Can we have a tough improversation?
“Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t know where it’s going. I just hope to find it somewhere along the way. Like an improv conversation. An improversation.” - Michael Scott, Hero and Genius
Folks, today is an improversation.
Training camp is in full swing and, as I'm writing this, we're waiting for an onslaught of quotes and updates from media availability at BYU. And yet, as I sit here eating a homemade BBQ chicken and avocado salad on a lunch break, I just can't seem to let myself focus on football.
This tweet, this article, and these stories have been swirling around in my head for the last several days. Today, I'm ready for a brain dump of those thoughts.
The conversation might not be a conversation that you want to have and that's fine. Feel free to delete this newsletter and we'll get back to football and life talk later on. Today, I'm taking 'owner of this newsletter' liberty and writing about what I want - not what I think others want. Why? Because I think others probably have thoughts too, but mostly because sometimes I use the platform that I've built for myself (talking the Rakoto brand more than the GEHB brand that Garrett and I have worked on together) to help myself. And that's what today is.
How to talk about this? I don't know. I don't have any preconceived direction or framework for this story. So, I guess the best place to start is just a chronological breakdown of what I felt and when I felt as I read through this.
Thought 1: Horrific. Awful. Heartbreaking. Confusing. Angry. Dumbfounded.
Is there a single word that describes all of those emotions at the same time? If there is, I don't know what it is. But those are all of the feelings that I was feeling at the same time as I read through the story. I think those are probably the feelings that most people felt as they read through the story.
There isn't much else to say about my initial thoughts as I read this the first time. I felt hurt and upset.
Thought 2: The 'well, okay but...' phase.
After my initial feelings of anger subsided a little bit, I started to try and find other emotions to draw on to help shape my thoughts. Whether it was denial or justification, I found myself trying to figure out some sort of a logical explanation for this.
Well okay, this story sucks, but we didn't really see a ton of evidence so maybe it's an incomplete story.
Well okay, this is clearly wrong, but there is just no way that the Church I know would allow something like this to happen so I can't really believe this verbatim - context is needed.
Well okay, if this happened to my family I would be devastated and angry too, so maybe the representative for the Church that called this 'a money grab' is actually right.
Those thoughts, and other thoughts that are similar in nature, are all thoughts that I thought. I thought about them. I tried not to thought about them. I thought about how to not thought about them anymore. I felt bad for thoughting those thoughts. I felt faithful for thoughting those thoughts. Those thoughts were the only thoughts I could thought for a lot of thoughts. I thought I would never thought about anything else for a minute. Those thoughts were loud and they were many.
Eventually, those thoughts went away and my mind (and grammatical skills) returned to my brain and I had a little more clarity about what exactly it was that I was thinking and I was able to move to my next set of thoughts.
Thought 3: Don't say a word to the internet.
Regardless of what I was thinking, there was one thing that was clear: The collective internet does not need another opinion spat out into the void about this article. So work through this on your own and chill for a bit.
Fortunately, the internet made that very easy.
Immediately there were people who hated the Church with strong feelings of, "See, I told you so!"
Immediately, there were members of the Church with strong and passionate opinions about the failings of the Church without knowing anything from the Church's side of the story, aside from one PR rep's statement in the story.
Immediately, there were staunch defenders of the Church who begged for more context and tried their best to drum up potential explanations that made the Church's actions make sense.
Of all of those conversations that I saw from the people inside those three grounds, I didn't see a single person say, "Hey that's a good point, Carl, I'm going to jump from Group B to Group C." The people who felt a certain way immediately after reading the article still felt a certain way after immediately sharing thoughts.
So, I knew that the internet didn't need another opinion from a man who is largely known for dressing up in tinfoil and having a D.A.R.E fanny pack.
Thought 4: If I was God - any God - what would I be thinking?
This thought stuck with me for a while. I reflected on my own faith. Behind the policies and the order of operations within the Church is my actual belief system. And core to that belief is that there is a God who allows people to choose things, for better or worse.
So, if I really believe that there is a God (which I do) and I believe that God loves everyone unconditionally and equally (which I do), then let's try to think like God right now. What is God thinking after he reads this article?
First, I don't think that God would jump to say, "See! I told you so!" That doesn't seem very Godly.
Second, I don't think that God would start to point out all of the failings and wrongdoings of everyone involved, pointing a finger and typing angrily on the internet. That doesn't seem like something God would do either.
I also don't think God would put up any blinders and try to search for reasons why this was okay or not okay, that just doesn't seem like the God I believe in.
If those are things God wouldn't do, then what WOULD God do?
Well, first, probably find a way to connect with the victims of this story. Lost in all of the rage about what the Church did or didn't do were these kids who were involved. Whether the Church fulfilled their legal obligation or whether they were completely in the wrong doesn't change the fact that these kids went through what these kids told the Associated Press they went through.
My heart breaks for these kids. It was hard to even read the allegations of what this dad did to the kids. I wish more than anything I could go back in time and stop it. I look into the eyes of my own daughter and I get filled with rage and anger thinking someone could do that to her. And to these kids, it was their dad! The one who should be filling with anger and rage and dying to protect them! Just horrific and awful and I hate it.
God would definitely find a way to comfort those kids. I don't know how Jeff should comfort those kids that I don't know, but those kids are the ones I should be thinking about first, not anything else.
What would God think next? Well, probably about the dad involved. I can't imagine the pain and disappointment that He would have felt watching someone who He loves - unconditionally, remember, something I believe God does - do what this dad did to his daughters.
Would God be angry? Would God be sad? Would God be confused and hurt?
I still don't know the answer, but I believe God would have spent some time thinking about that dad who did those awful things.
After thinking about the people involved, I think God would then turn to the Church. And what do I think God would do with the Church? I have no idea.
But I don't think he'd cast the Church into the fire.
I don't think he'd fire mean tweets out across the internet.
And I don't think he'd staunchly defend, either.
I think he would try to teach and try to fix things - on all sides.
Thought 5: So what should I be doing again?
Candidly, I still don't know for sure. But as I worked through all of these thoughts (and their associated sub-thoughts) in my head, the only thing that I could thing to do was to figure out what I would do.
If there is one thing I know about God (and there aren't many things I KNOW, just a lot that I believe in and hope for), it's that God wants me to do the best that I can to do what I believe is right. That's all that I know for sure about God.
So, all I can do, is be a dad that protects, not one that harms my kids.
All I can do is lift in the area that I'm standing and correct the wrongs I see. If I see or hear wrongdoing, I don't fall back on someone else's opinion of what I should do - I do what I feel I need to do. If that is contrary to what someone else thinks I should do, then it ultimately is something that I will have to address with God one day. But, nobody can decide how I apply my integrity and conviction but me - not a hotline, not a lawyer, nobody.
All I can do is actively create a safe environment or all who are around me, where all know they can trust me and depend on me. One subthought I had while reading this story is how many other people knew? Or could have known? How many other adults could have helped these kids? Did these kids have any other outlets that they could talk to? Anyone else they could trust? The focus of the story was on the Church and the Bishop, and that's fine, but are there people in my life that are in this situation but don't think I'd care? That don't think I'd help? Kids, women, or anyone else - do people know they can trust me and that I will help them with or without a bishop calling? If not, I know I need to do a better job there.
And all I can do is continue to try and live a little better today than I did yesterday, and a little better tomorrow still.
I had a lot of thoughts this week and I appreciate you sticking with me throughout this rambly, disorganized improversation. It's been a tough few days.