Thursday, August 21, 2008

What to Do When You Don't Like Your Companion

Many times we don't like someone because they seem odd to us. Ezra Taft Benson and Flora Amussen Benson's favorite poet was Edgar A. Guest. Sister Benson like to quote from his book It Takes O' Heap of Living. In that book there is a poem When You Know A Fellow that is the key to coming to like your companion:

When you get to know a fellow, know his joys and know his cares,
When you've come to understand him and the burdens that he bears,
When you've learned the fight he's making and the troubles in his way,
Then you find that he is different than you thought him yesterday.
You find his faults are trivial and there's not so much to blame
In the brother that you jeered at when you only knew his name.

You are quick to see the blemish in the distant neighbor's style,
You can point to all his errors and may sneer at him the while,
And your prejudices fatten and your hates more violent grow
As you talk about the failures of the man you do not know,
But when drawn a little closer, and your hands and shoulders touch,
You find the traits you hated really don't amount to much.

When you get to know a fellow, know his every mood and whim,
You begin to find the texture of the splendid side of him;
You begin to understand him, and you cease to scoff and sneer,
For with understanding always prejudices disappear.
You begin to find his virtues and his faults you cease to tell,
For you seldom hate a fellow when you know him very well.

When next you start in sneering and your phrases turn to blame,
Know more of him you censure than his business and his name;
For it's likely that acquaintance would your prejudice dispel
And you'd really come to like him if you knew him very well.
When you get to know a fellow and you understand his ways,
Then his faults won't really matter, for you'll find a lot to praise.

From the book "A Heap o' Livin'" ©1916

As you get to know your companion better you will gain an appreciation for them. Most of the time when we don't like someone it is because we don't know them or their hearts very well.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell in Stockholm, Sweden Area Conference in 1974 gave us some insights in to overcoming negative feelings: "As we serve in the Church we must remember that the genius of the gospel includes not merely helping those who are already friends to love each other more. The gospel also helps those who might not naturally like each other to appreciate each other; those who are strangers, even enemies, can become friends.

In living together as Saints, we will surely see each other’s faults, but when we look at each other through the lens of the gospel and by the light of heaven, we also see in others attributes and qualities that we little imagined were there! The gospel does not ask us to close our eyes to any reality; rather it helps us open our eyes more widely and more appreciatively! Where others see disarray, the disciple can, with patience, see purpose. Where others feel hopelessness, the disciple does not despair, for he has “a perfect brightness of hope” (“Konferens: A Report of the Scandinavian Area General Conference Held at Stockholm, Sweden,” Ensign, [October 1974]: 77).

If after getting to know your companion better you still don't like him or her then I suggest you pray for them every morning and night. Each day try to say something positive and uplifting to them. Try holding companionship study and really seeking to hear each others suggestions. Do a kind deed each day for your companion. If you can't overcome your reservations try talking to your companion and being open and honest about your feelings. Remember George Albert Smith lived by the motto: "One is it kind. Two need it be mentioned." If you are kind and you still feel the Spirit is not in yhour companionship, try prayerfully in a companionship meeting to resolve concerns.

If after all this it still isn't working out you should then discuss your concerns with your district and zone leaders. Counsel together to come up with ways of having a harmonous relationship. Go with your companion don't do it behind his or her back.

The last resort is to let your mission president know there are some problems. It is his stewardship to decide if you should be together. If you still remain companions learn to appreciate that people have differences and strengths. Yours might be to learn to have patience. Remember that the Lord will bless us if we are faithful and obedient. Remember that usually there is a reason you are with a particular companion and that eventually you will have a different one or go home after your service is over. Endure to the end.


S.Faux said...

Dr. B:

It seems to me that there is much to learn from a difficult companion, not the least of which is patience.

As I think about the issues you have raised, it seems to me that going on a full-time mission for a young person is a wonderful training ground for marriage. True, getting along with the opposite sex presents its own unique challenges, but at least some of the challenges of a marriage can be minimized by skills learned on a mission.

Hmmm... that raises the issue: What is the divorce rate of returned missionaries? I would bet it is statistically lower than the average, but I have no data. My gut also tells me that male RM married to female RM might be the strongest of all. Somebody must have done this study -- the hypotheses are too obvious.

Dr. B said...

You raise some good points about a mission preparing you for marriage. Marriages go through some difficult phases at times so dealing with a difficult companion can teach you skills in communication.

Bradly Allen Baird said...

I served with several companions who couldn't stand me, and vice versa. Our egos and immature natures prevented us from overcoming the differences. In fact, there is one particular companion with whom, if we saw each other on the street today, I would still probably come to blows.

However, I value each of these men and the time that we spent together and have an extraordinary amount of respect for their lives and who they are (even the one that might still like to take a swing at me). They will always stand in my mind as brethren in the gospel, strong men who sacrificed to stand side by side with me and testify of the gospel.

I believe in the things suggested by the post and can honestly say that they work and, no matter your differences with another person, they can always be healed. Apply the power of love and the atonement; the challenges will disappear.

Dr. B said...


Thanks for your candor and good advice. I had a few companions I didn't like also but today with the passage of time I don't dislike them. I still am angry though whenever I see one companion who lied his way to a football game which was an award for obedient missionaries. He forced me to view a drive in movie threatening me with a physical beating. He was much bigger and stronger I doubt I could take him in a fight even today.

I wish I could put behind me that memory but every time I see him at a mission reunion I remember how our mission president respected him and looked down on me for being honest and saying I got up fifteen minutes late. The other guy could view naked women in movies and force that on me but my sleeping in was ground for not seeing a professional football game. I called the other guy who told me to shut up or he would pulverize me. I told him he would one day have to answer to god for his dishonesty.

Having struggled with moral problems prior to my mission as a convert it was like being seared with a white hot poker for me to view that filth. I felt like I was raped even though I only had to view that. I am not overreacting I worked hard not to be sucked down in to immorality and felt I had been strong to overcome. My mission president probably thought it was no big deal but to me it was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life.

My mission president's lack of discernment killed a part of me since he was unfair in letting him go and me stay with an older sister. I expected him to know since he told us over and over we couldn't fool him. It was a common occurence for me to be misunderstood by my president. I believed him to be a prophetic man of god and took him at his word. He let me down. He never realized what was in my heart and his siding with the other man was a big disappointment.

I thought my mission president was the most righteous man on the earth I wanted him to be more than human which was my problem not his. Even though I came to accept that,I still like to think of my mission president as a father figure bigger than life. No one is perfect except Christ. Even though I know this in my heart I want to have a hero I guess I will have to settle for an imperfect one.

I will never ever gain his respect but as you grow older you just have to accept that there is not social justice in this world and maybe even the next.