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Lie #24: Scars

We all have battle wounds from this thing we call life. We all carry evidence of our experiences—good and bad. Sometimes they are physical marks, like that half-inch white scar at the tip of my right eyebrow from falling into the corner of a dresser drawer when I was four. Sometimes they are emotional wounds that we carry around with us. We may allow those experiences to define us. We may think that we have to keep them because they are part of us—part of who we are. We may think we’re stuck with them and that there’s no real delete button.

After all, science has proven that everything is recorded in the subconscious. From the very beginning of our existence until the present, our subconscious minds have recorded every thought, feeling, action and experience. Like a computer hard drive, every keystroke has been recorded and can be recalled. Even if things are sent to the recycle bin or trash, the computer still keeps them in a special place and they can be recovered. Our brains work much the same way. Even if we don’t consciously remember something, the memory is still there. There are techniques that can be used to access repressed memories and bring them back into consciousness.

So what about those things we’d rather not remember? What if we watched a movie we wished we would not have watched? Are those images imprinted permanently upon our minds? If we witnessed or experienced some horrific trauma, are we forced to replay those negative scenes in our minds for the rest of our lives? I think this is what most people believe, and this is the lie.

The truth is, there is a delete button. It is made possible through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

“Because of our imperfections, there is a continual concern within each of us that makes us hope we are worthy to have our sins forgiven. The Lord realized that a onetime forgiveness at baptism would not serve our purposes. This was evident in the days of ancient Israel when once a year the congregation of Israel observed the Day of Atonement. During this sacrifice, two goats were brought to the high priest. One goat was sacrificed to the Lord, and the priest conferred the sins of Israel on the head of the other goat. This goat, carrying all their sins, was then led into the wilderness and set free, symbolic of the Savior’s being led without the wall of Jerusalem to be crucified for the sins of the world (see Leviticus 16:21–22; John 19:16–20; Hebrews 13:11–12).” (Gerald Melchin, “Thy Sins Are Forgiven”)

“You must understand that you are free to determine to overcome the harmful results of abuse [and other trauma]. Your attitude can control the change for good in your life….I know victims of serious abuse who have successfully made the difficult journey to full healing through the power of the Atonement. After her own concerns were resolved by her faith in the healing power of the Atonement, one young woman who had been severely abused by her father requested another interview with me. She returned with an older couple. I could sense that she loved the two very deeply. Her face radiated happiness. She began, ‘Elder Scott, this is my father. I love him. He’s concerned about some things that happened in my early childhood. They are no longer a problem for me. Could you help him?’ What a powerful confirmation of the Savior’s capacity to heal! She no longer suffered from the consequences of abuse, because she had adequate understanding of His Atonement, sufficient faith, and was obedient to His law. As you conscientiously study the Atonement and exercise your faith that Jesus Christ has the power to heal, you can receive the same blessed relief. During your journey of recovery, accept His invitation to let Him share your burden until you have sufficient time and strength to be healed.” (Richard Scott, “To Heal the Shattering Consequences of Abuse”)

We are free to determine to let go of our need for our scars and allow them to be healed. Only the Savior can completely erase them for us. We cannot do it ourselves. Many of us suffer needlessly from carrying heavy burdens because we do not open your hearts to the healing power of the Lord. “Repentance is a process of cleansing. It is difficult, but it has an end, a glorious end with peace and refreshing forgiveness and the miracle of a new beginning.” (Richard Scott, “To Be Free of Heavy Burdens”)

Alma described this miracle of a new beginning after he had been cleansed: “Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God. My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more.” (Book of Mormon, Alma 27:28-29, emphasis added)

Are you carrying something that’s weighing you down? Do you have a scar in need of healing? “If you have felt impressions to be free of burdens caused by yourself or others, those promptings are an invitation from the Redeemer. Act upon them now. He loves you. He gave His life that you may be free of needless burdens. He will help you do it. I know that He has the power to heal you.” (“To Be Free of Heavy Burdens”)

It feels really good to be able to let go.

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Lie #23: Loss

Not long ago there was a broken sprinkler pipe that flooded one room of my basement apartment. Nevermind the carpet and the expensive electronics in the room, the books and music and papers. I was worried about a stack of boxes on the floor filled with old photographs, some dated as early as the 1890s. I rushed to inspect them as soon as I realized, and found the bottom box soaked through. But the pictures inside, although they were a little damp, were unharmed. I had been wise to put each one in a plastic protective sleeve and they had been preserved.

Many of us are afraid of losing things. These things may be material possessions, computer data, memories, precious mementos, our youth, our health, our minds, and of course, loved ones. Anyone who has ever lost something valuable will remember that terrible feeling. The pain is most extreme when we have lost a loved one. We may be tempted to believe that when we lose something, the loss might be permanent.

“Much of the misery encouraged by Satan comes from losses. Satan experienced that kind of misery when he lost his [opportunity to receive a physical body]. Now he tries to inflict similar losses on those who have proceeded to mortality. Satan encourages a loss of virtue, a loss of integrity, a loss of reputation, a loss of ideals, a loss of wholesome associations, and even a loss of life. In contrast, our Heavenly Father created us to resist and to overcome such losses, to be whole, to have joy. He wants us to return to him, and he has provided a way for that reunion to be achieved.” (Dallin Oaks, “Joy and Mercy”)

I assert that the lie for this post is loss itself. We can feel like we’re losing something. We can feel really unhappy about it. But anything of real lasting value is never lost. It’s either temporarily in another place or it’s added upon. There is no lasting happiness in what we possess. Happiness and joy come from what a person is, not from what he or she possesses or appears to be.

There used to be this television show that I really liked. I lived for the opportunity to watch it each week. I was sad when it would be on hiatus and I would have to wait a few weeks for it to come back. I derived great pleasure from being involved in the characters and following the storyline. The characters felt like my friends. And then I made some changes in my life. They were good changes—changes that helped me improve and become a better person. In becoming better I began to see that this particular show wasn’t really beneficial to me. There was stuff that was good about it, but there was also stuff that wasn’t good, and if I was choosing to make changes, this show wasn’t going to help me in that direction. So I needed to make a choice to lose the show—to eliminate it from my life. I made that choice, and it was hard. I still wanted to watch it. I tried to justify that it wasn’t that bad, when I knew in my heart that it was promoting ways of life that I didn’t agree with. And if something doesn’t promote God’s agenda, then it’s promoting the devil’s. That’s all there was to it. So I gave it up. I was proud of myself, but it wasn’t an easy thing. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t really a loss. It was a sacrifice, but it was a sacrifice that gave me strength. So really, I lost nothing. I gained.

“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (King James Bible, Mark 10:29-30 and Matthew 19:29)

When we lose something for the sake of the gospel, in an attempt to become better, to be more perfect and more pure, are we really losing? I think Jesus is asking us to look for more lasting pursuits, and we will find blessings beyond anything we can imagine.

“It is true that men can find employment and considerable enjoyment in the acquisition of wealth, and in expending the same in the busy scenes of life, but after all, there is something unsubstantial and unreal about everything of this character. Decay is written upon everything that is human, death is written upon everything that we put our hands to and upon ourselves. We know that we are here but for a short time; we know that everything we possess will, like ourselves, perish and pass away; that our existence here is an ephemeral one—shortlived, therefore when we can contemplate the future and the life that is to come, and can understand anything connected with it that we can rely upon, there is something in the contemplation that lifts us above everything of a sublunary or perishable character. We are brought nearer to God, we feel that there is a spark of immortality within us, that we are indeed immortal and partakers of the Divine nature, through our inheritance as the children of God. And this is the effect that the principles of the Gospel, when properly understood, have upon mankind.” (“Universality and Eternity of the Gospel,” by George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Volume 15)

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:24)

“I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.” (Thomas Monson, “What Have I Done for Someone Today?”)

My injunction to you is to step back and ask yourself if there is some important cause that you are neglecting. We can always be better. We can always sacrifice something that doesn’t really matter for something of lasting value. It’s worth it.

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Lie #20: What Love Is

Most of us have a basic understanding of what love is. I want to address love of self and love of others as one in the same because I believe that how we treat others is a direct reflection of how we’re treating ourselves and vice-versa. Our relationships are a good indication about our true feelings about ourselves. I learned recently that my definition and understanding of love was a little skewed because of some childhood experiences. I had a mixture of things—an emotionally absent father, a mother who didn’t understand how to nurture, some sexual and emotional abuse, and a confusing and chaotic string of step-fathers and step-siblings. All of these experiences were a recipe for an adult who really wasn’t sure about the true definition of love. But now I know what it isn’t!

Satan has a counterfeit for every good thing. I think he works hard at helping us misunderstand what love really is. Following are some of the lies he taught me.

Counterfeit beliefs about love:

  • “Codependency often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others. These helper types are often dependent on the other person’s poor functioning to satisfy their own emotional needs.” (Wikipedia) This doesn’t work. No one else can meet your needs except you. No one can fill your emptiness except God.
  • Addictions/obession. “I can’t live without this person or this thing.” Addiction is a state that is characterized by compulsive use of substances or compulsive engagement in short-term rewarding behavior, despite adverse consequences. Examples include substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food), sexual addictions, and behavioral addictions like exercise, electronics and gambling. Addictions are a powerful counterfeit, and difficult to shake. Often we come to believe that the addiction is the only way to feel. It’s the only thing that feels good. But I’m here to tell you that the atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to heal. Any addiction can be overcome.
  • Manipulation/coercion. “If you really loved me, you would do [whatever I want you to do.]” This, I believe is how Satan convinced his followers in the beginning, preying upon our hearts. But this is not how God operates. “Leaders invite, persuade, encourage, and recommend in a spirit of gentleness and meekness. [People] respond freely as the Spirit guides. Only this kind of response has moral value. An act is moral only if it expresses the character and disposition of the person, that is, if it arises out of knowledge, faith, love, or religious intent. Fear and force have no place in the kingdom because they do not produce moral actions and are contrary to God’s gift of … agency.” (Boyd K. Packer, quoting General Handbook of Instructions (1963), in “That All May Be Edified”: Talks, Sermons, and Commentary by Boyd K. Packer (1982), 253.) We cannot interfere with a person’s ability to choose.
  • Conditions. Setting conditions on love is dangerous practice. It’s selfish because it’s based on conditions the individual sets upon the relationship. “I will love my body as long as it’s thin and attractive. Otherwise, I can’t.” Or, “I will love you as long as you meet my standards for a friend or companion.” It doesn’t work. It isn’t real. If the condition is not met, it falls apart.
  • Attention-seeking. Children learn to seek attention from parents and people they love, and sometimes they don’t grow out of it. The reason it doesn’t work as love is because often people seek any kind of attention—positive or negative—simply to get recognition from people. Again, others are not capable of filling your emptiness. Attention and recognition are not love.
  • Abuse. All of the many forms of abuse—verbal, sexual, emotional, physical—can cause us to believe that it’s the only way we can receive love. People may not even realize they’re being abused because it’s a way of life they have become used to. For me, self-abuse was a form of counterfeit love and I didn’t even realize that I was doing it.
  • Sex. Some people believe that love is all about sex. This isn’t true at all, although the arguments (especially for young people who don’t quite know the difference) can be pretty persuasive.

So what is real love? Here are some signs that you may really know how to love yourself (borrowed from Louise Hay):

  • You attract loving relationships and are accepted just the way you are, because others are a mirror of what you are.
  • You love and accept your body just the way it is. You take care of it, feed it healthy foods, dress and groom it and keep it clean.
  • You attract loving environments where you feel good and are treated with respect.
  • Whatever you’re doing in your life, you enjoy it and are learning from it.
  • You behave and think in loving ways towards others.
  • You forgive and totally release the trauma of past experiences. You live in the now and are grateful for your experiences because of what they have taught you.

We need to learn to love as God loves us. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34) “This love brings about real change of character. It can penetrate hatred and dissolve envy. It can heal resentment and quench the fires of bitterness. It can work miracles.” (Dieter Uchtdorf, “Your Wonderful Journey Home”)

“The feeling of love from our Heavenly Father is like a gravitational pull from heaven. As we remove the distractions that pull us toward the world and exercise our agency to seek Him, we open our hearts to a celestial force which draws us toward Him.” (Paul Koelliker, “He Truly Loves Us”)

I am grateful to know who Jesus Christ is and of his love for me. His love is teaching me how to love myself, and therefore, how to love others. I am so grateful for this journey.

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives. I bear testimony that God lives. His love is infinite and eternal. It extends to all of His children. Because He loves us, He has provided prophets and apostles to guide us in our time. He has given us the Holy Ghost, who teaches, comforts, and inspires. He has given us His scriptures. And I am grateful beyond description that He has given to each of us a heart capable of experiencing the pure love of Christ. I pray that our hearts may be filled with that love and that we may reach out to our Heavenly Father and to others with new vision and new faith. I testify that as we do so, we will discover a greater richness in life.” (Joseph Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment”)

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Lie #19: I Can’t Be Happy Yet

The prophet Lehi in the Book of Mormon teaches that “men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Nephi 2:25) The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “happiness is the object and design of our existence.” To me these are saying that men and women—all of us—exist in order to find joy and happiness. Yet I think there is a general misunderstanding about the nature of happiness in this life. I hear a lot of people say that we’re not meant to experience real joy in this life because it’s just not possible. When we die, and all of our earthly cares and worries are gone, then we can be happy. When we’re finally rid of our bodies and we don’t have to experience pain and physical discomfort anymore, then we can be happy. Frankly, I think these ideas are false. I’ve talked about this a little before in my “Life is Hard” post, but the scriptures tell us that if we don’t figure out how to be happy in this life, we’re not going to magically have it afterwards. Joseph Smith taught, “that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:2) In the Book of Mormon, Jacob explains that at death “they who are righteous shall be righteous still, and they who are filthy shall be filthy still.” (2 Nephi 9:16) In other words, the sort of person that we are in our mortal bodies will be the same sort of person we will be without our bodies. The prophet Amulek confirms this: “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis [death], that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.” (Alma 34:34) Therefore, if we are depressed and unhappy in this life, wouldn’t it make sense that we will still be trying to figure out why we are depressed and unhappy in the next life? Now is the time to figure it out. Now is the time to discover how to be happy and how to have joy. “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32)

With this understanding, it makes sense to me that I need to work on being happy now, rather than waiting for something to happen or something to be obtained in order for my happiness to magically appear. Thomas Monson has said, “This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.” (Thomas S Monson, “Finding Joy in the Journey”) I have spent time pining away for this illusive and nonexistent future he speaks of, and I have learned that in doing so, I was getting nowhere. I used to imagine myself running full speed along my path, my intention to reach the throne of God and finally obtain “happiness.” But I learned that I needed to slow down, explore the path, greet those who are walking with me, and realize that happiness was there on that path all along. I was just too focused on the goal to see and to feel it. Now I see myself walking instead of running. I’m still moving forward, but I’m paying attention to what is all around me.

“One of the greatest of all God’s revelations is Father Lehi’s teaching that ‘men are, that they might have joy.’ Joy is more than happiness. Joy is the ultimate sensation of well-being. It comes from being complete and in harmony with our Creator and his eternal laws.” (Dallin H Oaks, “Joy and Mercy”) King Benjamin invited his people to consider “the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold,” he said, “they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven … [to] dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.” (Mosiah 2:41) So if having joy has to do with being complete and in harmony with my Creator, that just means I need to do my best to be obedient, right? Is it possible to be completely obedient? I believe it is. I agree with author John Pontius who wrote, “…we do have the ability to be perfectly and flawlessly obedient—as Christ was. The beauty and power of Christ’s plan is that as we obey him, he will provide all that we lack. He will close the great chasm we cannot cross by changing us so that we meet the standard of righteousness.” (John M Pontius, The Triumph of Zion)

As you think about these things, I invite you to ask God—whichever God you believe in—if they are true. Do you believe you can find happiness in this life, or are you waiting for it to magically appear? If you believe, then move toward that belief. The more you believe, the more abundantly happiness can be attracted to you.

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Lie #17: Beauty

 

warningAs I was walking the other evening, the sun was setting behind me and my shadow stretched out in front of me like a giant version of myself. I shuddered at the thought of being that large, but I knew that it was not an accurate version of my shape and size. Like my shadow, the world seems to place a lens over our eyes in terms of how we’re supposed to look. I’m getting tired of our culture and western society dictating to me what I need to look like in order to be acceptable. It’s time I wrote about this. It’s time I let go of whatever notions I have about the way I look and the way you look and the way I expect people to look and just accept us all for how we look right now.

As women, our society tells us by the ads we watch that our skin must be smooth and blemish- and wrinkle-free. Our hair must never be gray unless we’re really old. We must aim to look like a Cover Girl, with perfect makeup and long eyelashes and white teeth. Our bodies must have curves in the right places, and be flat and toned in all the other places. We must have long, luxurious hair on our heads and no hair anywhere else. Men have a similar set of standards.

If we don’t look like this, we just don’t measure up. It’s not even other people looking at us and saying this to us. Our society teaches us to say this to ourselves. Can you imagine a world where we didn’t feel like we needed to look like the people on television, and we could just look however we looked and that was acceptable?

I’m not saying let yourself go, don’t bathe and don’t make an effort to look clean and presentable. It’s important to care about the way you look. In fact, not caring at all represents other issues. But what if for once we looked in the mirror and didn’t see something we wished could be different—we just smiled and winked and loved that reflection just the way it is?

The truth is that you and your body are more acceptable and more beautiful than you realize. Your body is awesome no matter what it looks like, because it has to be. It’s the only one you get. If you don’t love it and accept it, you may struggle along like someone we know who recently died, authorizing surgery after surgery to try and change it and make it look like something else. Your body and your spirit together make YOU. “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:15) “The physical body is a divine gift, a complement crucial to the spirit if we are to receive a fulness of heavenly joy and glory. The Doctrine and Covenants declares that ‘spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy. And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.’” (John Tanner, “The Body As a Blessing”)

“I marvel at the miracle of the human mind and body. Have you ever contemplated the wonders of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. No computer or other creation of science can equal the human brain. What a remarkable thing you are. You can think by day and dream by night. You can speak and hear and smell. Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has resulted in only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, watch it, look at it, and sense the wonder of it. You are a child of God, His crowning creation. After He had formed the earth, separated the darkness from the light, divided the waters, created the plant and animal kingdoms—after all this He created man and then woman.” (Gordon Hinkley, “The Body is Sacred”)

I submit to you that the world’s definition of what is beautiful and what is acceptable is not the true definition of beauty. If we could remove the blinders of the world’s ideas and definitions and see ourselves for what we truly are, we would be astounded by the beauty and majesty of these physical bodies. We would thank God every day for the gift that they are—for they allow us an opportunity to become like Him. Next time you look in the mirror, put away the criticism and try giving yourself a compliment. Let’s love our bodies!

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