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How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 14 Jul 2014, 18:56
by willb1993
Let me start out by saying that I did not serve a mission due to some medical and Psychological problems (Depression, anxiety and repetitive thoughts) So I will own up to myself and admit that I'm somewhat bitter about it all and just felt like I've been left out to dry and that since I'm not going on a mission anymore my family ward bishop doesn't have interest in me. Anyways, from about now through this March there's going to be a slew of kids my age mostly guys coming home from their missions. They all served in exotic places like South America and whatnot. One of the ones that comes home used to be good friends of mine, but since I'm not the goody good type of Mormon, he really just sort of ditched me for cooler people when we were 16/17.

I was supposed to be down at a University and away from home this fall, but I won't be able to transfer there till the spring. So I'm just really worried about what I'm going to have to do to deal with this type of thing. Because I live in a very Mormon area where most of the people are LDS and the town is basically ran by Mormons. It's a big city though, but this area is very lds. So there's lots of good goods and what not. So these people who come home on missions get treated like heroes and everything. They'll throw homecoming parties by inviting people via Facebook and invite loads of people to their homecoming talks. When what's sad is that a mission is about the Lord, not about them. Yeah, and that's coming from someone who doesn't even have that strong of a testimony anymore.

I tried to talk to my friend about this, but she got all mad at me about it. I guess she thinks missionaries are regarded as super heroes too.

I just dislike RM's because my experience with them is very tough. I see them in my institute classes or even my classes at school, and they think they're such hot stuff when they probably don't know much about the real world since they've been living inside a bubble of rules the past two years. And usually they like to quote scripture and stuff like it's their job.

Sorry if this offends anyone, it's just something I'm having a hard time dealing with. I can't talk to any of my friends about it, obviously because they'd get all upset that I'm questioning people who to them are like Gods..

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 14 Jul 2014, 19:33
by nibbler
Arrogance stinks, whether it comes from a RM or... well, really any of us. Unfortunately the culture can inflate a RM's ego. You're right, hero worship can go to people's heads.

I'll say that I always viewed RMs as super awesome guys (heroes if you will), that is until I was one. :P After that I realized a lot of the perception that I had built up about RMs simply didn't hold up anymore. Notice I say my perception of a RM, not necessarily the perception that a RM was desperate to convey. Sometimes it might all be in our head. We think we know what other people are thinking.

I wasn't A holier than thou type, at least I sincerely hope not, but I did know a few RMs that really, and I mean really played the part. Some guys looked down their nose at people but I think they carried some of that attitude into the mission with them, it wasn't something that the mission experience necessarily created, serving a mission just gave them something specific that they could then hold over others. In my experience this type of person was in the vast minority. Like one out of 100. Maybe it varies from geographical location to geographical location.
willb1993 wrote:They'll throw homecoming parties by inviting people via Facebook and invite loads of people to their homecoming talks. When what's sad is that a mission is about the Lord, not about them.
They did sacrifice being away from family and friends for two years, so I wouldn't begrudge them a little party. Life would be pretty joyless if we had to temper every opportunity to celebrate.

The most common things you'll likely have to deal with from RMs:
  • They won't shut up about their mission. Every sentence will start with "On my mission..." for the longest time after they get home. Now I honestly believe that when they talk about their mission they aren't doing it to elevate themselves, I think it's just because they had been doing it for a long time, especially considering they are probably only 21. Two years is a long time to a 21 year old. Also most of their life experience now comes from the mission and they are trying to reintegrate into post mission life. They really haven't got anything else to talk about when they are trying to catch up with old friends and make new ones.
  • The RMs might be the only ones getting attention from the opposite sex. Just an unfortunate aspect of the culture. A RM might also get caught up in advertizing their mission far and wide simply because they are now competing for a mate.
willb1993 wrote:I just dislike RM's because my experience with them is very tough. I see them in my institute classes or even my classes at school, and they think they're such hot stuff when they probably don't know much about the real world since they've been living inside a bubble of rules the past two years.
They probably got more life experience on their mission obeying mission rules than they did pre-mission living in their homes and obeying house rules. Just saying.

There are a few things that I'm interested in seeing:
1) How the massive influx of women into the mission field will affect the dating culture. You might see more men hold out for RMs?
2) How lowering the mission age will affect the obnoxiousness displayed by the average RM.

I've been on both sides of this one, neither side was particularly easy. I had a hard time of it in my youth. Best of luck!

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 14 Jul 2014, 19:55
by Curt Sunshine
If I am being blunt, my answer is really simple:
Get over it.

It's no different than the quarterback and the cheerleader - or the valedictorian - or the rich kid who throws extravagant parties - or any other admired stereotype. The issue isn't them, since they will NEVER disappear; the issue is your self-confidence and how to strengthen it to the point where you can accept social inequities.

Combined with all of your other posts, this tells me you need, badly, to find a passion through which you can do well and learn to accept and respect yourself. That isn't easy, especially if you are prone to depression (and me writing it this way probably isn't wonderful to you), but it is important to create success in your own life, on your own terms.

God bless you as you try to do that. I will pray for and support you, even if this message seems a bit harsh at first.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 14 Jul 2014, 22:01
by mom3
I hear you. Massive Ego anywhere is beyond words. Problem is Massive Ego is everywhere. Our job is to learn how to work with someone who has it. It takes most of our lives to learn this. I learn a lot from books, not just reading but application. I don't know if you do, but I would recommend a very small book called Constructive Living. In it are powerful practices and tools to help people release the hold of crippling emotions and open up doors to a fulfilling life.

Please keep checking in. We don't want to send you away. We want to help you win the fight.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 15 Jul 2014, 04:42
by DarkJedi
What Ray said. While it is more common in younger life, we all run into the types who have done something others view as awesome - valedictorians, athletic all stars, etc. We can't all do what they do. My son was valedictorian of the class. (He was also an all star soccer player.) He works very hard at what he does and he's a bit of a perfectionist. His lowest marking period grade ever was a 97. It was not unusual for him to be up until midnight doing homework/studying and then getting up at 5 for early morning seminary - something we saw as his family that outsiders do not see. At the end of the year awards ceremony he got quite a few awards (but not the highest dollar amount ones). On the way out someone behind us (who obviously didn't know we were his parents) said "That Jedi kid got half the awards just because he's valedictorian, that's not fair." He really didn't get anywhere near half, and some of them were just certificates for highest Regents Exam score and such. I understand everyone can't be valedictorian - but not everyone worked as hard as he did, either.

I am a returned missionary, and I have a son serving a mission (in "exotic" South America). I guess I see it differently than you do. I don't recall being viewed as a hero upon my return, and while I also served in an exotic place (New Zealand) I don't recall talking about the mission as much as I talked about the country - I still talk about the place, it was beautiful. At the time it was a huge sacrifice for me to serve (my parents were not members, I was self supporting). Likewise for my own son he has paid for half of his mission, taking a break from school and a major he loves to serve. He just turned 20 and has about a year to go - about 10% of his life will have been spent on the mission when he returns. It's a big deal, and while he has a fair amount of humility, I'm sure he will talk about his experiences and the country when he returns (so far he has not baptized anyone, FWIW).

So, you're always going to encounter people you perceive as "better" than you. Some of them will be arrogant, but in truth I think most are not actually, it's more of a perception. Speaking more bluntly, the problem is as much (perhaps more) yours than theirs. Here is something I say to my own kids sometimes: Cry me a river, then build a bridge and get over it.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 15 Jul 2014, 06:01
by Forgotten_Charity
Hi willb1993. This one is a tough one for me because while I am pretty tolerant for social injustice for myself I am not so with others around me and dot best to equalize the the social structure. I've spent life doing just this. However as Ray pointed out it dwells in quite a few places. I remember as a kid being part of a cool club, but after realizing some people who we're nice couldn't join because they weren't cool I left the club to form my own that anyone could join so they could be part of something. I think that still is key, try not worrying about what they are doing and create your own life world with more equal social justice. Don't focus on what they are doing, focus on what you can do to make things better. I am probably a hypocrite because I allow a lot of stuff to negatively be done to me that I don't tolerate happening to others but be that as it may I can't sit back and watch it happen. The key is to focus on what you can do. You don't have to interact with others that make you feel uncomfortable. You can make your own world of equal social justice, friends, clubs and sic social events to set an example. But again you have no control over what others do. If something is particularly offensive and hurtful to others you can pull people up on tiger behavior and go on about your business.

You can choose to join sociology classes or clubs to discuss these things and develop better ideas or to create a more equal society and the rules and laws needed for such if you are really interested. If not then you can just ignore the stuff and be involved with your own hobbies and join clubs that gather together for them.

Exclusivity and scarcity breed commitment for belonging to a select "tribe".
It's something human that one day hopefully we will evolve out of. The need to be part of a select group that is select or rare. As it doesn't add anything of value to the human race besides breeding commitment to that group which isn't really of value to society as a whole.
In 1975, researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar held ten cookies while the other contained just two stragglers. Which cookies would people value more?

Though the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly. Scarcity had somehow affected their perception of value.

There are many theories as to why this was the case. For one, scarcity may signal something about the product. If there are less of an item, the thinking goes, it might be because other people know something you don’t. Namely, the cookies in the almost empty jar are the num-numier choice.

It’s About Context

Classical economic theory starts with two key assumptions: First, consumers are armed with “perfect information.” Second, people behave rationally. However, in the real world, these two conditions are more the exception than the rule. In fact, marketers do their best to trigger cognitive quirks, like the scarcity heuristic, to influence behavior.

Even though it may make no objective difference regarding what is actually being sold, marketers know context matters just as much as the product itself. The near-empty jar with just two cookies left in it conveys valuable (albeit irrelevant) information.

For another example of the importance of context, consider what happened when the world-class violinist Joshua Bell decided to play a free impromptu concert in the Washington, DC subway. Bell regularly sells-out venues like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for hundreds of dollars per ticket. But placed in the context of the DC subway, his music fell upon deaf ears. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world.

When Bell gave away his concert for free, few stopped to listen. But when he charges beaucoup bucks, his music becomes a rarefied commodity and thousands of people pay-up.
Interesting how the perceived value changes in people huh? Not the actual value but the perceived value.

The problem is with people's perception, conditioned since tribal times to value something more if it's exclusive or scarce.

Hopefully we can leave that behind us one day. But for now most people have it as string as ever because of the natural additional chemical release when something becomes harder to work for or scarcer and exclusive. Even if the actual value didn't change and just the perceived value. Like a rare wine or artifact that is valued highly but when found out to be a forgery it value becomes nothing. Marketeers and all organization of diffident size are keenly aware of this to breed commitment to their brand or org. Club.

Just so you understand what's at play. For most it's a natural biological thing that has been around since tribal times.
At the heart of all this is ego manifesting as pride as it does.
The argument is therefore the perception on weather the ego(pride) is earned or not. The perception of being or earning more then others because the perception of self or others feels it is.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 15 Jul 2014, 10:42
by mom3
Thanks Forgotten Charity. I love the Joshua Bell story. The lessons it tells about value are incalculable.

willb1993 - I want you to know I totally know what your talking about. We have a new RM in our ward, but even before he left for his mission he was one bold character. I am being nice when I say bold. Many people in my ward just loooove him. He has bugged me from day one. Pride is the word I think of when I listen to him. And yes it gets under my skin. One day when he was bearing his testimony something he said caught me. Now I know he'd mentioned it before, but I hadn't caught it until that day. This young man's dad was inactive from the church. I think it caused a lot of anguish in their home. The mom had a vision of her LDS family. The dad was far from it. This son - I believe took on the responsibility of saving his family and the church his mom deeply loved. The minute I had that understanding - his bravado ceased to nag me. He is still "proselyting" his vision of life/religion/right/wrong. It's a little narrow for me. His dad though is active again. And guess what - the Dad has bravado. Lots of it. It's who they are. They really aren't any better than me, they aren't getting in line to God before me. They are people in pain. They use ego to salve the pain.

That's what all obnoxious acts and actions are, a defensive mechanism against personal pain. No one who is obnoxious will tell you that, but I've lived long enough to tell you for certain - that is the case. Let it go. It's their battle. You keep walking on your path.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 16 Jul 2014, 09:35
by SamBee

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 16 Jul 2014, 16:35
by SilentDawning
I would handle this a few ways.

1. Be honest with yourself about the roots of your feelings. This part can hurt (I have done it myself).

2. If it bothers you to see all this, then try to distance yourself from it -- hide the friends on facebook for a while, and avoid the parties. If you can get over the feelings, go to the parties, but if it's too stressful on you, too upsetting, then just minimize your exposure to the parties and the whole experience of the hero-like treatment of returned missionaries.

3. Look for deep sources of self-esteem. There is a book called Getting to Know the Real You by Ellsworth and Elsworth you can probably get on Amazon. It helped me love myself in a good way when I was your age. They are church people and do quote scriptures, but the logic and the cognitive skills they teach you about how to teach the spirit to love itself, is highly useful.

4. Learn to forgive their arrogance, and don't let it block out the other good aspects of their character.

I personally have a huge issue with arrogance in others as an older adult. I think it is because of the effect it has on people who perhaps struggle with their self-esteem (as I have in the past, particularly when younger). And I have let it really jaundice some of my relationships with arrogant people -- to the point I rejected them and it hurt me personally. It's better to try to laugh off the arrogance and deal with it in others, rather than letting it bother you.

Easier said than done (obviously, as I still struggle with it), but in the end, you'll be more at peace the less you have angst toward the behavior of other people.

Good luck, I feel for you.

Re: How to deal with obnoxious return missionaries

Posted: 26 Jul 2014, 00:12
by intothelight
This definitely strikes a nerve with me. I understand where you are coming from. Details wouldn't help here, but my situation is much the same. It's taken me many years to get over it. And the many years taken wasn't for a lack of trying. It really affected me a lot. In fact, I'm probably not completely over it. But I digress. Are many return missionaries totally conceited and inconsiderate blowhards? Yep, you bet. In the same breath, are there a lot of non-member 20-somethings that are totally conceited and considerate blowhards? Well, yes, there are as well.

But it's interesting, isn't it? That the ones that went on a mission bother us so, so much more than the others. Why? Well, for me, I guess it's because I felt like I was less for having not served a mission. That's definitely what whacked into your brain from the time you say your first word in the church. And that's hard. Doing something that makes another person feel they are of less worth has got to be one of the quickest ways to make an enemy (ie return missionaries bragging in sneaky ways about their having served around anyone who doesn't wrap 30 feet of duct tape around their mouth). I wonder sometimes if Nephi's relationship with his brothers might have been aided with a change in his behavior. But I guess what I am trying to convey is to let go of the thought that you having not served makes you less acceptable in the eyes of God, or anyone else whose opinion actually matters. It doesn't. God has children everywhere. And when one man asked Jesus what he wanted him to do, Jesus' response was to just "love the person you're with". And a black and white nametag doesn't automatically increase your loving ability - or automatically make the people you're with less in need of love and kindness than those around FT missionaries.

I really hope you find some peace. Just remember that the mission is not the end, but a means to an end - despite what feeling there may be to the contrary.