I feel like in my efforts to follow this project of obtaining Christlike attributes, I have come to realize just how short I'm falling of my goals. However, I need to remember that it is better to see the distance than to be on a completely different mission.
I also think that those who are genuinely trying to understand how they feel about the church can take a leaf out of this talk. There are many of us who want to figure out how we feel and what we'll do when confronted with difficult subjects like gay marriage, women and the priesthood, excommunication, and many other areas on which the church has chosen to hold a firm though unpopular stance.
For those who are pleading for answers, or for those who, rather than being “anxiously engaged” are being “over-anxious and thus underengaged,” let me draw your attention to 14 habits Elder Maxwell suggests:
1. We can distinguish more clearly between divine discontent and the devil’s dissonance, between dissatisfaction with self and disdain for self. We need the first and must shun the second, remembering that when conscience calls to us from the next ridge, it is not solely to scold but also to beckon.I struggle with this constantly! As soon as I see that there is work to be done, I immediately get mad at myself. But this shouldn't be! We are all imperfect. We all have a ways to go. As Maxwell says, "this feeling of inadequacy... is normal. There is no way the Church can honestly describe where we must yet go and what we must yet do without creating a sense of immense distance." The point is not to let that distance deter us, but motivate us! Think of all the wonderful experiences you have ahead of you! How many moments can you remember when you've reached a godly goal and you've felt the Spirit tell you, "You're doing well."? I can personally say that I've had that precious experience several times in my life and it is a cherished moment I look forward to having again. Know that God is not as condemning of your flaws and doubts as you are. He is waiting with open arms to invite you into His embrace.
2. We can contemplate how far we have already come in the climb along the pathway to perfection; it is usually much farther than we acknowledge. True, we are “unprofitable servants,” but partly because when “we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10), with every ounce of such obedience comes a bushel of blessings.Again, don't be too hard on your progress if you think you're going too slowly! Be sure to motivate
3. We can accept help as well as gladly give it. Happily, General Naaman received honest but helpful feedback, not from fellow generals, but from his orderlies. (See 2 Kgs. 5:1–14.) In the economy of heaven, God does not send thunder if a still, small voice is enough, or a prophet if a priest can do the job.Look for help in every aspect of your life. If you hunger for answers, for peace, for guidance, the Lord will give them to you when you yearn to find them in every sermon, song, and prayer.
4. We can allow for the agency of others (including our children) before we assess our adequacy. Often our deliberate best is less effectual because of someone else’s worst.Now, this does not mean to blame others for our shortcomings, but, we must be patient with ourselves when our progress is sometimes halted because of another's agency. As Maxwell said, “When people 'leave their nets straightway,' they come as they are—though in the initial process of changing, their luggage reflects their past. Hence, discipleship is a developmental journey that requires shared patience, understanding, and meekness on the part of all who join the caravan. Together we are disengaging from one world and preparing ourselves for another and far better world.”
Sometimes this means we have to endure another's agency, and this may seem like a roadblock, but perhaps it is only a detour gathering different kinds of experience than we'd originally sought for.
5. We can write down, and act upon, more of those accumulating resolutions for self-improvement that we so often leave, unrecovered, at the edge of sleep.
When you have a feeling you should serve someone/better a quality/understand a gospel principle, DO IT. Write it down and make time in your life to get it done. I promise, you are not too busy!
6. We can admit that if we were to die today, we would be genuinely and deeply missed. Perhaps parliaments would not praise us, but no human circle is so small that it does not touch another, and another.The love we need from others exists! I promise you have connections to people who love and care about you! Do not become "mired in the ooze of self pity" by thinking that nobody cares. This is a toxic mindset that will "cannibalize all other concerns." Think outside yourself. Know that you are loved and move on to loving others!
7. We can put our hand to the plow, looking neither back nor around, comparatively. Our gifts and opportunities differ; some are more visible and impactful. The historian Moroni felt inadequate as a writer beside the mighty Mahonri Moriancumer, who wrote overpoweringly. We all have at least one gift and an open invitation to seek “earnestly the best gifts.” (D&C 46:8.)Comparing is a devilish tool used to stop our progress in helping our brothers and sisters! I was thinking how important it is that I not compare myself to my other coworkers, no matter how hard it is when our job is to write the best material that will make it on to Studio C. It's hard not to compare yourself when you feel like you haven't written as good of material as someone else. What I've come to realize is that I write well, I don't write the same as my coworkers, but that is a good thing. And, what's more, I don't need to base my self worth on how well I write sketches! My self worth is infinite.
My talents can also extend past sketches. I love to write novels, too! I love to write blogs and act comedies and dramas. I love to throw parties and decorate our house and teach lessons in church.There are many things that make up my interests and strengths. As Maxwell said, "Some of us neglect to develop multiple forces of satisfaction. When one of the wells upon which we draw dries up through death, loss or status, disaffection, or physical ailment, we then find ourselves very thirsty because, instead of having multiple sources of satisfaction in our lives, we have become too dependent upon this or upon that." Develop multiple sources of satisfaction so that you do not place too much emphasis (and thus, comparison) on the talents/interests you treasure.
8. We can make quiet but more honest inventories of our strengths, since, in this connection, most of us are dishonest bookkeepers and need confirming “outside auditors.” He who was thrust down in the first estate delights to have us put ourselves down. Self-contempt is of Satan; there is none of it in heaven. We should, of course, learn from our mistakes, but without forever studying the instant replays as if these were the game of life itself.Let's be honest with ourselves. We're not perfect, but we are trying. Do not let setbacks hold you back. As Jeffrey R. Holland so passionately stated, "When something is over and done with, when it has been repented of as fully as it can be repented of, when life has moved on as it should and a lot of other wonderfully good things have happened since then, it is not right to go back and open up some ancient wound that the Son of God Himself died trying to heal."
Satan will try to make you agonize over that of which you've already repented. Do not let him. Instead, let the peaceful, joyful love of Christ fill your heart and let you know that you are making progress.
9. We can add to each other’s storehouse of self-esteem by giving deserved, specific commendation more often, remembering, too, that those who are breathless from going the second mile need deserved praise just as the fallen need to be lifted up.This is a big one. We may need comfort and encouragement ourselves, but I think we can gain a lot by offering it to others.
10. We can also keep moving. Only the Lord can compare crosses, but all crosses are easier to carry when we keep moving. Men finally climbed Mount Everest, not by standing at its base in consuming awe, but by shouldering their packs and by placing one foot in front of another. Feet are made to move forward--not backward!Brad Wilcox beautifully put it, "I testify that God’s grace is sufficient. Jesus’ grace is sufficient. It is enough. It is all we need. Oh, young people, don’t quit. You keep trying. Don’t look for escapes and excuses. Look for the Lord and His perfect strength. Don’t search for someone to blame. Search for someone to help you. Seek Christ, and, as you do, I promise you will feel the enabling
power we call His amazing grace."
The more you move, the more you will feel power helping you move forward.
11. We can know that when we have truly given what we have, it is like paying a full tithe; it is, in that respect, all that was asked. The widow who cast in her two mites was neither self-conscious nor searching for mortal approval.This, in a sense, is similar to the advice not to compare. Your best may not seem as helpful as some, but in turn, it may seem better than others. It does not matter. It is your best.
12. We can allow for the reality that God is more concerned with growth than with geography. Thus, those who marched in Zion’s Camp were not exploring the Missouri countryside but their own possibilities.I take this to mean that God is more concerned with our eternal progress than with our temporal situation. Of course He wants us to be happy, but our life is measured not by temporal milestones (e.g. getting a job, buying a house, having a child), but by Christlike "traits that mark the trail to be traveled" (Maxwell), (e.g. developing charity, understanding how to effectively use the Atonement, feasting on the words of Christ).
13. We can learn that at the center of our agency is our freedom to form a healthy attitude toward whatever circumstances we are placed in! Those, for instance, who stretch themselves in service--though laced with limiting diseases--are often the healthiest among us! The Spirit can drive the flesh beyond where the body first agrees to go!Of course, this is always a sticky subject to raise when we deal with attitude. I do not, by any means, want to downplay depression. Quoting President Uchtdorf, "Allow me to be clear: severe depression and thoughts of suicide are not trivial matters and should be taken seriously. I urge those who suffer from depression or thoughts of suicide to seek help from trusted professionals and Church leaders. If you know someone who is thinking of suicide, be a true friend and make sure he or she gets help.
"That being said, most people have felt sad or inadequate at one time or another. It's natural to have times of self-doubt or unhappiness.... Think of where you came from. You are sons and daughters of the greatest, most glorious being in the universe. He loves you with an infinite love. He wants the best for you. Do you think our Father in Heaven wants you to feel depressed and sad? He wants no such thing. He has provided the commandments, which are the royal road to a life of purpose, peace, and joy. All we need to do is follow it. Knowing and living God's commandments really do lead to fulfillment and to joy."
Heavenly Father wants you to have joy. And that means doing what you can to experience that joy. Don't dwell on unhappy thoughts, feelings, or situations. Do not be a creature of circumstance, but, rather, a creator of circumstance! We are immortal beings with agency! We can choose to respond to every incident in our lives with as much or as little perspective as we want. Choose peace. Choose hope. Choose joy.
14. Finally, we can accept this stunning, irrevocable truth: Our Lord can lift us from deep despair and cradle us midst any care. We cannot tell Him anything about aloneness or nearness!D&C 88:63). The Atonement of Jesus Christ has made it possible to emerge from any lulls, trials, or doubts with a stronger relationship with your Father in Heaven and with your older Brother, Jesus Christ. He knows your needs. He knows your weaknesses and the intent of your heart. Come to Him in earnest prayer. Allow yourself to feel of the light and joy His Atonement brings. I promise, if you come to Him in sincerity, you will feel of His love. And together, you can become much stronger, happier, and better than you ever tried to be on your own.
This gospel is true. Our Savior is there. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving. And He is pulling for you. This truly is a gospel of joy. Of love. Of hope.