While I was reading Jolene Hart’s book, Ignite Your Light (2020), yesterday, I thought a lot about my personal energy, and how I influence others around me in my day-to-day life. I often wonder if I am the type of person who lifts others up or brings them down with my energy.
Jolene Hart stated in her book,
“I love Maya Angelou’s observation that ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ That feeling is energy. So, how do you make others feel? What energetic effect do you leave in your wake? Personal energy is a choice, one that you reaffirm hundreds of times over the course of a single day.”
Jolene Hart, Ignite Your Light
When I pondered the type of energy I wanted to cultivate in myself, I thought about my role as a teacher, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and human being. What is the first thing I want people to feel when they are around me? The answer came almost immediately.
Light and Kindness
I want to be the type of person who enriches others, and meets them where they are. Though I will not always agree with life choices or standards others may have, the one thing I can do above all else is stand by my beliefs in a way that isn’t toxic.
I don’t know how many people who read this are empathic but you may understand how it feels to be around toxic, negative, and overbearing people, whose energy takes over and drains you. I’ve been around plenty of people who find out I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and verbally attack what they think I believe or don’t know about my church.
When this happens, it is mentally and emotionally draining and damaging. If I’m not careful, the empath in me goes into overload, and it sometimes takes one to two days to slug all the energy off.
It’s dawned on me recently that I can be that type of person too if I’m not careful. These questions often pop up in my mind: Do I automatically bar my hackles if I find out someone is of a different religion? How does my opinion of someone shift if I find out they are gay, or have made similar types of decisions?
I can easily become a toxic and negative influence in the world if I make allowances for unkindness towards those who don’t believe as I do. That is the type of person I DON’T want to be. I feel there are too many instances on and offline where people find fault in others’ beliefs or opinions and brutally attack them for it.
For myself, I want to be the kind of person who people can turn to even if we don’t see eye to eye in everything. In fact, I think it would wonderful if those types of things didn’t matter.
Above all else, I want my energy to be like light filling up the room. One of my favorite literary characters is Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket (1998-2006). She is the type of person people want to be around because she sees them and loves them where they are. So many people change and grow because of her and not because she sermonizes or pushes them to. They change simply because she became the place they could go home to and feel safe.
I’ll finish this post off with one last quote from Jolene Hart.
Spreading bright energy doesn’t have to be as involved as gifting a bouquet of flowers or treating a friend to lunch: you spread light simply by embodying it yourself.
Jolene Hart, Ignite Your Light
I hope the new year is treating everyone well! As many yogis around the world say, the light in me honors the light in you. Namaste.
This will be a tough topic to tackle. I have so many questions, most of which don’t/can’t have definite answers right now. I’ll do my best to face the most difficult ones head-on, without judgment or anxiety.
Mindfulness is rarely a comfortable journey. THAT’s for sure.
If I could gain clarity about polygamy I would be able to look at different people who practiced it more gently.
Polygamy has never been a social concept I’ve handled well. Even imagining someone marrying a different spouse after their previous one has died gives me terrible anxiety. Movies like Sleepless in Seattle are most assuredly not my favorite in the world.
Over and over again I’ve gone over the issue in my mind, looking at it from a logical point of view and studying it out until I thought my heart would break. Intellectually, I can understand why God asked certain people to practice it. Emotionally, I fight it and outright reject it.
Even the thought of being caught in that kind of relationship is overwhelming.
The moment I can receive clarity about it is the moment I know I’ll be able to let go of prejudices I can’t seem to shake off against those who do choose it.
If I could have clarity about why I’m still single I would be able to better handle harder problems that will come in the future.
The fact I’m still single has been a burden from the time I was 18 years old. It comes with a plethora of old, scarring questions. “What is wrong with me?”, “Did I make a mistake in the past that has kept me from finding someone?”, “What is it I lack?”, “Will I end up an old maid?”, “Am I destined to be that one person in the family that never finds someone?” etc… (The list could go on, but you get the idea.)
I think the only thing that could bring clarity concerning this question is finding the right person to marry, or discovering a deeper purpose in life.
I know full well I’m not just my relationships, career, hobbies, or thoughts. However, there are times when I feel so lonely watching friends and family find happiness in marriage, pregnancies, and child-rearing.
I could talk at length about this subject, but I don’t like to dwell on it too long. It is painful to ponder, and I want to find happiness where I am now, despite not receiving answers to the longings of my heart.
When I reach a point in the future I can answer this question, I’ll be sure to write about it. I know there are more people out there like me who are lonely and wondering why love and marriage haven’t happened for them either.
If I could receive clarity concerning July 10, 2016, I would be able to put to rest the PTSD I’ve carried for five years.
I can’t go into detail about this particular topic because of its overall nature. However, there have been many times I’ve wondered if my experience was the way I thought. Sometimes I think I might have imagined something so profound could have happened at all.
For now, I choose to believe what I saw and experienced was real and I have the power to combat evil in my life.
Whatever questions I may have, or YOU may have as you read this, clarity comes as a gift to all in time. Perhaps in the near future, I can answer these issues I addressed in this post. Without fear, pain, or confusion.
Good luck to all and thank you for reading! If you like you can use this journal prompt for your own writing.
Journal writing is particularly hard for me because:
I’m tired by the end of the day
I don’t quite know what to say
My thoughts are ALL OVER THE PLACE
. . . I forget. 🙂
That being said, I do think journal writing is extraordinarily important. Therefore, I want to challenge myself! If you would like to join me on my quest to journal every day, feel free to copy, use, and tag the journal prompts I use.
Before I officially begin, the more I thought about what I value every day, the more I realize I love my life and what I have. Gratitude truly lies at the center of a joyful everyday life. Hopefully, I’ll be able to realize this more as days go by.
Let’s go! The little things I value most in my daily life are…
God/My Spiritual Beliefs
My relationship with God and following my religious beliefs day by day is the foundation of my life. I value the time spent reading scriptures, exploring other religions to better understand others, meditating, and sometimes sharing what I believe with others.
I am truly grateful for the joy I receive every day because I’ve chosen to live a virtuous, kind, and thoughtful life.
Whether I am calling, texting, and visiting with my family members, or even doing family history my connection with my family is precious. I have loving parents, six great siblings, five sister/brother inlaws, multiple nieces and nephews, two living grandparents, and many many other extended family members to love.
I know there are many people who do not know their family or lack a loving family environment. Therefore, my personal connection to such a beautiful family is one of the things I value most.
I am SOOO self-conscious of my health. How I treat myself through eating, drinking, and exercising has always been one of my top priorities. This also means I consciously work on my mental health. I value the relationship I have cultivated with my body. Because of this, I never need to worry about being a stranger in my own body.
There was a poll on Facebook I randomly answered a few days ago that asked, “If you could have a lifetime supply of any beverage, what would it be?”. I chose WATER. I mean that. Sincerely. I understand what a blessing it is to have such easy access to clean water. I value every drink of water I have throughout the day.
It wasn’t until recently I noticed how much my body was craving daily walks. I used to walk about 10,000+ steps per day because I didn’t own a car. I really miss the time I had walking, thinking, and connecting to my world. Walking may be slower than riding a car, but it is such a wonderful addition to my daily life!
Now, despite my crazy job schedule, I take time to walk around my neighborhood. It is how I take time to notice what a beautiful world I live in.
I am infinitely grateful for my college experience. My professors instilled in me a passion for daily learning. I’m constantly studying, reading, or listening to something throughout the day. Sometimes I write about what I learn. Most of the time I add it to my arsenal of knowledge I cherish.
From the time I stumbled across a random yoga video in college, I’ve loved how yoga makes me feel. Doing yoga daily helps me sort through my thoughts, burn off daily stress, connect to my body, and strengthen myself physically, spiritually, and mentally. It’s why I wanted to become a yoga teacher several years ago.
Listening to and performing music has been one of my greatest joys since I was a young child. I thought I would become a singer when I grew up. Now, I value any time I have with music even more because it took me a LONG time to overcome the personal trauma I experienced while studying music in college. I have quite an eclectic taste in music. 🙂 I’ll talk about it sometime in the future.
I need daily grounding in nature. I have plants in my room, know all the nature hot spots where I live and am currently working on my backyard garden. If I could live anywhere I would choose a cabin in the woods in the mountains. Henry David Thoreau got it right in his autobiography Walden when he said,
I. Love. Eating! Food is one of my dearest daily joys. And not all food is created equal! One of my goals whenever I travel anywhere whether it be Europe, Albuquerque, or Orem Utah is to find delicious places to eat and remember. Anywhere I’ve lived I remember the delicious foods I found.
It was truly a joyous moment for me when I let myself enjoy eating nourishing meals and indulgences without guilting myself into eating more or less.
Surprise surprise I truly value working as a teacher. My 24-year-old self would want to slap me outside the head but I’ve grown up since that time. I’m finally earning my own money and giving back to my community in a way I enjoy. Granted not every day is wonderful, or a picture-perfect Norman Rockwell painting.
What means the most to me is how much I learn and grow by connecting with children.
Thank you for reading! Again, feel free to use this Journaling Tag. Hope to see you soon!
Life circumstances today reminded me there are still things in this world I fear. I know others besides myself suffer at times from PTSD. These feelings are rooted in fear and are triggered randomly.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”
I don’t like viewing my reoccurring symptoms as a disorder. The word ‘disorder’ puts my Obsessive Compulsion into overdrive. It makes me want to rid myself of any feelings of fear in order to avoid shameful judgment. Seeing it that way causes me unnecessary stress and anxiety. I view these feelings as they are, naturally occurring feelings I face and overcome sometimes. There is no shame in feeling fear or being sensitive to our trauma.
Sometimes it feels like these emotions and thoughts are me. But one of the benefits of studying yoga is separating who we are from our thoughts, feelings, and other elusive human characteristics. I love how Caroline McHugh talks about identity in her TED talkThe Art of Being Yourself.
You are not your thoughts because you think them. And you can’t be your feelings because otherwise who’s the you that feels them? You are not what you have. You are not what you do. You are not even who you love or who loves you. There has to be something underneath all that.
I featured artwork from Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls to illustrate how giving our fears and traumas a name helps overcome them. Just as Connor needed to speak his truth about what he feared most, we all need to face our monsters. But just like Connor, our monsters take on different forms based on our experiences. As real and frightening as our fears are to us we can overcome them.
There are important truths I remind myself of to help me endure my mental pain and trauma.
My personal worth doesn’t hinge on my experiences. Individual worth is inherent. That is what yoga is for, so we can se our true, glorious selves.
I am not alone. I have friends, family, and other kindred spirits who I can turn to. Most importantly, no matter where I am I can turn to God in prayer.
I grow beyond my fears. I’ve overcome fears before and I can do it again.
Though this may not seem like a yoga post, I really believe facing and seeing these parts of ourselves reflects how we practice and teach others. I hope my thoughts and feelings came across well enough.
Since I didn’t do a physical practice today, I thought about what I could give to anyone who reads this post today. I settled on discussing for a short time how accepting and pondering our emotions is part of a healthy yoga practice. I know this seems like a strange thing to post on Valentine’s Day. But anything I could post about love wouldn’t be very sincere.
Today I will be honest. Practicing yoga sometimes makes me painfully aware of the sorrows I carry. But, other times I use it as a way to relish in my joys. I believe we carry certain emotions throughout our bodies. I’ve pondered this ever since I watched “The Guru” from Avatar: The Last Airbender (2004-2008) and studied chakras for my yoga teacher training. Much of our physical healing and inspiration comes from facing difficult emotions blocking our path towards fulfillment.
How could any of this relate to Valentine’s Day? Well, I know quite a few friends and family members who are struggling right now. Some have never married. Some are recently divorced and estranged from their children. Other’s have had spouses die. Valentine’s Day is one of the hardest holidays to go through for many people because of many unique circumstances. On the other hand, I have many many friends and family members who are newlywed, have newborn children to enjoy, or are happily able to meet those they love.
Whatever our life circumstances, it would be incredibly beneficial to breathe and accept whatever emotions we feel at this time. This is fundamental truth I’ve had to learn over many years. Until I was about twenty-five, I didn’t know how to positively face and feel my emotions. As a child, I would hold in powerful negative emotions until I broke down when t became too much to bear. Meditation, prayer, and positive friendships have definitely helped me to mature emotionally enough to confidently say it is worth it.
Above anything else, I assure anyone who reads this there can always someone who loves, cares about, and wishes you happiness. That person is you. Even if that isn’t a reality now, it can be. I think it all starts with a desire to let go and simply be who we are: and that is someone truly and sincerely wonderful.
The title of this post actually comes from a quote by Charles Wagner, a French pastor who lived 1852-1918. I found these words as I went on my walk a few days ago. What struck me about this quote was how simple it was. But there is beauty in its simplicity and a profound message to be learned in it.
Pondering these words brought to my mind my current life state. I often find myself thinking in my lonely moments of my bygone and present expectations. Expectations are not a bad thing, but they time and again mean my happiness hinges on their fulfillment. Case and example, at 18 I thought to be happy I needed to be married before 23, performing music and beginning a family. But just because that was the story for many of my friends didn’t mean it would be the same for me.
Did it leave me feeling discouraged and oftentimes brokenhearted? Yes. It still does. But as I grow older, this sorrow has caused me to to look deeper into what gives my life meaning. Now, the message I hear in church, movies, articles and books is “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)
I recently also read an article in the June 2020 Ensign magazine issue by a young woman living through a similar situation. She also talked about “expectations”.
I believe one reason why people in their young adult years might feel frustrated by life can be explained in one word: expectation. Often what we expect—or what others expect or what a culture expects—doesn’t happen, leaving us feeling hurt, alone, betrayed, frustrated, or confused.
When I read these words I thought how sad it is to live in the younger, more vibrant part of our lives wanting and longing for what we don’t have. Why aren’t more of us enjoying and loving each moment given to us? If we spend the majority of our life longing for where we are not, having what we do not, and knowing what we do not we will sow the fruits of bitterness within ourselves.
Is this an easy thing to understand? In theory it is. But in practice, our minds are accustomed to growth and goals. That growth is often associated with what we believe we need to be happy. We can acquire things, we can even become intelligent, knowledgeable people but the most important accomplishments and longings of the human heart TAKE TIME and TIMING.
For each person it is different. We can’t all step onto the same path and expect the same satisfactory, vanilla story. It is because we are all unique beings whose needs do not always match our wants.
This is actually my parent’s and friends’ speech to me. I struggle like so many others with understanding I have the capacity to be happy now. It is as Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (Viktor Frankl,Man’s Search For Meaning)
It reminds me of one of my favorite concepts from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.As a child I often thought of the third book and loved the idea of having a patronus. For those who don’t know a patronus is, it is a animal projection a, “positive force. . . (of) hope, happiness, the desire to survive” born from a happy memory. They are used primarily to drive away dementors. Rowling described them thus,
“Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”
– J. K. Rowling, The Prisoner of Azkaban
I love reading of Harry’s triumph over these creatures. I love it because he procured for himself from his very soul the means for his deliverance. It meant he had power over the evil which surrounded him. It meant he need not be chained down by the tragedies and heartaches in his life. That is, if he searched deep within himself to do so.
I believe the same can happen for us if we strive to find the good around us and cultivate happiness within ourselves. Lincoln was once attributed to saying, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” This saying is given new meaning in knowing the details from his life. I loved how in the recent movie Lincoln (2012) it showed an intense moment between Lincoln and his wife. She, overcome still by the grief of her son, insists he couldn’t possibly understand her pain. His response made me wonder at the power of the human heart.
I couldn’t tolerate you grieving so for Willie because I couldn’t permit it in myself, though I wanted to, Mary. I wanted to crawl under the earth, into the vault with his coffin. I still do. Every day I do. Don’t… talk to me about grief. I must make my decisions, Bob must make his, you yours. And bear what we must, hold and carry what we must. What I carry within me – you must allow me to do it, alone as I must. And you alone, Mary, you alone may lighten this burden, or render it intolerable. As you choose.
It is hard to think such a great man, who did so much good, could have suffered from depression. It is hard because we think heroes such as Lincoln are untouchable, perfect archetypes. But he was human and he suffered. But I am glad he found within his heart ways to fight the grief of the war and rise up to meet the moment God gave him.
In any way we can we must fight away despair and discouragement because if we don’t we are eaten alive by it. More than that, we are made to find joy. It comes from aligning ourselves with God. It flourishes as we learn to love unselfishly and it defines our lives as we continue forward and let our lights shine for others.
To think that Joy is within us gives me a lot of hope. Life is truly a beautiful thing even in the midst of hard times. It is beautiful because people can create wonderful lives for themselves even in the midst of tragedy. It begins with a decision to be happy now where we are rather than to find happiness somewhere in an obscure place or future.
Being a perfectionist tends to have a negative connotation in our society nowadays. When we picture a stereotypical perfectionist we see perfectly cleaned rooms with perfectly organized shelves and perfectlyironed cloths. The Oxford dictionary says perfectionism is “refusal to accept any standard short of perfection.” Meaning a perfectionist is “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.”
In my mind, when I hear these definitions I think of Monk from the TV show and sort of shudder thinking of any being like that. At least I do when its meaning pushes this image of perfection. It is like Elder Cecil O. Samuelson said. “These good people suffer from exaggerating their minor mistakes, weaknesses, or shortcomings to the point that they may become dysfunctional.”
It is so ironic that we most often associate the word perfectionism with dysfunctional. That a perfectionist, who is trying to have such a high standard for themselves, is slightly broken.
This was how I pictured perfectionism until my church mission in Russia. I remember talking to the counselor in Moscow about certain problems with Obsessive Compulsive Thinking I seemed to have. She then asked me a very pointed question: “Aubrey, do you think you are a perfectionist?” I was taken aback. There was no way I could POSSIBLY be. I mean, I was no Monk. But then, after reading some articles she sent me, everything from my life started clicking together.
I looked at the signs of may be perfectionists and surprisingly saw myself (Refer to this article for more information.)
All or Nothing Thinking, where anything less then perfect isn’t good enough. Yep. Throughout my schooling I always had very high expectations for myself in regards to grades, reading and how much I knew. If I did not meet my intended vision, what I did wasn’t good enough.
Critical Eye, being very critical of themselves and others. I see every aspect of my weaknesses and I remember them. I have an uncanny memory for my mistakes and weaknesses. I also am very observant of others’ shortcomings.
Push vs. Pull, to be pushed toward their goals by a fear of not reaching them and see anything less than a perfectly met goal as a failure. I was not one to pull myself up to meet goals. I tended to be pushed by this ever present fear of failure.
Unrealistic Standards, having unreasonable self standards. The best example I can think for this in my life is when I started learning Russian. I wanted to know the entire language in 8 weeks. A feat which usually takes 8 years. I set a bizarre standard on my self and consequently, I was miserable most of those 8 weeks.
Focus on Results, seeing nothing but the goal and hardly any of the journey to get there. This manifested most profoundly in my writing. I had to either write the entire paper perfectly in one go, or it was no good. I barely ever used outlines or drafts.
Depressed by Unmet Goals, being unable to bounce back or be positive about failure. Failure has always, always been hard for me. I remember each failure years later. “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” is a phrase I have therefore struggled with for a long time.
Fear of Failure, so much is stake in the results, the fear of failing is overwhelming. I have many times been frozen in place mentally because I am so afraid of failing. Example, I tried to do handstands in my B3 yoga class several years ago. As I watched everyone so much farther along than me physically, I faced the wall and immediately laid down. The thought of me be unable to succeed was almost unbearable.
Procrastination, “fearing failure as they do, perfectionists will sometimes worry so much about doing something imperfectly that they become immobilized and fail to do anything at all.” Such a mindset has often possessed me. Like from my aforementioned example, it manifests most in yoga. I oftentimes freeze while trying to do hard poses because I know in my heart I can’t do them perfectly yet and I don’t want anyone to witness my shortcomings.
Defensiveness, taking constructive criticism is hard. When I am at my lowest, I do everything in my power to never have to receive criticism of any kind because I do become defensive and unable to think clearly beyond the weaknesses they have pointed out.
Low Self-Esteem, because they have such high standards, it manifests as low self-esteem. I see this most in myself in my physical health. I have had to fight hard to gain a love for myself and how I look.
Looking at this list is very daunting. I see all these signs in myself and wonder how I have been able to achieve anything.
I have to wonder if have these tendencies are necessarily a bad thing. Though I sometimes find myself falling into a pit of fear or even self-criticism, I have come along way from the small third grade self who lamented not getting hundreds on her multiplication tests.
So I re-looked at the list and found my strengths resting nestled among my weaknesses. I have also found ways to overcome the greater challenges I mentioned in the list before.
All or Nothing Thinking. Because I have high expectations for myself, it has helped me avoid unnecessary debt, addictions, and self destructive behavior. The all doesn’t have to come now. I’ve learned to slowly, over time, take small steps towards self improvement.
. Critical Eye. To be critical is not necessarily a negative thing. The definition of critical can also mean, ” expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.” Because I am very observant of faults and failures it means I am ALSO very observant of masterful or beautiful things. I created for me a love of reading, watching and observing the wonders of this world and really analyzing them. All to bring to my life a greater understanding of the world.
Push vs. Pull. I’ve found as time has gone forward I have switched more to a push and pull mindset. I know my goal, feel the internal push toward it and then methodically take smaller steps to reach it. I’ve learned to use such a vice as a spring board towards higher achievements.
Unrealistic Standards. Tricky as this one is I’ve learned that unrealistic standards can also be interpreted as “high aspirations”. I’ve also learned to shift my focus from myself to others. For example: “I have to learn Russian in 8 weeks” vs. “I want to learn Russian as fast as I can so I can really speak to the Russian people.” Truly this mindset would have really helped me on my mission. But I needed to grow into it.
Focus on Results. Again, this is not really a bad thing unless the end goal completely overwhelms me. I keep in the forefront mind what I expect from myself and work hard to achieve it.
Depressed by Unmet Goals. This has been one of the hardest for me. The best I can say is, I try my hardest to look past the failure and the opportunities still before me. I keep in my mind Walt Disney’s phrase, “Keep Moving Forward.”
Fear of Failure. This trick is to push through the fear and see it for what it is. Once I see it for what it is I take a step back, breathe and envision puling myself up if I do fail. I think, I will be alright. There is always one more try than the one before to get it right.
Procrastination. Catch it. Then move on. This is no longer a vice which plagues me.
Defensiveness. I have to tell myself if ever I receive criticism that it has nothing to do with my worth as a person. I have also learned to embrace the phrase, “I don’t know.” There is such relief in not having to know everything. If I can do these two things, I find I become less and less defensive when being corrected.
Low Self-Esteem. I have learned to turn my low self esteem into humility. But also I’ve tried over the years to take care of and love my body the best that I can. It is hard to hate one’s self if one tries their best to take care of themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.
There you have it. Even though there are times where I wonder about my imperfections and feel frozen by fear, I’ve felt such relief over the years as these aspects of my character no longer seem like a burden.
I can’t take complete credit for myself for these breakthroughs in my life. Honestly, the greatest joy I’ve found is in creating a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. These relationships have helped me the most.
I’ve had so many experiences on and since my mission where I have simply sat, meditated, and felt God’s love for me. The best changes in my life have come not through my merit of character but when I stopped to feel and know how much God loves me. It has meant so much to know him and want to change. At the root of my change isn’t an overshadowing feeling of guilt but a firm desire to become like Christ.
It is hard to feel love such as Heavenly Father’s and not want to change for the better.
I believe most perfectionists fail to know they are not alone on life’s journey. That is why they are stuck. True relief comes in knowing and living with god day to day.
“The difficulties of life do not have to be unbearable. It is the way we look at them – through faith or unbelief – that makes them seem so. We must be convinced that our Father is full of love for us and that He only permits trials to come our way for our own good.
Let us occupy ourselves entirely in knowing God. The more we know Him, the more we will desire to know Him. As love increases with knowledge, the more we know God, the more we will truly love Him. We will learn to love Him equally in times of distress or in times of great joy.”
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.
This has been an interesting week for me. There are a lot of changes coming very soon in my life and I have been pondering a lot on what I can do as I face them. This week’s chapters in 2 Nephi floored me when I thought one very important thought. When the Lord talks about gathering Israel and remembering his people it has EVERYTHING to do with me. His covenants to bring the gospel to all who will hear, to bind families together eternally, and to bring peace into the hearts of men isn’t just for those in Israel. He is speaking to all of us.
Therefore, I learned some very important lessons this week while studying.
I. God will never forget us because he loves us
I love reading passages of the Book of Isaiah because they remind me of two important things. First, God is well aware of where his people are and has prepared a way for them to be found again. For as it says in Isaiah,
21 ¶ Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
We as people do not love long enough to think of or remember every soul on this Earth. People die, move away and cut ties with one another. Times moves the human family away from each other and it seems impossible to be connected again. There are uncountable souls on this Earth for one man to comprehend.
But God is different. He sees us, knows us and is aware of our individual lives. He knows where we came from, who we are now, and what is to become of us in years to come. The second beautiful truth given in Isaiah and throughout the scriptures is God sent Jesus Christ to save us. I love the scriptures in 2 Nephi which talk about his plans to gather Israel.
11 Wherefore, after they are driven to and fro, for thus saith the angel, many shall be afflicted in the flesh, and shall not be suffered to perish, because of the prayers of the faithful; they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance. 12 And blessed are the Gentiles, they of whom the prophet has written; for behold, if it so be that they shall repent and fight not against Zion, and do not unite themselves to that great and abominable church, they shall be saved; for the Lord God will fulfil his covenants which he has made unto his children; and for this cause the prophet has written these things. 2 Nephi 6:11-12
It fills me with such wonder to think how much love God has for us. To think he after thousands of years still strives to save us from ourselves. To bring us home.
II. To show our love for God, we must choose to follow Christ
That being said, knowledge of God’s love is not enough for us to find the happiness and peace we need. True love isn’t just a feeling. True love motivates us towards acting on those feelings. I have always loved Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast (1991) because it reminds me of this very principle. In my review of the movie I noted,
What exactly makes this movie and story so captivating? I think it is the idea that love has an overwhelming transformative and liberating power. This idea is so simple, yet, incredibly beautiful. How many times have books and movies depicted a hard, course man altering his character for love? As it says in Cocteau’s film, “Love can turn a man into a beast. . . (and also) make an ugly man beautiful.”
I believe it is the same for all of us. There will always come a moment when we feel the weight of things we have done. And in that moment there comes a choice. When we learn of Christ will we choose to accept his love and follow His example towards eternal happiness or continue on a destructive path towards misery.
III. For our safety and happiness, God gave us commandments
I will always remember two distinct videos I watched when I was younger. The first was “Spiritual Crocodiles” from President Boyd K. Packer’s talk by the same name. He described them thus. “These spiritual crocodiles can kill or mutilate your souls. They can destroy your peace of mind and the peace of mind of those who love you.”
I have thought so much lately of dangerous ideas which are in our media. It seems like every year more and more immoral behaviors and scarring ideas make our way into our movies, TV shows and books. Lately, I have lamented how children’s shows and movies are now subject to these ideas. There are fewer safe places to avoid these things.
Sometimes there is very little we can do against seeing or hearing these things. Pornography is cleverly disguised in shows like Game of Thrones and foul language ignored more and more in present day critically acclaimed movies like Knives Out (2019).
This is where the second video from my childhood comes to mind. It was called “The Test” based on a fireside given by Robert Habertson. Honestly, the part I remember the clearest is when a young man is bitten by a rattle snake he saved from the top of a mountain. The snake had promised the young man he was “special” and no harm would come to him if he saved the snake from certain death. When the young man berated the snake and asked why it had bitten him the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
This line, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.” has followed me throughout my life. I think of it as I choose what to watch or read. I think of it as I observe those around me choose to not follow God’s commandments. I have ultimate power in how I choose to live my life.
The media can make sin a very enticing thing, and omit certain truths for the benefit of money or popularity. But it cannot change the consequences which come inevitably when we do wrong.
I’ve seen many of my friends through small and seemingly harmless decisions which lead to very unhappy results. These decisions have led to divorce, cycles of self abuse, addiction to shows and drugs, and terrible guilt in regards to others they involved in their decisions.
But I have also seen the results of what happens when we choose Christ and put him at the head of our lives. I think of my parents, grandparents, siblings and church leaders I have seen. I think of those I taught on my mission in Russia and my heart swells knowing how beautiful life can be as we choose to follow Christ and ignore harmful ideas and behaviors. I loved reading in 2 Nephi,
14 Wherefore, we shall have a perfect knowledge of all our guilt, and our uncleanness, and our nakedness; and the righteous shall have a perfect knowledge of their enjoyment, and their righteousness, being clothed with purity, yea, even with the robe of righteousness.
2 Nephi 9:14
IV. God always keeps his promises
This was a principle I really needed to learn this week. I will be moving soon and with such a big change there also comes terrible uncertainty. I’ve thought back on other major changes in my life and promises I am still waiting to be fulfilled.
As I have pondered this, I came across another scripture in 2 Nephi.
17 For I will fulfill my promises which I have made unto the children of men, that I will do unto them while they are in the flesh.
-2 Nephi 10-17
My mother has often told me, “God always keeps his promises.” Sometimes it just takes moments like this for me to understand what that means. I am grateful God is good. I am grateful for his Plan of Salvation, and I am grateful knowing he sent Christ to be our Savior, to lead us on a path of safety and joy.
This week in studying for Come Follow Me I had so much on my mind concerning my future. Sometimes even when we find a direction there is still shadows of doubt and uncertainty which come. I also have thought so much about entertainment value and the media’s powerful influence in my life.
Throughout this week there were several principles which stuck out to me.
I. If we keep the commandments, God will nourish us, strengthen us and provide means to follow those commandments
I have begun to see all of God’s commandments as an invitation. But it is the kind of invitation which brings about change, oftentimes through much trial and sorrow. Take for example Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. Concerning this infamous character, Dieter F. Uchdorf commented in last General Conference,
However, when Bilbo is presented with the prospect of a grand adventure, something surges deep within his heart. He understands from the outset that the journey will be challenging. Even dangerous. There is even a possibility he might not return.
And yet, the call to adventure has reached deep into his heart. And so, this unremarkable hobbit leaves comfort behind and enters the path to a great adventure that will take him all the way to “there and back again.”2
Curiously enough, Bilbo could have chosen to stay home, enjoy life’s comforts and not have to face the sorrows and death threatening experiences ahead of him. But he does leave. And he was never the same.
He wasn’t the same because he had seen the world, that it was wide, beautiful and full of promising experiences and precious knowledge. He made meaningful relationships with great elves, dwarves and people. He conquered evil and faced temptation and overcame its deception. He also grieved at the death of his friends.
Though he faced so much, Bilbo changed and was grateful for it. Life is simple Hobbiton never seemed the same because of everything he had witnessed and experienced.
The same could be said of Lehi and his family. He and Nephi could have done a lot of good in Jerusalem, yet the Lord called them another way to raise up a righteous people.
What do these stores have to do with us? I’d same EVERYTHING. Just like Bilbo and Lehi’s family we accept the invitation to follow Christ. This takes courage, but when we follow Christ we gain the greatest, kindest, and most loving care taker we can ever have. He gives us trials and asks us to leave the comforts of an easy life, but never without the promise he will “prepare a way for (us) to accomplish the thing which he commandeth (us).” (1 Nephi 3:7)
Lehi said in 2 Nephi 1:15. “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell: I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.’ It is the same for all of us who have chosen the path of discipleship. We don’t just face hardship. We find God and come to know of his love for us. And THAT is worth any trial we could ever face in this life.
II. The difference between righteous and unrighteous dominion
When I watched the video showing Lehi and his family crossing the ocean I paid special attention to Nephi and his older brothers. In this story, Nephi sees his brothers being disrespectful and rude towards God. The moment he goes to them to ask them to stop, they tie him to the mast in terrible anger.
At the head of this terrible misfortune was Lamen, the eldest son. There are several things Lamen can’t overcome. First, how he had to leave behind their land and inheritance. Staying in Jerusalem would have provided Lamen a rich life as the eldest son. Even after reaching the Promised land he couldn’t let it go. He also couldn’t shake the feeling Nephi wanted to become ruler over them.
In tying Nephi to the mast, Lamen established unrighteous dominion over his family. In his anger, pride and foolishness he cut his whole family off from the Lord’s influence. A storm came and threatened them. Yet for over three days Lamen, followed by Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael, kept their families in the midst of a tempest. They caused so much suffering but couldn’t see beyond their pride.
Lehi, the patriarch of the family couldn’t sway them. Nephi’s wife and children’s tears couldn’t change them. It wasn’t until “they could see the judgments of God were upon them, and that they must perish save that they should repent” that they freed Nephi.
In his exhaustion, Nephi prayed to God and led his family from their impending destruction. I would say this destruction was both physical and spiritual. This example shows very profoundly what happens when men in anger and pride rule over others. They become past feeling and will sacrifice almost anything to be right.
In contrast, Nephi did not give in to anger, but humbled himself before God, steering, with God’s help, his family away from danger. When faced with trial he chose faith over fear. He chose to seek knowledge, to look forward and to honor his parents. He became a righteous leader out of example, not because of misplaced ambition.
What intrigues me is this idea. Lamen could have been like Nephi. He was faced with the same tests, saw an angel, heard his father’s visions and had access to the scriptures. But when faced with trial he couldn’t see beyond a future he had left behind. This does not make him evil. It makes him obstinate and because of his pride an influence of harmful behaviors.
III. The things of greatest value we must hold onto with faith
One of the strongest messages from this reading concerned how I stand fast in the truths I know. Be cautious of giving your heart or time to sources which lead you very subtly away from God and the light of his gospel.
This becomes increasingly hard as the world shifts farther and farther away from God and his gospel truths. Sometimes it feels easier to give n or even pretend we don’t see the wrong around us.
But giving in does not change the infinite, eternal value of our knowledge of Jesus Christ and God’s plan of happiness. We can’t find enlightenment in accepting easy answers of the day. Uchdorf also said,
The third thing we strive to master in this journey is to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and not be ashamed of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.
We do not hide our faith.
We do not bury it.
To the contrary, we talk about our journey with others in normal and natural ways. That’s what friends do—they talk about things that are important to them. Things that are close to their heart and make a difference to them.
. . . Sometimes your stories make people laugh. Sometimes they bring them to tears. Sometimes they will help people to continue in patience, resilience, and courage to face another hour, another day and come a little closer to God.
-Dieter F. Uchdorf, “Your Great Adventure”, October 2019
My favorite scriptures from this week is in 1 Nephi 19.
7 For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at anaught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men btrample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and chearken not to the voice of his counsels.
8 And behold he acometh, according to the words of the angel, in bsix hundred years from the time my father left Jerusalem.
9 And the world, because of their iniquity, shall judge him to be a thing of naught; wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it; and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea, they aspit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his loving bkindness and his clong-suffering towards the children of men.
– 1 Nephi 19:8-9. The Book of Mormon
Though sometimes it feels like we are drowning in a sea of knowledge, music, noise and facts, we still have the gift of the Holy Ghost. We can, if we look and hear beyond all these things, feel God’s love. My life goal is not to let toxic ideas shift my focus from what I know is right. I pray to remember Christ, that he did all “because of his loving kindness and his long-suffering towards the children of men.” (1 Nephi 19:9)