Terry Warner, in a lecture given at the BYU Women’s Conference in 2006, said, “It is not the wrongs others do to us that harm us most, but the wrongs we do to others.” In other words, we hurt more for the harm we inflict on others than anything that others can inflict upon us. I believe Warner was talking about something deeper than the backlash of sin that we experience at the final Judgment or even the mortal consequences of sin that haunt us down the road during life. I believe that he is talking about how our sins against others prevent us from loving them the way we must in order to experience joy in this life.
Warner, in his book Bonds that Make Us Free, explains that when we resist our moral obligations to treat other people humanely, our entire way of being changes. We no longer see the world as it really is, but rather in a way that justifies our mistreatment of others. We experience malice, anger, and irritation towards others as though they are the cause of our mistreatment towards them. We no longer see ourselves as we really are, for even our image of ourselves collaborates in a way that justifies our actions.1
Those who do not sin against others have no need to find fault with others maliciously. Their hearts know no malice because they have no sins that they need to excuse through another’s actions. James Ferrell, in his book The Peacegiver, wrote (speaking to the reader):
The important difference between [adults] and children is not that … children are innocents but that they are innocent—that is, they are not doing wrong towards those who are creating difficulties for them.
This understanding is available merely from pondering the Savior’s atonement, for no amount of mistreatment and suffering was able to take away the love of One who was without sin. By contrast, we who still struggle with sinfulness, struggle as well to cover our sins. And one way we do this, the Savior taught, is by finding sinfulness in others. The beams in our eyes get us looking for the motes in others’. Our own failure to love another causes us to see the other as being unworthy of love. … The Savior, by contrast, with no sins of his own to clutch, cover, and excuse, remained free to see all of mankind … mercifully and gratefully.
The secret of [children’s] love is not their naiveté—the fact that they are … mere innocents—but is rather their innocence from sin. Innocent as they are from sinfulness toward [others], there are no sins they need to cover and excuse, and therefore no sins of yours can keep them from loving you.2
Thus, when we wrong others, we lose the ability to see them or ourselves as we really are. Because of this, we cannot see that we are the real cause of the problem. We are blinded to the things wrongs we’ve done others by the wrongs we do to others. Knowing this nature of sinfulness lends insight to our human condition. If the nature of sin warps our ability to accurately perceive everything else, it helps us understand the need for a Savior. How can a bilateral hand amputee perform surgery to fix his own hands? How can a towtruck with a busted engine tow itself to the shop? How can an mentally-ill person provide her own therapy? Our sins themselves are what prevent us from repairing them ourselves. Hence the need for someone else to lift us out of the pit we’re in.
1. Terry Warner, Bonds that Make Us Free (Ann Arbor, MI: Shadow Mountain, 2001)
2. James Ferrell, The Peace Giver (Salt Lake City, Ut: Deseret Book, 2004), p. 118–121.