Recently, my friend asked me a very jarring question. She asked, “If your parents weren’t so strong in their religion and marriage, do you think you would still be active in your religion?”
This is what I call a “What if. . . ” type of question. It has no right or wrong answer and it lies within the philosophical world of impossibility. This question did cause me to reflect deeply on the decisions which brought me where I am now.
I really am lucky. I have had hardships in my life, but one of the greatest blessings I have is my childhood with my parents and siblings. For those who don’t know, I have six siblings. We all have our fair share of stubborn habits and mindsets, but I believe we are all firmly set as good people. We had the greatest privilege to witness for ourselves what happens when parents love each other and nurture each of their children.
Now, my parents aren’t perfect. But they are loving and they helped me know what I want for myself.
So, thinking on my parents and all they gave me, it is hard for me to know what I would be like without them or my home life. But a loving home and good examples are not enough to define the character of an individual soul.
I can think of many instances where I had the opportunity to turn away from all I believe.
There were the turbulent years between the age of 10 and 13, when my family faced a great personal challenge I can’t readily discuss. Suffice it to say, I felt my whole world would crumble away because of the confusion and pain we all felt.
When I was in middle school, my classmates, especially the boys, bullied me mercilessly and it took years for me to really believe I was beautiful. Many of them went to church with me.
When I first started college, I was in an apartment with roommates who did not make smart or moral decisions concerning dating and other things.
There were multiple lost loves, lonely days, mental and emotional struggles, and crushed hopes which in retrospect could have turned me onto a different life course. But that didn’t happen.
I don’t think it was necessarily because of in the moment dramatic declarations of belief. It came from the small every day decisions. It reminds me of an analogy I heard at my sister Amanda’s graduation. Though I don’t know the course, I remember its principle.
The speaker stated in summary, “Imprison a man behind a wall of opposition and he will do all he can to escape from it. But may that same man draw a circle about himself of moral principles and never dare cross it.” This touched me deeply when I heard it. I wondered if I had done the same thing for myself. In that moment, I knew I had.
Having this in my mind, I told my friend who asked me the aforementioned question, “I have always believed in God and His commandments. It is second nature to me. Since I was young I decided I would be obedient and so I was. It was what I wanted to do.”
I remember being eight years old and being baptized. I was so excited and knew as young as I was the decision I made was right. I remember forgiving my brother and realizing with gratitude I had a spiritual gift of forgiveness. I remember so many small precious moments where I prayed and knew God heard me. The thing about these times is it is so hard for me to adequately express their impact in my life.
In order to understand them, I have taken time in my life to sit still and reflect on how I felt in these moments. I know I am where I am now because I believed in myself and in God’s promises. I can see it in how I treat others and myself. I can see it in my hopes for the future. I can see it in how I view my past self.
Now we come to the title of my post. I have a firm belief every person is capable of great good and evil. Before the fact, we must firmly set in our minds the image of our success against evil. It isn’t a matter of “what if. . . ” as it is “I will. . . “. If we give in to hardship or evil it will not be because we did not have to ability to fight and conquer, but because we had not predetermined the worth and strength of our soul. Especially when enhanced by our love for and belief in God and the Savior.
Before we face the inevitable temptations and trials of life, whether it is divorce, wayward children, disease, death, natural disaster or peer pressure to give in to contemporary ideas, we must believe we will be strong enough to withstand it.
We must believe the best of ourselves. We must expect our souls are bright enough to withstand anything. The truth is we are strong enough. Only we decide the limits on our eternal potential.
Thanks for reading.