"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
April 3, 2014
My Visiting Teachers Avoid Me
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

My visiting teachers never come to see me. They also avoid me at church. I’m feeling pretty bad about this. They are friendly to everyone else, so I don’t think they are shy or anything like that. And they both have callings and are totally active members.

What can I do?

Answer:

You may be relieved to know that your situation is not uncommon. It is, unfortunately, not unusual for delinquent visiting teachers to guiltily avoid their neglected visiting teachees at church. It is also, unfortunately, not unusual for active members not to do their visiting teaching, despite much urging to the contrary.

So, unless you have actually done something to chase them away, I don’t think you should take it personally that your visiting teachers don’t visit or talk to you. It is a sad state of affairs, but it is not uncommon.

The irony, of course, is that by avoiding you in the halls at church, they are hoping to avoid an awkward conversation during which you are all secretly thinking, “Gee, you/we haven’t been to visit this month. Or ever.” But this effort to avoid a slightly awkward conversation actually results in a worse outcome: They appear to be actively shunning you.

What they should do, whether or not they visit during the month, is greet you warmly at church and talk to you as they can between tending to their callings and families. In theory, these warm conversations would make it easier for them to call or visit you during the month. Whereas avoiding you only entrenches their habit of not calling or visiting.

What can you do about this? Three things. And they’re not very big things.

First, you can seek out your visiting teachers. If you don’t know them, stop one of them in the hall next Sunday and introduce yourself. Say something like, “Sister Rose? I’m Darlene Peterson. I heard that you’re my visiting teacher now, and I wanted to introduce myself.”

Unless Sister Rose is a social dope she will say something like, “How nice to meet you. Yes, I saw that your name is on my list. Thank you for introducing yourself.” Note your socially graceful use of “now” to gloss over the months you have gone without a visit, and put Sister Rose at ease.

You will continue, “I’m home almost every morning. I’d love to have you over. Are you free this week?”

She will say, “Yes, I think so,” or “Great. How about this Thursday,” or “Oh, dear. I work every day until three. We’ll have to figure out something else.”

Whatever she says and does after your invitation is up to her. You introduced yourself and invited her to your home. If she does not respond to your overtures, there is nothing you can do except continue to greet her kindly at church.

Avoid feeling offended by making it a sort of game with yourself: Can I get my visiting teachers to say “Hi” to me. Yes, it is a somewhat dispiriting game. You must simply resolve to be amused instead of hurt.

The second thing you can do is be an excellent visiting teacher. If you are a good visiting teacher, you will contribute to a ward culture in which people do their visiting teaching. You will experience the emotional boost of doing what’s right. And you will make your visiting teachees happy.

Third, you can ask the Relief Society president for new visiting teachers. Especially if you have a special need that is not well known, talk to her (or one of her counselors) about your situation and ask if she can assign you to sisters who will come every month.

Now, the Relief Society president may or may not make the change. And even if she does, it might take a while. In most wards, visiting teaching is a work in progress. Routes must be shuffled as people move in and out and as special needs arise. What seems like a simple change can lead to cascading difficulties.

In fact, it is entirely likely that the president knows you are not being visited and has been trying to do something about it. Alas, she cannot compel your visiting teachers to visit you any more than you can. Also, there might be sisters who need visiting teachers as much or more than you do.

I also have two suggestions for things you should not do.

First, don’t feel bad because somebody else is a bad visiting teacher. Just don’t. You have to distinguish between feeling a little sad that you don’t have good visiting teachers (okay) and feeling personally offended that you don’t have good visiting teachers (not okay).

Many good people are bad visiting teachers, for whatever reason. Many of them even spend a significant amount of time each week doing things that would count as superstar visiting teaching if only they were assigned to the sisters and families they are helping. (Which, by the way, would be a fair strategy for a Relief Society presidency to follow when making the visiting teaching assignments.)

But even — no, especially — if your visiting teachers are terrible, selfish people, don’t waste any time feeling bad for something over which you have no control.

Second, do not be one of those people who criticizes other people for not having charity or not being in tune with the Spirit. Do not get stuck in the trap of thinking, “Why does the Relief Society president not know how much I need this?” Or, “Why don’t my visiting teachers listen to the Spirit? If they did, they would visit me.”

That line of thought goes nowhere. It breeds doubt and resentment, and it is prideful. You do not know what other people have felt inspired to do, you do not know if they have responded to that inspiration, and you do not know what burdens they carry.

Further, if you are having a special need or problem, it is your job to, insofar as you can, figure it out. And if you can’t figure it out on your own, or if your family and friends cannot help you, it is your job to tell someone that you need help.

If the problem is not sensitive, you can call your delinquent visiting teachers and ask for help. Or, you can call a member of the Relief Society presidency directly. But don’t wait to be reassigned to new visiting teachers, and then ask them to help you. That’s not practical. Instead, cultivate relationships in which you and your friends help and support each other. Make sure you are a reliable friend.

Finally, if your visiting teachers do come and visit you, treat them graciously. It would be rude of you to remonstrate your guests for their previous failures to visit you. Instead, you should make the visit pleasant (and not too long), thus encouraging them to come back next month.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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