6 And after this manner of language did my father, Lehi, comfort my mother, Sariah, concerning us, while we journeyed in the wilderness up to the land of Jerusalem, to obtain the record of the Jews.
(1 Nephi 5:6)
Sariah was anxious. She and her family had abandoned their comfortable life in Jesusalem and had traveled many days in the wilderness. Then, her husband had sent her sons back to Jerusalem to retrieve a set of sacred writings from a powerful and unpredictable man. They had been gone longer than expected, and she feared the worst. She expressed her fear in the form of anger and criticism:
For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father (1 Nephi 5:2-3).
I can imagine Lehi becoming offended and either fighting back or withdrawing. Lehi did neither. Instead, as Nephi tells us in the passage above, he comforted his wife.
When people are contentious, they may simply be feeling insecure and anxious. Their unkind words may simply be the expression of their own uncomfortable feelings. The last thing these people need is to be repaid in kind. If we can see past their unkind words and recognize that they need our help, then we will be more likely to respond as the Savior would, with compassion and empathy.
Today, if I am confronted with criticism or anger, I will remember that the hostility probably isn’t about me, even if it seems to be directed at me. I will follow Lehi’s example and think about how the other person must be feeling. I will do my best to understand why they are unhappy and will find a way to help them.