and we’re trying to silver line it. I don’t think that’s a verb, but I’m using it as one. We’re trying to put the silver lining around it.

“So, I had a miscarriage.” “At least you know you can get pregnant.”

“I think my marriage is falling apart.” “At least you have a marriage.”

“John’s getting kicked out of school.” “At least Sara is an A student.”

But one of the things we do sometimes in the face of very difficult conversations is we try to make things better. If I share something with you that is very difficult, I’d rather you say, “I don’t even know what to say right now; I’m just so glad you told me.” Because the truth is, rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connections.[17]

I love what Dr. Brené Brown said about what empathy is. “Empathy fuels connections,” she said. “Sympathy drives disconnection. . . . Empathy is feeling with people.” This characteristic of empathy is critical in our ability to love others. Therefore, I remind you, remember to love others.

When I think of loving others, loving God is something that naturally comes to my mind. For me, loving God is something I have done my entire life. My parents were what I consider God-fearing people and always sent us or took us to a church, prior to joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They taught me about the Ten Commandments and their importance. I don’t think they truly understood then as much as they do now, but it was foundational in my life.

At a young age, I remember listening to cassette tapes—yes, cassette tapes—while I followed along with a Bible stories book my parents had given me and my brother. I remember listening to stories about the prophets—like Abraham, Moses, and Noah—and hearing how God cared so much about His children on this earth.

Now, you may ask yourself, “Why does God need our love?” I don’t think He necessarily needs our love. But we should love Him for what He has done for us and will do for us. We should love Him for the many blessings He has and will continue to provide to us, His children.

I love what President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said about this:

God the Eternal Father did not give that first great commandment because He needs us to love Him. His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or adoration.

No, God does not need us to love Him. But, oh, how we need to love God!

For what we love determines what we seek.

What we seek determines what we think and do.

What we think and do determines who we are—and who we will become.[18]

Just think about that for a second. What we love will essentially determine who we are and what we will become. This naturally leads me to ask, what do we want to become? Where have we set our sights? Are our sights set on earthly and temporal glory, or on eternal glory? If there is one thing I would challenge you to do and to think about as you move forward with your life, is to find time—whether it’s annually, quarterly, or monthly—and ask yourself this question. It will be a sobering moment when you realize, as I often have, that we will all require nearly constant refocusing.

Loving God requires us to develop and maintain a relationship with Him. There are many ways to develop a relationship with God—meaning Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. There are the usual ones of attending church, daily scripture study, daily prayer, and regular temple attendance. Over the last ten years, I’ve recognized the importance of seeing others as the Lord sees them, as another way to develop my relationship with my Heavenly Father and the Savior.

I am human, just like everyone else, and there are moments when I get upset and frustrated with people. But it usually takes me a period, sometimes minutes or hours, before I start to think about that person differently. I start to ask myself, “What is causing them to act this way?” As I ask myself this question, I usually get an overwhelming feeling to give that person the benefit of the doubt. I find myself thinking about what I can do to help them.

When I look back at those experiences, it makes me think that is how They—Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ—are with us. They give us the benefit of the doubt. They see us not for who we are now, but for who we are becoming. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are highly important in helping each of us reach our full potential. We have been provided with laws and commandments that assist us in governing our lives in a way that allows us to receive great blessings that are spiritual and temporal—on earth and in the eternities—as we desire to live for them.

The Savior has told us Himself that “if ye love me, keep my commandments.”[19] He then promises that He will not leave us comfortless and He will come to us.[20] No matter if we love Them or not, They will always love us.

In closing, I want to leave you with this thought. I have talked a lot about love, in three different ways. You might be asking yourself, “After love, then what?” President Uchtdorf answered this question for us when he said,

The answer to the question “After love, then what?” can be simple and straightforward. If we truly love the Savior, we incline our hearts to Him and then we walk in the path of discipleship. When we love God, we will strive to keep His commandments.

If we truly love our fellowmen, we extend ourselves to help “the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.” For they who do these selfless acts of compassion and service, the same are disciples of Jesus Christ.[21]

Love is truly a gift and a Christlike attribute that transcends many areas of our personal and professional lives. This attribute is extremely vital for each of us as we seek to leave our mark in a world that is ever changing. Let us remember to love ourselves, to love others, and to love God. I know that as we do so, we will be blessed. I’ve seen those blessings in my life. I’ve seen the influence that the Lord has been able to have on me and has allowed me to have on others, as I have truly sought to follow this guidance. And I share this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


[1] Matthew 22:36.

[2] Matthew 22:37–39.

[3] Russell M. Nelson, “We Are Children of God,” Oct. 1998 General Conference.

[4] “Conceited,” Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conceited.

[5] Ezra Taft Benson, “Beware of Pride,” Apr. 1989 General Conference.

[6] See Dr. Kristin Neff, “Definition of Self-Compassion,” Self-Compassion, (2017), self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/.

[7] Neff, “Definition of Self-Compassion.”

[8] Neff, “Definition of Self -Compassion.”

[9] Neff, “Definition of Self-Compassion.”

[10] Michael Parker, “To Be Rather Than to Seem: The NC State Motto,” Our State: Celebrating North Carolina.

[11] See Alma 17:3.

[12] Alma 17:20.

[13] Alma 17:22.

[14] Alma 17:23.

[15] Spencer W. Kimball, “Small Acts of Service,” Ensign, Dec. 1974.

[16] Moroni 7:47.

[17] “Brené Brown on Empathy,” https://ed.ted.com/on/HGj9kQ5z#review.

[18] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Love of God,” Oct. 2009 General Conference.

[19] John 14:15.

[20] John 14:18.

[21] Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “After Love, Then What?” Ensign, Sep. 2016.