Monday, July 25, 2011

BOMT: Defusing and Deliverance

Mosiah 7

Here we see a perfect example of the facetious-but-often-true adage, "No good deed goes unpunished."

Sixteen men are permitted by King Mosiah to travel to the land of Lehi-Nephi to check up on a group of their brethren who headed there impetuously two generations ago and were never heard from since. Forty years they had waited and still cared. (It struck me immediately that the 40 years of waiting and the 40 days wandering in the wilderness are an obvious allusion to the children of Israel and their 40 years in the wilderness.)

But instead of the warm welcome they might have expected, they were taken and bound and cast into prison. After two days in jail they were taken before the king and commanded to speak:
"I desire to know the cause whereby ye were so bold as to come near the walls of the city..." Then he essentially says, the only reason I haven't had you killed yet is to find out what you're doing here.

But despite the mistreatment, the abuse, the imprisonment, the anger, and the death threats, Ammon shows us a truly masterful example of defusing anger: 
Ammon, as leader of the men who've been imprisoned, steps forward, bows before the king, and says, "O King, I am very thankful before God this day that I am yet alive, and am permitted to speak."

Step one: Shows Respect (bows before the king, addresses him with the respectful O and his title).
Step two: Expresses Gratitude (thanks the king abundantly and sincerely, and thanks the Lord as well).

Only then does he attempt any kind of bold statement: "I will endeavor to speak with boldness, for (and this is truly bold) I am assured that if ye had known me ye would not have suffered that I should have worn these bands."

Step three: Frames his point (which in this case is that the king has made a gross error by imprisoning Ammon and his men) by assuming the best, giving the benefit of the doubt (you wouldn't have done this if you'd known...). This is, to a lesser degree, what Christ was doing when he said of his captors and crucifiers, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Step four: Makes a connection (by identifying himself, his hometown, their common ancestry, a common friend, and a common purpose.)

Step five: Shows concern. "We have come up out of the land of Zarahemla to inquire concerning our brethren."

Step six: Reception. The king has instantly changed from a position of anger, suspicion and threat to being "exceedingly glad," referring to them as his brethren, rejoicing, and desiring that his people rejoice as well.

Step seven: Deliverance. "King Limhi commanded his guards they they should no more bind Ammon nor his brethren, but caused that they should...bring their brethren into the city [to] eat, and drink, and rest themselves..."

Although this was in the extreme (prison, bonds, death threat) we all encounter situations of anger, misunderstanding and even threatening accusations. But I fully believe that if we follow this pattern of defusing anger, our ideas will be better received. This is a pattern we can use with an angry co-worker, an obstinate or disobedient child...nearly any interpersonal confrontation:

1. Show Respect
2. Express Sincere Gratitude
3. Frame your message by assuming the best, giving the benefit of the doubt 
(I know you didn't mean to..., I'm sure you wouldn't have done x if you'd been aware of y)
4. Make a Connection, find common ground
5. Show Concern

The steps could be rearranged, in any order, as long as the bold message is sandwiched between the two relationship-building sections.

Of course, steps six and seven, Reception and Deliverance, are subject to the agency of the other party. But the immediate and dramatic turnaround of the king's position gives me great hope.

There's an interesting twist of fate, as the king confesses that they're in bondage to the Lamanites, and essentially asks Ammon and his men to help deliver them. In granting deliverance (i.e. forgiveness), they too are delivered (forgiven). There are many kinds of bondage we experience in the 21st century: debt, sin, addiction, depression, to name a few.

I love the promise of the closing verse:
"Turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put your trust in him, and serve him with all diligence of mind, if ye do this, he will, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver you out of bondage."


Luisa Perkins said...

Oh, lovely insights. I just read that chapter recently, so it's all fresh in my mind. Thanks for this.

Dedee said...

What wonderful insights. I love this. Thank you!