Overcoming Our Shortcomings | Motivational Monday
The other day I received an email that simply said “Lena, where have you gone?” My response my simple “to college.” College is a magical time sucking place that makes an hour feel like a minute when you have free time and a week when you’re working on a test. Sometimes we associate being busy with being successful, but that is not always the case. I have been awfully busy this semester, but I wouldn’t consider myself extremely successful. I’ve failed at keeping up with this blog for one! I have many shortcomings, which inspired me to write this post. Perhaps you, or someone you know, is also struggling with overcoming their shortcomings.
In the scriptures we are instructed to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). This seems like an impossible task, so why then would Jesus require it of us? I once had the opportunity to be part of a question and answer session with Elder Bednar and someone asked this exact question. He looked at us and instinctively explained that “perfect doesn’t mean errorless performance. It means complete, whole, sound.” Elder Bednar’s words have inspired me and could be considered the thesis of this post. (I’ve written a lot of essays lately, can you tell?)
We will all have shortcomings, it has been made clear in the scriptures that the lord gives “unto men weakness they may be humble” (ether 12:27). How can we climb over the internal wall of fears and failures that we allow ourselves to be held back by? I’d like to talk about 5 things we can do to spin our straw into gold:
- We must first realize that our progression must be paced. Just like working out, our spiritually weak muscles take time to develop. “Enoch’s unique people were improved “in process of time.” (Moses 7:21.) Jesus “received not of the fulness at first, but received grace for grace” (D&C 93:12) and even He grew and “increased in wisdom and stature” (Luke 2:52).” (Maxwell). We cannot expect that our limitations will automatically go away when we commit to working on them. This became evident to me as I began the semester with the intent to ace my Finance class. I have put more effort and time than I planned into this course and was thoroughly disappointed with my exam score. My problem was that I was working out less like a patient and prepared marathon runner and more like a spasmodic and scattered wrestler hoping to put on a few pounds before the match. Knowing that the road to perfection is paced should inspire us to put in a constant effort and not wait to work on our weaknesses. “There are no instant Christians, but there are constant Christians” (Maxwell). side note: in my 2nd exam I improved by a full 20%! Coincidence? I think not!
- Live your life in crescendo. For those of you that are part of the 5% of Latter day saints without musical talents (this includes me), a crescendo is just the term for a gradual increase in loudness or intensity. To live your life in crescendo suggests that you continually strive to increase “in wisdom and stature” and talents and abilities and testimony and faith. When we continually grow, we will naturally discover more flaws but we also discover more talents. “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!” (Maxwell) side note: I hiked the Y on Saturday and went I was running down I had this clenching feeling that I would twist my ankle. Turned out to be prophetic, but I still worked those heels.
- That being said, the journey to perfection can be a tiring one. I remember a particularly trying time in my life when I felt out of breath and finished. I felt prompted to open my scriptures and read Mosiah 4:27. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” A year later, that scripture supported me on my mission, and now it continues to strengthen me.President Eyering gave a wonderful talk titled “Mountains to Climb.” In it he says “One of the keys to an enduring faith is to judge correctly the curing time required. That is why I was unwise to pray so soon in my life for higher mountains to climb and greater tests. That curing does not come automatically through the passage of time, but it does take time.” Perhaps the hardest part of fixing our flaws is being patient with ourselves. Time is a key ingredient in the remedy for our restrictions. But not our time; God’s time. “Strange, isn’t it- we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars” (Elder Maxwell). Let us be patient as we work on perfection.
- The road to perfection is a team effort. We need support one another on the journey. What’s the point of getting to heaven if no one else is there? Why is it so easy for us to notice the splinter in our brother’s eye but miss the beam coming out of ours? Paul wrote to the Romans “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Judging others does not speed up our progression. When I was doing something I knew I shouldn’t, I used to justify it by saying “there are 20 year olds killing people and shooting up heroin and living immoral lives. All that I’m doing is (fill in the blank). I shouldn’t feel guilty about that.” I’ve come to realize the flawed logic behind my justification. Salvation is not graded on a curve. I won’t automatically become a better person if more people fail. This knowledge should encourage us to help one another out. We can use our strengths to uplift, support, and give confidence to each other. Let us follow Elder Uchtdorf’s two word sermon on judging others and “stop it.” Let us desire that everyone taste of the fruit.
- My fifth and final tip is to have a positive attitude. We’ve discussed that working on our weaknesses can be long, and tiring, and overwhelming. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and be a grump about our issues, but that’s not ideal. One of Mama Helzer’s favorite sayings is ‘it’s not a meal without a spill’. This simple phrase became a slogan for any fancy dinner at the Helzer Home. No matter how much we attempt to prevent, at some point during the dinner something would get knocked over and spill out. Instead of getting upset, Mama Helzer ,in her wisdom, would simply make the aforementioned remark. This saying has morphed into the motto of my life in some ways. No matter how much planning, preparing, and preventing I do, it simply is not a meal without a spill. Bad things will happen to us. But we are not objects that are acted upon. We make the choice to be positive. Sometimes it’s hard to be positive when orange cream soda is spilled on your custom made silk prom dress, but at the end of the day, it makes for a great story to tell at Sacrament meeting or blog about or share on an awkward first date. Being positive will make this life journey enjoyable and memorable and bearable. In short, it will make us ‘able’. While in Liberty jail, the prophet Joseph Smith received this revelation “Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed” (D&C 123:17). I love this verse. You can hear me talk more about it here.
Overcoming our limitations is an uphill journey. Sometimes it knocks us down (The Climb, anyone?!) and discourages us, but we truly can be perfect, whole, and sound. By being constant Christians, living life in crescendo, accepting God’s timing, not judging others, and having a positive attitude, we can turn our weaknesses into strengths. I have seen this change in my life, especially this semester. I still have a long road ahead of me, but I know that it is possible to overcome your shortcomings. I want you to know that YOU CAN DO IT. Whatever it is that you set your mind to, you can accomplish it. I believe in you! We can all be perfected in Christ.
So what next? Send this to someone you know who needs a little Monday motivation.