The other day I was playing racquetball with my racquetball buddy Bob and he made a good shot so I said, “Nice shot.” If you’ve ever been in a racquetball court you know that the acoustics make it difficult to understand even a little bit of what people are saying. So to Bob “shot” sounded like another four letter word and he said, “Did you just use an obscenity?” I reassured him that I didn’t cuss, I said “Nice shaaawt.” He said something ridiculous like “Oh, for a second there I thought our little Mormon was growing up.”
If circumstances were different I might have called him on that comment and pointed out how it would be silly to regard the use of foul language as a sign of maturity. But that would be a bit much for a racquetball court at 6 a.m.
Nevertheless, we did have a short, echoey conversation about cussing, only about half of which did either of us understand. I said something about how even though I almost never cuss in public I’m actually not all that sensitive to other people cussing. I didn’t want him to think I was upset when he let one slip. The conversation ended with him saying something like, “I was just telling my wife the other day that I’m glad that I can’t use obscenities in our racquetball games. It’s changed my whole life.”
I didn’t probe any further to find out what he meant as the echo was bothering me and I had a whalloping to administer (my serve is devastating, just so you know), but I’ve wondered how his controlling his language for a couple of hours a week for the sake of this “little Mormon’s” delicate sensibilities could make much difference in his life. If I had to guess I’d say that maybe he found that his racquetball experience was more enjoyable when he wasn’t cursing about every missed shot and maybe his newfound language control spilled over into some of his other daily activities and he found that things like driving and working became more pleasant without all the negative language. But that’s just a guess.
This has me thinking about what being a “good example” means and why it’s important. We’re taught from the time we’re Sunbeams that it’s important to be a good example. The rationale that is often given is that people see us as representives of the Church and we want our actions to reflect positively on the Church. That’s OK, I guess. But perhaps more importantly, maybe our living according to the principles of happiness can inspire others to live according to those same principles and end up happier. Maybe our refusal to give in to peer pressure to do drugs or drink can help another kid have the courage to refuse. Or maybe our service to the poor can inspire others to give. And so on.
Ultimately, our main motivation for upholding the standards of our religion—in public or in private—should be that that is the way that God wants us to live, and God’s way is the way of happiness. But if we need more motivation, perhaps we can think of the small ways our actions can affect those around us. Bob’s comment reminds me that sometimes our quiet observance of the principles of our religion can bless others in ways we don’t see or intend, and that makes me want to be better.