Lie #12: I Can Do it Myself

When children are very young we begin to teach them about empowerment and independence. In fact it’s part of their natures to want to be independent of parents and others and become their own person. At certain ages they begin to want to dress themselves and make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s an adult’s job to encourage self-reliance and help children to learn to depend on themselves for what they need so that they can become healthy and active contributors to society. What we should not neglect to teach them, however, is that sometimes we need help.

When I was younger, Simon and Garfunkel had a popular song called “I am a Rock.” The lyrics were:

I am a rock,
I am an island.

I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don’t talk of love,
But I’ve heard the words before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

I found this song very disturbing, probably because it represented my feelings about life at the time. That’s really sad, I know. It’s taken me a long time to realize and to be open to the fact that I am not an island. I am a rock (that’s the meaning of my name), but I am not an island. I need other people. But mostly I need God.

One of my favorite scriptures from the Book of Mormon is in Alma 26 verse 12: “Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things…” Sometimes I think we want so badly to be independent, for whatever reason, that we forget that at times we may need some help. Maybe we’ve been hurt or betrayed. Maybe we feel like we can’t trust other people because they have let us down before. Here’s what I learned: what I believe will come to pass. If I expect to be betrayed, to be let down, to be hurt, I will be. If I expect to be led to the right sources for the help that I need, that will happen too. If I am brave enough to open myself up to that help, it will be given to me. The scriptures repeat a phrase over and over: “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened to you.” Learning how to do this was my own personal lesson.

I like to accomplish things on my own. I like the satisfaction of being able to say, “I did it!” Don’t we all? But I have learned to be very careful about believing the lie that “I can do it myself.” I can’t. Even when I feel like I have accomplished something very big and very grand, I can still stop and thank those who have helped—those who supported or prayed for me, those who offered assistance or stopped to listen when I needed to talk, even those who stood in the background applauding my efforts. But most importantly, I find that I need to thank my Savior for his enabling power, for he helps me every day—and not just when I do something wrong. “Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient for us to triumphantly complete this mortal journey. Truly, we must come to rely upon ‘the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah’ (2 Nephi 2:8). (David Bednar, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality”)  The Bible Dictionary also says this: “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”

I applaud self-reliance. I cheer for independence. I think it’s important to trust in yourself and do as much as you can do on your own. But in the end, when I have achieved all that I want to achieve in this life and I am ready to graduate to the next one, I cannot even imagine taking all of the credit for what I have been able to do. I will only be where I am through the grace of the Savior Jesus Christ. Thanks for reading, and for allowing me to help you in some small way through what I have learned.

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3 thoughts on “Lie #12: I Can Do it Myself

  1. Lori says:

    I had a very wise bishop tell me “it’s ok to ask for help”. As simple as it seems, it struck me right to the core at a very difficult time in my life. Once I started asking those around me and God for help, things in my life began to fall into place. Funny how that works…

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  2. Jen says:

    That’s beautiful, Rochelle =) I’ve been listening to that song a lot lately (I just made a Paul Simon CD for myself), so it’s funny you should mention that one.. I’ve always liked it.
    You know what – in an interview (or concert) Paul Simon said that Garfunkel said that that was his most neurotic song. =)

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  3. Ariell says:

    Your last post about love was really god. This one though is something I have also been trying to come to a better understanding of. Because I have definitely felt the words of the Simon and Garfunkel song hit very close to home for me at times too. I think sometimes I can go the opposite direction with the dependence. I sometimes want to be more dependent and feel incapable of doing anything myself and get stuck in the rut of not doing anything because of a lack of confidence to do anything. There is a balance there. If we don’t do anything the Lord cannot help us much either. But when we do something he is always a part of our achievement. Thanks Rochelle!

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