Sunday, September 15, 2013

Charity Project: Kindness (To Be Turned Outward)

I've been thinking the last couple weeks what I wanted to write about, and I think I'm finally at a mindset where I can put my thoughts into words.

These last couple weeks have been... really great, actually. I've felt less competitive, less envious--two of my sketches got cut without my knowledge the other day at work, and although I was sad to see them go, I immediately recognized that they weren't as strong as what we were keeping, and so I let it go. I've felt less down on myself, less stressed, and less... what's the best word to describe it? Small. Less small.

I think there are a few reasons for this. First, we took a whole week off from work after wrapping our last live taping. That week, I didn't have to go to any pitch meetings or compare my talent to anyone else's. That lack of pressure made me step back and see a bigger picture where there was more to life than writing sketches, being the best, etc.

Second, since we have had to get back into the writing game, I've been working harder on my own sketches. I've been taking the criticism I'd gotten over and over and tried to challenge it head on while writing and as I've done that, I've noticed that these challenges aren't as big as I'd always imagined them to be. All I needed was a little more focus and determination. Focus to find where I was lacking, and determination to not be discouraged, but to overcome my weaknesses. I've also been writing more with a knowledge that this inspiration comes from God. In short--to refer back to my last post--I've been working harder to be excellent so that my genius (Heavenly Father) felt I was ready to receive His inspiration. I've come to realize that talents, like testimonies, must be worked for in order to grow. We have to prove we are serious before the Lord will step in and help us.

Third, I've recently been called to a position in my ward where I am much more involved in my ward than I'm used to. I've had to devote more time, energy, and (frankly) love to the work I'm doing. Since receiving this calling, I can sense the initial fear I had when first accepting it turn into love and excitement. I'm more excited to visit teach my fellow sisters, rather than dreading the awkward 15 minutes we have to share before getting out a lesson and leaving. I know every sister's name in my Relief Society after praying over all of them for various needs. In short, I've taken one smart commenter's advice to stop thinking about what I'm doing and to just do it. As Neal A. Maxwell once said, "Too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be" ("Patience"). I think I've stopped measuring how I'm doing with this whole project because I've been too busy doing things. And when I realized that, it made me very happy.

So, I tread on in this project with caution. I want to take on these qualities of charity, but I want to do it in a way where I am not self-focused, self-absorbed, or self-deprecating. Instead, I want to find practical ways of administering, or consecrating, these traits so that I may turn them outward. It's such a simple remedy, isn't it? But it works every time. When you are feeling bad, sad, angry, or completely useless, use your focus and determination to bless and serve others. Consecrate your talents, your love, and your personality to those around you. And don't do it to make yourself feel better (I mean, you can, but try to move on from that motivation). Do it because the Lord needs us to accomplish His work in helping our brothers and sisters. Do it to come closer to the Lord and to become more like Him. Do it to bless someone else.

Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a stellar talk in which he says several things to get that sense of consecration motivated. I wanted to spread these out and insert them naturally in this post, but reading them all together made me pumped and so I want to drop them off here in a huge, inspiring chunk (:
“Serving others should become a natural part of the life of every follower of our Savior. When we subordinate personal interests out of love and give of ourselves with no thought of receiving in return, we are moving toward becoming true disciples” (Joseph B. Wirthlin). 
“One way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask, ‘How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential?’” (Joseph B. Wirthlin). 
“If you are building others, you are building the kingdom of God” (Joseph B. Wirthlin).
So with these motivations behind me, I'm going to try to be more purposeful in my kindness. I've decided I'm going to work on my thoughts as well as my words and actions. Thoughts can be so deceptive because they are quick and fleeting. But over time, they turn into actions that either inspire or weigh down ourselves and others. So, I've landed on a formula that I want to try these next few weeks:

Every day, I will...

THINK three genuine, uplifting thoughts about other people.

SAY three genuine, uplifting comments to other people.

DO three genuine, uplifting acts for other people.

I want to be careful, however, that I do not monitor this progress for the benefit of myself--like, say, how much good feedback I can leave on this blog next time I post. Instead, I want to get into a mindset where I am genuinely trying to help my brothers and sisters around me. If I am on the right track, I will feel some sort of relationship to the description Ezra Taft Benson gave in a 1983 General Conference talk when he said, “One who is kind is sympathetic and gentle with others. He is considerate of others’ feelings and courteous in his behavior. He has a helpful nature. Kindness pardons others’ weaknesses and faults. Kindness is extended to all” ("What Manner of Men Ought We to Be?"). Of course, I don't think I will ever perfectly fit this description, but I know Heavenly Father will give me reassurance that I'm on the right path to becoming so if I am focusing on the right things.

I think one way we can continue consecrating our work for others without focusing too much on ourselves is to live in the spirit of gratitude. Marvin J. Ashton gave a wonderful talk at BYU titled, "And in Everything Give Thanks." In it, he says, "Appreciation for all people and events that come into our lives is most important because it is God's way of helping us to grow. The ultimate maturity is being able to feel and express appreciation promptly, being fully aware of the value and importance, and showing gratitude for it." I love that Elder Ashton says gratitude includes being aware of something/someone's value and importance. That awareness can keep us humble, while also strengthening our spirits to become more Christ-centered, as well as more focused on the work we should be doing.

So, again, I emphasize the importance of focus and determination. We must be determined to treat others kindly and to encourage their unlimited potential. And we must focus on why we are doing it-- we do it because we all have the potential to become like our omnipotent, omniscient, omni-charitable Heavenly Father. And we were put on this earth to help each other accomplish that mission. We are not on this earth to sit and stew, or sit and be idle, or sit and prattle on about ourselves. We're here to work, to work for the salvation of men. It is a work we will continue to do after this life, so we'd better get down the ethic for the labor now.

I'm sorry, I feel like this post may have been scattered from one thought to another with no connection in between. But they are all I've collected these past couple weeks, and I've tried to be direct so that hopefully you may feel the determination and responsibility I've come to feel as I've realized the blessings God has given me. He has given me these blessings to bless others. And as I continue to work on being excellent with my talents, I can also become excellent in building up of God's kingdom. I can become an excellent force for good and be armed with the power of an almighty God as I strive to help those around me. Goodness knows, I am generally a selfish person with little power to do anything outside of my own sphere. But I know that if I continue with focus and determination to feel the desire to do God's work, I will be endowed with His power to accomplish it.

Have a great week. Help your brothers and sisters. And become an excellent version of you.