Tuesday, August 10, 2010
I realized while in my 20's that in order for me to teach anyone else about happiness, I'd need to figure out what it is for myself. When I was 15 I thought happiness was shopping for shoes. I thought it was discussing things with my friends, like how so and so is SO cute and how he must be in love with me too, because he kinda smiled at me in the hall....you know, that kind of stuff. Back then it was all about being with friends and giggling about anything and everything. And don't get me wrong, all of those things ARE happiness, but just a part of it.
I believe that happiness builds upon itself as we head down the path of good choices. It is impossible to give it a simple definition, but for me happiness.....and I mean the real stuff......is basically three things: 1. Living in obedience and integrity 2. Family 3. A decision
I had a dream one night while on my mission. The whole dream was me all alone in a classroom looking at an equation written on the black board. The equation was SIN=DYSFUNCTION. I woke up knowing that I had been taught something true. When we look at all of the dysfunction we face in our workplaces, families and the world in general, it all generates from someone's (or many peoples) poor choices, and more importantly their unwillingness to repent.
When I talk about living in obedience I'm talking about the commandments of God. When I talk about integrity I mean seeking out truth and then living by it. When I include family, I'm referring to the love and bond that should, and will exist between family members when the first two points are observed. And lastly the decision to be happy! A positive attitude. Choosing happiness, even when we feel we have reason not to be.
As you can see my short list encompasses a lot of other things that we could go into, but the way to happiness is really quite simple. I've spent a lot of time thinking, pondering and learning about what makes me truly happy, and I've found in the discovery of happiness, you can't help but discover yourself, and in that discovery of who you really are, you come to better know God, and when it comes down to it.....knowing yourself and knowing God is REALLY what happiness is!
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
An introduction is an important part of getting to know someone. Those who introduce you give you the chance to become well acquainted, however; it is up to us individually to build and maintain a relationship. My childhood introduction to Jesus had an impact, the seeds of testimony were planted and I knew even then, that He lived and loved me. As my life has continued I have sought out opportunity to know him and serve him. As a result my testimony of Him has grown and matured. His love and influence have motivated me to become more like him.
As Primary President in our small branch, I have the opportunity to introduce other young children to Jesus. They receive plenty of teaching at home, which is evident in our discussions, but this chance to share what I know with these children has been so rewarding. It has caused me to reevaluate my own beliefs and my own abilities to love.
Not long ago, while preparing a lesson, a short saying came to my mind, and I knew it needed to be shared with the children. The saying was....Be true to you, and Jesus too! I thought about this over and over and pondered on how it applies to our lives.
When we are baptized into the church we make promises with God to take upon us the name of Jesus Christ. We promise to always remember him and follow his commandments. We keep this covenant by striving to live as Jesus taught. There are millions on earth who have made this covenant with God, and yet we are still human and still struggle with real weakness. I think sometimes we forget what we have promised. It gets put on a back burner as we tend to the other tasks of life. Over time we worry more about pleasing those around us, rather than pleasing the Lord......or even pleasing ourselves.
Why is it that we participate in things we do not feel comfortable with? Is it because we are worried about what others will think? Are we trying to avoid awkwardness? Do we not want to hurt someones feeling? These are reasonable excuses, but not good ones. Betraying ourselves in order to make someone else feel better is silly. In order to discover our true identity and purpose we must begin by being true to ourselves. We must live in a way that that will allow us to love, respect and trust ourselves. Being true to ourselves and the covenants we make is an essential part in becoming our best selves. It takes courage and at times it may even be lonely, but if we remain true the Lord will be able to mold us and use us to love and encourage others.
President Gordon B. Hinkley said, ....."Reformation of the world begins with reformation of self. It is a fundamental article of our faith that “we believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, [and] virtuous” (A of F 1:13).
We cannot hope to influence others in the direction of virtue unless we live lives of virtue. The example of our living will carry a greater influence than will all the preaching in which we might indulge. We cannot expect to lift others unless we stand on higher ground ourselves.
Respect for self is the beginning of virtue in men. That man who knows that he is a child of God, created in the image of a divine Father and gifted with a potential for the exercise of great and godlike virtues, will discipline himself against the sordid, lascivious elements to which all are exposed. Said Alma to his son Helaman, “Look to God and live” (Alma 37:47).
It is a matter of more than passing interest that the Lord, as He spoke to the multitude on the mount, included this marvelous declaration: “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
A wise man once said, “Make of yourself an honest man, and there will be one rascal fewer in the world.”
And it was Shakespeare who put into the mouth of one of his characters this persuasive injunction: “To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” 1I should like to give to all men and women who may read these words a challenge to lift their thoughts above the filth, to discipline their acts into examples of virtue, to control their words so that they speak only that which is uplifting and leads to growth" (First Presidency Message: In Opposition to Evil)
Becoming great takes great self control. Being disciplined creates true disciples, and ultimately being true to you, and Jesus too, will bring REAL peace, purpose and happiness!
*artwork taken from here
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
For a while now I have pondered the purpose of pain. I have noted that for the most part, we, as human beings do everything we can to avoid pain, both physical and emotional. We run from it, we ignore it, we dodge it, and when it does show up we try to resist it. I'm no expert here, but my feeling is that a large percentage of the depression we experience has to do with the resisting and avoiding of pain. We become weak and angry and dark and hollow because we are trying to avoid our greatest teacher in this life. We are in effect running from our chance to become more like our Savior, and instead of peace and comfort we are left with emptiness and confusion.
I got a chance to feel and experience this during some emotional trials I had while dating Tyler. I remember talking with a dear friend at the time. She said, "Michelle, it feels like you are angry with yourself because you are suffering. You feel like you are better than that. You think if you are in pain you must be weak. Stop being angry with yourself. Sometimes the Savior will take away your suffering when asked, but more often He will simply help you to suffer, after all He knows a thing or two about suffering, and can teach us how to endure it well." Up until then I had never thought of suffering as something the Savior would HELP me do. I was stuck in my limited understanding of what suffering even was. In a lot of ways I still am, but if we will carefully study it out, we will find that there is something sanctifying in enduring extreme difficulty with integrity. The joy and peace and strength we receive is always equal to the resistance we face, if we will humble ourselves and stop resisting it. That doesn't mean that we give up and wallow in our grief, it simply means we allow it to wash over us. We face it head on. We really FEEL the pain, look at it, touch it. I picture myself holding it over my head like a giant heavy trophy. Something I have earned and something that is making me stronger, and then I hand it over to the Lord.
I learned a little more about pain when I delivered my first baby. I decided to deliver naturally, without any pain medication. I honestly didn't know what this would involve. It was my first time, and my whole life I had heard that childbirth was way up there on the list of painful physical experiences. The way I saw it was, for eons of time women were suffering through labor to bring children into this world, and I wanted the experience it in its purest form. I understand this is a personal choice, but one I needed to make. I think it was time for me to learn about pain once again. As labor began and the pain began to intensify I could feel myself tensing up. My body was fighting against it. My mind was in a state of definite resistance. It made each contraction feel insurmountable. But, as soon as I began to surrender to the pain and allow it to wash over me I felt assisted. I felt peace through the pain. I stopped resisting and allowed myself to completely face and experience all of it. Did it hurt....YES! Was I suffering....ABSOLUTELY! The difference was inside. I used my precious gift of agency to make a choice. The pain was there, I just made the choice to endure it well.
It was one of the greatest teaching experiences of my life!
1 Peter 3:14
"But, and if you suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;"
It is not surprising that one would avoid something painful, I mean after all...... pain hurts! Those of us who are not completely deranged, hate to see others hurt and suffer. We try to protect our children from it with our teachings and advice, and when they head in directions that we know will only end in pain, we cringe and sometimes even act out in anger.......just trying to protect them.
What if perhaps we weren't meant to avoid pain though? What if we, as a whole are simply confused about what we should be resisting?
"Blessed is the man that resisteth (JST) temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him."
At some point we must harness our pain and allow it to push us toward our eternal destination. Just as a powerful wind can fill the sails of a boat and literally move it rather than destroy it, we need to allow our pain to "move" us in the direction of our Savior.
What we should really be putting all of our efforts into resisting is temptation. If we avoided evil the way we try to avoid pain we would probably have a lot less pain to face in the first place. Receiving our "crown of life", or exaltation DOES involve resistance, we just need to make sure we resist the things that are meant to be resisted.
*artwork from here