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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The 100% Rule

I've been getting promptings over the last few weeks that I can't ignore anymore. It's seriously obnoxious how obvious I need things to be for me to start taking action. Well today was a tipping point, and I thought I'd write down my thoughts before they flutter away and I need another 3 weeks to remember what all the hubbub was about....

Prompting #1: Commit 100%
It started a few weeks ago with an article that popped up on my Facebook feed. I will probably use this instance in the future as a reason not to delete my Facebook account, even though 95% of the time, it is a waste of time and mental energy. But on this day, Facebook proved to be helpful and inspiring. I was directed to an article that talked about the 100-Percent Rule. It has a click-baity title and is meant to seem life-changing and awe-inspiring--and it totally was for me, so I don't mind the packaging in which it came.

The author, Susie Moore, talks about the endeavors we pursue in life--not eating sugar, writing a book, cutting down on online shopping. Our successes in these endeavors depends upon the effort we put into them. She then states a simple truth that hit me:
“Ninety-nine percent is hard—100 percent is easy.”

She goes on to discuss the downfalls of not committing to our endeavors wholeheartedly.
It's far too easy to waste our time, money, and energy by not committing wholeheartedly to something important to us.... But it's our well-meaning "99-percent effort" that is exhausting. It consumes energy without producing results. It’s stressful. It makes us feel like a failure when we’re not—we just haven’t fully committed to something. Putting 99-percent effort into things that matter in life means we are constantly falling short of our potential—and feeling bad about it.
There was a nagging sensation in the back of my head as I read this. While there are a lot of endeavors I'm pursuing in my life, my heart keeps going back to one area that sits at the top of my priority list: I've been trying to be better at studying my scriptures more sincerely. I've been trying to be better at conversing with my Heavenly Father in meaningful ways. I've been trying to be better at appreciating my husband and all that he does for my family. Basically, I've been trying to be better at becoming more Christ-like.

But what if I stop trying to be better and just commit 100% to being better?

Susie goes on to talk about her own experience in committing to writing a book she'd been working on for the last two years. When she decided to commit 100% instead of just 99%, she stopped wasting energy debating whether she should write or go out, write or call a friend, write or buy groceries. The choice was easy because she was all in: WRITE!

We all have these daily battles with ourselves, don't we? For me, it's, "Should I say my morning prayers or try to catch a few more minutes of sleep before I have to get up to attend to my son?" "Should I reach out to this woman in my neighborhood to see how she's doing or should I check if any new houses have popped up on the market that might look interesting?" "Should I look back over my day and think of things I could improve upon for tomorrow or should I watch another episode of Bob's Burgers?"

I should be motivated to commit to these better things naturally. I know I'll feel better when I commit to a higher standard of living. Even in more temporal matters, Susie sums it up well.
True happiness is the joy we experience when we move toward our potential. The beautiful part is when we apply the 100-percent rule to a task at hand, we complete it. A project gets wrapped. A once-hopeful intention becomes a habit. A goal is met.... And when we give 100 percent, other not-as-important stuff falls away in the meantime: It’s an awesome perk to an already pretty-awesome rule.
Of course, what often stops me from committing 100% to being more Christ-like is that there are a TON of ways I can be more Christ-like! I often reference a Neal A. Maxwell talk that beautifully outlines attributes of the Savior:
Meek and humble--not self-concerned, dismissive, proud, seeking ascendancy. Blessed are the meek because they are not easily offended. Besides, those who "shine as lights in the world" have no need to seek the spotlight! (See Philippians 2:15.) The world's spotlights are not only fleeting, but they employ inferior light!
Patient--not hectic, hurried, pushy.
Full of love--not demanding, dominating, manipulative, condescending, or harsh.
Gentle--not coarse, brusque, and vindictive.
Easily entreated--not unapproachable, inaccessible, and nonlistening.
Long-suffering--not impatient, disinterested, curt, easily offended. There are so many people in the Church, brothers and sisters, waiting to be offended. And it doesn't take long. If one has a chip on his or her shoulder, you can't make it through the foyer, so to speak, without getting it knocked off.
Submissive to God--not resistant to the Spirit, counsel, and life's lessons.
Temperate (self-restrained)--not egoistic, eager for attention and recognition, or too talkative. In your life and mine, the great moments of commendation and correction have come usually in one-liners.
Merciful--not judgmental and unforgiving. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall know the caress of causality as their forgiving mercy restores others to wholeness! Though God is perfected in the attributes of justice and mercy, we read that, finally, "Mercy overpowereth justice" (Alma 34:15).
Gracious--not tactless, easily irritated, ungenerous.
Holy--not worldly.
This is a wonderfully comprehensive list, but MAN is it daunting! Whenever I feel, as Henry B. Eyring put it, those "impulses... to rise above yourself into a higher and more beautiful world," I'm almost immediately bombarded with discouraging thoughts. You're not very diligent in reading your scriptures. You're really bad at gossiping. You don't even do your visiting teaching most of the time, and you want to have Christ-like charity?! Blah, blah, blah... Boy, does Satan know how to wear me down so that I am so "mired in the ooze of self-pity" that I can't move anywhere at all.

Enter Prompting #2: Pick One Thing to Commit to

After reading this article and feeling that tug, that pull to reach higher, then immediately quashing it with the overwhelming laundry list that inevitably followed, I came across this talk by Henry B. Eyring titled, "Come Unto Christ." I'd been having the feeling that what I needed to focus on most immediately was my relationship with Christ through His atoning sacrifice. I'm familiar with the repentance process--I know that we are supposed to repent of our sins frequently, even daily if we can. However, this knowledge was not translating into action, and I'd been feeling like I should probably do something about that.

Repentance, as President Eyring points out, is a Greek word. It means, "To have a new mind." I have not been letting the Atonement permeate my life so that I am actually changed by it. Eyring then goes over some scriptures that have helped him know how to reach for that better and changed version of ourselves. First, he reviews Doctrine and Covenants 19:15-17:

Therefore I command you to repent—repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.
For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.

Eyring ponders on this.
Two things dawned on me. First, if I could not repent to qualify for his atonement for my sins, I must suffer to the limit of my power to suffer. And, second, with all the requisite suffering of my own, with all I could bear, it would still not be enough. I would still be forever shut out of the only place where there will be the warmth of family, the family of my Heavenly Father whom I have loved and whom I miss, and that of my family here. 
Somehow I had gotten the idea that the choice was between repenting or not. And then I realized that whatever pain repentance might bring in this life, it was certainly no more than the pain I would face if I did not repent here, and yet that later pain could not lift me home. It could not bring the mercy I needed.
At this point, I was all ears. I knew I needed to repent more frequently and more meaningfully, and now I knew I REALLY needed to repent more frequently and meaningfully.

Then I started wondering, since the Atonement is such an abstract concept, how can I be sure I'm "doing it right"? Well, as if reading my mind, President Eyring addressed that, too.
For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every King Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service, and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said “were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not” (3 Nephi 9:20). (Ezra Taft Benson)
... [What can I do] to gain assurance that I [am] on the path home? Specific steps to assure that the Atonement is at work in your life will not always be the same. ... But for everyone, at every stage of purification, there are constants. One is this: reception of the Holy Ghost is the cleansing agent as the Atonement purifies you. 
... That is a fact you can act on with confidence. You can invite the Holy Ghost’s companionship in your life. And you can know when he is there, and when he withdraws. And when he is your companion, you can have confidence that the Atonement is working in your life.
So, positive sign #1: The Holy Ghost is With You. As Elder F. Enzio Busche says, “You want to be good and to do good. That is commendable. But the greatest achievement that can be reached in our lives is to be under the complete influence of the Holy Ghost. Then he will teach us what is really good and necessary to do.”

Positive sign #2: You commit 100%

President Eyring illustrated this principle with which I'd already been grappling by telling a personal story:
Once, as a bishop of a ward, I worked with a young man not much older than many of you. He’d made great mistakes and had been moved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to make long and painful repentance. We were down to the weeks before he was to be married in the temple. I had long before forgiven him in the name of the Church and had given him his temple recommend. Yet he remembered that I had said, “The Lord will forgive you in his own time and in his own way.” But now he was deeply concerned. He came to my office and he said: “You told me that the Lord would someday let me know that I was forgiven. But I am going to the temple to marry a wonderful girl. I want to be the best I can be for her. I need to know that I am forgiven. And I need to know now. Tell me how to find out.” I said I would try.
He gave me a deadline. My memory is that it was within less than two weeks. 
I went to Salt Lake City, and there I found myself seeing Elder Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, at a social function. He walked up to me in that crowd and said, “Hal, I understand that you are now a bishop. Do you have anything you would like to ask me?” 
I said that I did... Without breaking confidences, as I have not with you, I outlined the concerns and the question of this young man in my ward. Then I asked Elder Kimball, “How can he get that revelation? How can he know whether his sins are remitted?”
I thought Elder Kimball would talk to me about fasting or prayer or listening for the still small voice. But he surprised me. Instead he said, “Tell me something about the young man.”
I said, “What would you like to know?”
And then he began a series of the most simple questions. Some of the ones I remember were:
“Does he come to his priesthood meetings?”
I said, after a moment of thought, “Yes.”
“Does he come early?”
“Yes.”
“Does he sit down front?”
I thought for a moment and then realized, to my amazement, that he did.
“Does he home teach?”
“Yes.”
“Does he go early in the month?”
“Yes, he does.”
“Does he go more than once?”
“Yes.”
I can’t remember the other questions. But they were all like that—little things, simple acts of obedience, of submission. And for each question I was surprised that my answer was always yes. Yes, he wasn’t just at all his meetings: he was early; he was smiling; he was there not only with his whole heart, but with the broken heart of a little child, as he was every time the Lord asked anything of him. And after I had said yes to each of his questions, Elder Kimball looked at me, paused, and then very quietly said, “There is your revelation.”
Sufficiently humble. Stripped of pride. Stripped of envy. Never making a mock of his brother.
When that change of heart comes to me and to you, when we are cleansed and blameless before God, it will be because we have been made pure by the blood of Christ. ... And I know at least one way to know that is happening in your life, or in mine. You will have put yourself so often in the Master’s service, bringing the cleansing companionship of the Holy Ghost, that you will be on the front row, early, whenever and wherever the Master calls. It will be gradual enough that you may not notice. You will be humble enough that you may be reluctant to believe it is happening. But those with spiritual discernment who love you will know. And the Savior and our Heavenly Father will know. And that is enough.
 So, here was another answer to my prayers. The one way I knew I could tackle my huge laundry list was by focusing on one thing: Using the Atonement more regularly and meaningfully in my life. I could gauge that by measuring how often I felt the Spirit with me and working through me and by how committed I was to my spiritual responsibilities. This list of responsibilities might seem daunting, but not if they're a product instead of a focus of my efforts. My focus will always be to use the Atonement more regularly and meaningfully in my life. If I am doing that, responsibilities will be fulfilled promptly and diligently because my heart is in the right place.

Prompting #3: Start Now

So, with all of these insights swimming around in my mind, I still wasn't moving my butt to act on what I'd been given. You'd think General Conference would've been the place I'd gotten more insight, but, alas, it wasn't until a couple days after when I was finally ready to listen. On a drive today, I played Marvin J. Ashton's talk, "And in Everything Give Thanks," which I had never heard or read before, but for some reason it was on my playlist of church talks. In it, Elder Ashton said many wonderful things, but the most resonating counsel he gave was this--
In recalling some of the Savior’s well-known teachings, the word now can be appropriately added to emphasize their impact. 
John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments”—NOW. 
Mark 16:15: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”—NOW. 
Luke 18:22: “Come, follow me”—NOW. 
Truly, if we love God, we will serve him now, and give thanks now.
SO! Three promptings later, I am inspired to finally work on my endeavors! This post is very personalized--maybe most of you don't need to focus as much as I do on using the Atonement more fully in my life--but hopefully the principles behind my personal experiences can resonate with you:

1. Whatever your heart's been telling you to do--COMMIT AND DO IT!

And 2. God loves us so friggin' much. He cared enough about me--thick-headed me--to give me not one but three opportunities to come closer to Him.

It's not like He's asked me to do something hard. He's asked me to do something good. That means it will ultimately make my life more rich and meaningful. I always come to this realization when I set off on a holier course, but for some reason, something gets lost in the journey and I have to start all over again. Thank goodness for a patient, kind Heavenly Father who keeps working with me at every step (and misstep) of the journey.

2 comments:

christinajensen said...

I love your comedy and you are a wonderful actress. This blog is such a treat. Thank you for taking time to write it, and good luck with your darling little family.

TAB III said...

This is the kind of post that makes me wish I got some kind of notification about new posts being written. (Or, does that exist, and I've just never found it? Hmm. Question for another time.)

I always appreciate your posts about self-improvement and spiritual things. This one in particular really gets to me, because it reminds me of things that I personally feel the need to work on. Especially the idea of committing 100%. I've been feeling like I'm living in a kind of stagnation recently, never seeming to accomplish much of anything, and I think that's why; for all of the spiritual and secular things I endeavour to do, I'm really not committed to... well, any of them. I've stopped believing that anything I do accomplishes anything, or that there is hope of succeeding, and so I've stopped exercising faith, both in the Lord and in myself. But as you shared, really committing is much less tiring, less frustrating, and less despair-inducing than going in half-heartedly.

So, in short, you helped me come to realize that today. I'm glad you followed some promptings, including the one that inspired to share this with us on here. Thank you for doing that. ¡Dios esté consigo!