Erosion


The boys’ reckless climb scarred the environment—just like those careless words scarred my friend.

Erosion

We had gone up the canyon to study, but the mountain air and warm sunshine made it too relaxing to concentrate. So I just lay there in a kind of sleepy intoxication while Sarah continued her story. I rolled over to let the sun warm my face when I noticed two young boys climbing the mountain beside us—a trek that was pretty rough going. As the boys pulled themselves up by grasping branches and roots as anchors, rocks and earth under them slid down into the water. Sometimes the roots they grabbed pulled right out of the dirt, and they would slide down the face until they found something to grab onto. The small avalanche they created continued without them into the water below.

As we watched the boys with mild interest, Sarah proceeded to tell me about her best friend in high school. At least Sarah said this girl was her “best friend.” I didn’t know how that was decided. As the story went, this girl had been spending the weekend at Sarah’s, and one night they were up late talking. She told Sarah that although Sarah was fun for the first day or so, her charm soon wore off. Sarah, who was overweight and insecure, didn’t have many friends, and she had believed what this girl had told her.

I thought about this “best friend” and what her motives could possibly have been. Maybe she was annoyed with Sarah and just wanted to be mean. Maybe she was merely entertaining herself and didn’t realize that five years later, Sarah still believed that her charm quickly wore off like Cinderella’s gown.

Sarah had finished talking, and I looked over and saw the boys had finally made it to the top of the mountain. Self-satisfied, they happily scanned the world from their new vantage point and never noticed the scars they had left on the fragile mountainside.

I couldn’t help but notice the parallel between those boys and Sarah’s “best friend.” One remark had scarred Sarah enough, that years later she still expected to be rejected after people really got to know her.

Some time later, I was dealing with a socially clumsy guy who excelled at making a nuisance of himself. Steve had been wearing on my patience already, and when he made some comment that was obviously out of bounds, I turned and snapped at him. My snide remark brought laughter from the group around us, and I felt satisfied that I had made my point.

That night, I was reading in the Book of Mormon when I came across two scriptures that had profound meaning.

“And again I say unto you, is there one among you that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?

“Wo unto such an one, for he is not prepared, and the time is at hand that he must repent or he cannot be saved!” (Alma 5:30–31).

I pondered Alma’s question. I remembered my comment to Steve, and I thought back to Sarah and the mountainside. Even though Steve was hard to deal with, he didn’t know any better. His awkwardness deserved love, not a confirmation of his insecurities. I realized that no matter how annoyed I was—or even how thoughtless—I will be held directly responsible for how I treat each of Heavenly Father’s children. Christ has promised that our interactions with each other are important. He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).

I know now I would rather have Heavenly Father refer to the service I rendered than to the injuries I compounded.

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann