That attitude can greatly bless the lives of us LDS singles as we interact with each other. Too often we see opportunities to interact through the lens of dating, which often pulls us away from blessing others’ lives. Seeing through the lens of friendship, we’ll more often provide needed assistance. It’s time for LDS singles to re-hoist friendship in dating and singles groups.
In the video, John admits he couldn’t “fix” Troy, nor did he attempt to. In fact, the casual observer might conclude John didn’t do much at all.
John certainly wanted to help, but given everything so many others were doing, John didn’t see much for him to do. Then he started doing something more of us need to do more often; he listened. John invited Troy to ride with him in his truck and let Troy say whatever he wanted. John simply listened.
There’s probably a lot the video doesn’t show. But the simple act of listening is beyond profound. We all have a basic human need to be heard and to feel understood. By not directing Troy or trying to give him something, John showed complete respect for Troy’s agency. And by simply listening to Troy, John declared he would stand by Troy regardless of the path Troy chose or what pace he pursued. That’s the mark of a true friend.
What blessing could we be to other LDS singles if we simply listened more? Instead of interacting only with those whom we want to date, what if we interacted with everyone with an interest in understanding them or simply letting them be heard? By putting aside the personal agenda, we re-hoist friendship to its rightful valued place.
Many LDS singles see a duality in their local Church community, especially in geographic wards. There’s the singles and the marrieds. It’s an extremely common perspective among singles.
But the story in the video takes a different perspective. The two groups there were the grieving (Troy and his family) and the supporters (everyone else trying to help). That’s significant. John viewed Troy as a brother, not someone fundamentally different. If we LDS singles could see one another more as brothers and sisters, we could re-hoist friendship in a new culture of togetherness.
Now, I know some of you are saying. “Yeah, but John and Troy are both married, so of course John would see Troy as one of his group.” Perhaps, but John could’ve found a substantial enough difference if he looked for it. The point is he didn’t. He saw Troy as just as much a person as he was, and that view allowed him to feel more compassion and more desire to be the true friend he was.
John also involved others in demonstrating support for Troy. The scene where John and the group present the jersey to Troy just jerks my tears. Then there’s what appears to be his ward releasing balloons in celebration of his son’s birthday. As John continued standing by Troy, many other opportunities to show support probably presented themselves. And they all helped Troy along his path.
What if we singles involved one another in supporting each other? What if, instead of everyone doing their own thing, everyone reached out to include everyone? What if we each told each other, “Come talk with me,” “Come sit with me”, and “Come do what I’m doing with me”? Real friends bring everyone in. That may be the best support for singles dealing with their pain and grief, many of whom struggle unbeknownst to those around them.
Let’s re-hoist friendship in all our interactions with each other. By listening to one another, seeing one another as brothers and sisters, and involving others in building community, we not only embrace but also embody true friendship. By bringing ourselves closer to each other, we bring ourselves closer to God. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Approach with intention
When you pray, what do you intend the result to be? Surely we can all think of prayers we offered simply because it was time to pray. We had a habit of praying upon getting out of bed, for instance, and we were simply going through the motions when the time came.
And what resulted? We could cross morning prayers off our to-do list. When you think about it, that was the result intended by just going through the motions. If all you wanted was to go through the motion, then in the end that’s what you got — a completed motion.
That approach with prayer — or anything else in life — will never result in a growing relationship with anyone, let alone the Lord. To have the result of an improved relationship, your approach must invite that result. You must approach with the intention of securing your desired outcome. That doesn’t mean merely wanting your desired outcome as you approach the moment. That means your approach leverages the moment to turn your intention into your desired result.
How would your prayers be different if you approached them with the intention of building a relationship with the Lord? Would you use the same tired phrases over and over? Would you deliver a laundry list of desires? Or would you open your heart, share your hopes and fears, present more of a conversation than a monologue, and spend more time listening for the Lord’s voice after you concluded your prayer?
Schedule your intentions
Scripture study goes the same way. Your time with the scriptures will build a closer relationship with the Lord when you approach it with intention. Don’t just read. Actively look for the Lord in the scriptures. Seek Him out by trying to understand His character, His qualities, His perspective, and His perfection through the written words.
Thus it goes for anything in life. Don’t just collide with the waves in the waters of the moment. Approach the moment before you with intention. Planning the moment in advance can help you do that.
Modern life tends to have so many currents pulling you in so many different directions that, unless you’re intentional about your day, opportunities for improvement will pass you by and you’ll find yourself no closer to your goals and dreams. It’s hard to approach the moment with intention when that moment doesn’t happen. Schedule it so it will.
Make the time
That’s not to say every moment you plan will go as planned. Life is about change and learning how to adapt to change. But if you don’t schedule time for producing the results you want, you’re not likely to take the actions that will give you the results you desire.
Thus, to develop a relationship with the Lord, schedule the time you will spend building that relationship. But if you really want to get serious, schedule not just time for activity but time to become more like Him. What will you need to do to become more holy? Pray with real intent? Schedule that time. Search Him out in the scriptures? Make that time. Devote yourself more in His holy house, a.k.a. the temple? Schedule that time. Spend more time serving others? Schedule that time.
Take time to be holy. As you schedule your moments and then approach those moments with intention, you’ll bit by bit strengthen your relationship with the Lord. You’ll feel more of His love, which will strengthen you as you confront your challenges in life. You can then approach with intention every other area of your life — your career, your social life, your dating, whatever — and start having more of the results you intend. That’s not just going through the motions of life. That’s living your life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Elder Christofferson approached belonging from a doctrinal perspective with practical application to belonging. That approach confirmed what we’ve been discussing here for years on Joy in the Journey Radio. But it also enlightened my understanding of what it means to belong. It’s easier to feel belonging when we truly understand the doctrine of belonging.
See the commonalities
Elder Christofferson begins by listing the three parts of the doctrine of belonging: “the role of belonging in gathering the Lord's covenant people, the importance of service and sacrifice in belonging, and the centrality of Jesus Christ to belonging.” Let’s talk about how each of these parts relates to LDS singles.
As the Lord gathers His covenant people across the world, we’d expect, as Elder Christofferson rightly notes, Church membership to become more diverse. We see that diversity today in every conceivable way, including life situation. This diversity offers great strength and richness but also great challenge as our biological hardwiring influences us to compare ourselves with others in order to assess how “normal” we are.
Without context, such comparisons can demoralize and depress us. Elder Christofferson illustrated this effect in the story of Jody King, a married woman confronting infertility. As I listened to the heartrending emotions expressed in Sister King’s experience, I recognized a great parallel. You could change the details of her story from would-be-mother to would-be spouse, and the emotions would stay the same. We need to see less of the details differentiating us and more of our commonality as children of God.
Elder Christofferson recognized that need when he taught,
We too should care about what others around us are becoming more than what they are today.
Serve one another
In addition, we gain a sense of belonging within the Church as we serve and contribute to the larger Church community. This makes obvious sense and yet the realization of its truth escapes many of us precisely because it is so simple.
We feel like we belong to a larger group when we do what those in the group do. Singles don’t do everything marrieds do (or at least they shouldn’t), and that distinction highlights the earlier distinction of identity (“I’m single and you’re married”) that destroys any feeling of belonging.
But serving one another is something everyone can do. Being true to as many covenants as one’s made is something everyone can do. When everyone serves everyone else and turns their focus there, we see ourselves more doing what the group does and foster the sense of belonging we crave.
Elder Christofferson recognized this truth as he shared,
How often have we singles focused excessively on our own unmet needs? Think back to such a moment in your life and consider whether you felt like you belonged to the larger Church community in that moment. However legitimate your unmet needs, focusing there always leads to feelings of isolation and abandonment, not belonging.
Come unto Christ
Of course, the highest and most important sense of belonging comes through Christ. We best promote that sense of belonging by nourishing a personal relationship with Him. We must spend time with Him daily.
As I think back upon my many years of LDS singles life, I can remember many struggles with finding acceptance within my peer group. What helped me the most in those times was remembering He Who “came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). Leveraging my struggle to feel closer to the Lord has helped me feel more belonging to Him, the only sense of belonging that really matters in the end.
Elder Christofferson displayed that perspective as he declared,
LDS singles must live the doctrine of belonging in order to thrive and experience maximum joy despite their circumstances. As we identify as members of the covenant, strive to keep those covenants while serving one another, and spend time daily nourishing our relationship with the Lord, we can gain a sense of belonging to Him and His Church. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Today will soon be yesterday
Time passes by so quickly. It seems only yesterday I came home from my mission. Yet in reality it’s been not one day but almost 10,000 days — 27 years. That number staggers my imagination.
And what changes have occurred in all that time? I’ve grown in ways I never imagined when I looked into the future 27 years ago. Many are quite positive, but many have me living far beneath my dreams. Comparing what I saw for myself then with what I see in myself now reveals vast differences that beg the questions: How did I get here? How did it come to this?
Many LDS singles ask themselves similar questions as they take stock of themselves. They live far beneath the dreams they had when they were younger. And with the world becoming ever more chaotic, they wonder how those dreams have any chance of coming true.
Much lies outside your own individual power to change, but much more remains within it. As President Nelson reminds us,
That last part — how you spend your time each day — is key. Your best life is the collection of results you desire. Results come only from action. And every action, in order to exist, must occupy space and time. You can’t change the past, and the future’s always a day away. All you have is here and now. And it turns out that’s all you need to begin living your best life.
It’s time to start moving
Far too many of us hold ourselves back from our best life. We focus on the obstacles instead of the opportunities. We keep looking for and listening to excuses instead of ways to move forward. And without forward motion, we’ll never develop the momentum we need to push through tough times.
Some hear these arguments and decide to fool themselves. They leverage lessons from their past to formulate brilliant plans for moving forward. They feel good about themselves after spending inordinate amounts of time planning and preparing. But those good feelings never translate into a new life. Their actions don’t deliver the results of their dreams but rather trick their minds into thinking they’ve done something substantial when in reality they haven’t.
President Nelson understood that situation. He taught,
It’s forward momentum that keeps you moving from one success to another. Momentum carries you through life’s rough seasons and makes your dreams come true. And the only way to get momentum is to start moving and then keep moving. Now is the time to start moving.
Right now is the time
Everything we talk about on Joy in the Journey Radio is meant to help LDS singles live their best life. And all of it will mean absolutely nothing for you unless you wield your power of agency to do what you can with what you have right here right now.
All you have is this moment. When you waste it, nothing in your life changes, at least not for the better. So don’t waste it. Begin gathering momentum now. Live within your covenants more completely now. Make more time for the temple now. Take more action towards the results you want in life now.
Now is the time because now is the only time you have. Once the present becomes the past, you can’t change it. And when you allow enough present moments to become past regrets you can’t change, your present life falls far below your dreams, leaving you to wonder how you ever got there to begin with.
Don’t wait, and don’t doubt yourself. Start taking action towards your best life. Now is the time. When you diligently take advantage of each present moment, they’ll become past successes that taken together will lift you into your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Perhaps most importantly, it really made me think about the perspective driving many LDS dating decisions and the resulting challenge it creates. Far too many filter decisions about not just who to date but who they talk to through the perspective of the natural man or natural woman. Seen only through those eyes, we’ll never see the truth that everyone is beautiful.
A demanding lifetime pursuit
Let’s start with a disclaimer: In the words of Indiana Jones’s father, “I’m as human as the next man.” Conquering the natural man or the natural woman takes a lifetime, so we shouldn’t expect anyone to be completely covenant men or covenant women during their dating journey.
But we can expect improvement. When I compare the man I am today with the man I was 10 or 20 years ago, those men were definitely more aligned with the natural man. I’m not completely a covenant man, but I’ve made gains in that direction, and I’ve got the receipts to back that up.
That said, I still have work to do. That’s part of the value I gained from watching this documentary. When I first saw a full body shot of Lizzie, I recoiled. I wasn’t seeing the beautiful soul of the person within, just the shell of flesh and bone that encased it. The portion of the natural man still within me found that shell repulsive.
A common blind spot
I’d expect most LDS singles to respond similarly because that’s how most people respond. Natural men and women see only the exterior. Those inner qualities of character which have value in eternity have no value to the natural man and natural woman.
When that natural mindset drives dating decisions, LDS singles will always discount worthy potential companions who’d be ideally suited for them because those options aren’t “top shelf.” They could be sitting next to the very person who could make them maximally happy and never know it.
Worse still, most LDS singles aren’t even aware of how natural their mindset is. They equate conquering the natural mindset with keeping the standards, and because they keep the standards, they don’t see themselves as a natural man or woman. That self-image blinds them from seeing how well their dating decisions actually align with the natural mindset. And it’s that mindset obstructing their dating journey. They’re blind, and they think they see just fine.
A more joyful view
That’s where this documentary enters stage right. Natural men value youth and external beauty. Lizzie has neither, so of course she’s single. But as I listened to her story with an open mind and an open heart, I experienced a transformation. I began seeing more and more the beauty living inside her. And that inner beauty colored my view of her exterior. After an hour and 18 minutes, what at first seemed repulsive had become welcome in my inner circle.
What changed it for me can change it for LDS singles in their dating journey. Far too many insist so much on having “top shelf” they won’t even give the time of day to anyone perceived to be less. But the truth is everyone is more. And you’ll never see that vision until you embrace an open mind and heart while spending sufficient time with someone.
Everyone is beautiful. Acting on that belief at first is an act of faith. You act as though you see that truth even though you don’t. Pressing forward in that walk of faith, eventually you reap the reward of your diligence and patience as the vision opens up to you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Faith clarifies vision
We all judge too much by what we see directly around us, and this feature especially manifests itself in dating. Far too often LDS singles look around for someone they’d like to date and, not seeing what they define as acceptable, quickly become discouraged. That scene repeated often enough leads to hopelessness in the future.
Bright futures start with faith. Faith helps you see what’s there but not readily seen. In the context of dating, this could mean, first, you don’t see that acceptable candidates around you because they aren’t doing what you normally do and going where you normally go. When you branch out and see new vistas, you’re more likely to cross paths with them. The world is a bigger place than your own backyard.
Second, faith helps you see the person you discounted may be the one you’re looking for. So many singles insist on having the “perfect” partner that they reject knowing many less-than-top-shelf candidates who’d make good partners. Falsely assuming only the best can produce joy in life has kept and continues to keep many LDS singles single long than need be.
Action feeds power
Lack of hope in the future often attends feeling powerless. A focus there will lead only to despair. To change your reality, you must change your focus. Instead of focusing on the “evidence” for why what you want won’t happen, seek out reasons to believe.
Those reasons to believe will be easier to embrace when you take proper action. I’ve never seen anyone busy working to make his or her dreams a reality feeling powerless, and neither have you. That’s because it’s impossible. When you busy yourself with the business of doing, you’re so immersed in evidence of your own power you can’t feel powerless. It’s when you’re not doing anything that feelings of powerlessness can take hold.
Start feeling that power and savoring your life by listing what makes up your best life. If you could have your best life, what would it look like? What would you be doing? Put those activities on your list. Then start to fill your calendar with those activities.
So if you think your best life involves horse riding, great. When are you going to ride that horse? If you think your best life involves learning how to crochet, great. When will you learn that? Whatever you want your life to be, start doing what you can to live that life. Don’t let what you lack prevent you from embracing — and finding joy in — what you already have.
Partner with Him
While you’re making that list, don’t forget to partner with the Lord. When you include Him in crafting your best life, you’ll get there much more easily than if you go it alone. He might even help you see that what you think is your best life really isn’t. Make the course correction He suggests, and you’ll not leave any joy on the table.
The key to maximizing joy in life is focusing on fundamentals. Far too many LDS singles focus on finding ways to cross paths with that special someone, all the while forgetting that if they aren’t agreeable enough, no quantity of paths crossed will produce the desired result. When you focus first on living your best life as much as you can, you make yourself more agreeable and your life more inviting. That life is also the more joyful one, and that joy will only increase your attractiveness to a potential companion.
The future really is as bright as your faith. When you focus on fundamentals, you can take more effective action. More effective action produces more effective results. More effective results will help you feel more powerful and desirous to do more, and thus the cycle continues ever upward. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
My release augments my discouragement with the attitude my stake has for singles. The older couple serving in place of our non-existing reps were organizing an occasional activity before their release. Now there’s nothing. How can I believe my leaders really care about singles when I don’t see any action on the singles front?
Now enter my philosophical moment. Reflecting on much of what I share here on Joy in the Journey Radio, I’ve seen the need to take my own medicine. It’s time to own my life, and the first step is acknowledging the truth: I don’t have the results I want because of choices I made. In the end, what you think, what you give, and what you are determine what you get in life.
What you think
We often highlight on this program the connection between how you think and the results you get. As my recent experience shows, it’s one that is all too easy to forget. Having that idea infused into your nature isn’t the factory default setting.
That natural default is to blame the outside — blame people outside of yourself, blame outside circumstances, blame whatever lies outside your control. But by placing responsibility for your life outside yourself, you also place outside yourself the power to change that life. That’s why you’ll never have your best life if you don’t own your life. Until you take responsibility for all the results you have in your life, you’ll never wield the power you need to change your life into your best life.
And you have that power within you, for the Lord has declared it (D&C 58:28). Once you own your life, you’ll not only see that power you have within you more clearly but also wield it more effectively. Thinking in those terms always leads to better results in life, no matter your circumstances.
What you give
Once you start acting on more effective thinking, you’ll see your life begin to change, starting with the way you feel inside. The more you act on more effective thinking, the more effective your actions become at producing the results you want to see in life and the more you find yourself giving.
That shouldn’t surprise any long time members of our audience. We’ve often discussed our definition of happiness — giving your all to all the right things for you. The key part of that definition is that first word: giving. So many chase after having whatever they think will make them happy, and all of them sooner or later face the truth of their unhappiness. Happiness is not about having. It’s about giving.
And true to the Law of Restoration, life always returns to you what you give to it. What you send out always comes back. So if you want to get more out of your life, give more to it. And the definition of happiness we’ve discussed so often here is the key to what you give — your all to all the right things for you.
What you are
When you consistently take more effective actions bolstered by more effective thinking long enough, it becomes a habit. That habit played out long enough becomes your character. You become what you consistently do.
We all have the potential to be great, but whether or not you reach that potential depends entirely on the choices you make. You have the power within you to make those choices. It’s called agency, and you begin to wield that power by owning your life. The first step is acknowledging you don’t have the results you want because of choices you made in what you’ve thought, given, and been.
What you think, what you give, and what you are determine what you get in life. You get to choose all three, and it’s never too late to make a better choice. So don’t wait. Make the better choice now! When you own your life and choose to be more effective in what you think, what you give, and what you are, you’ll be on the road to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
As I carefully re-read Elder Ochoa’s address in preparation for the broadcast, I see I had assumptions that led me to a different conclusion than what Elder Ochoa likely intended. When you approach your life with the right assumptions, you can ask “Is the plan working?” and know that it is.
Recognize your faulty assumptions
My assumptions began to influence my thinking from the start. When Elder Ochoa mentioned a young returned missionary whose life wasn’t working out the way he expected, I instantly assumed that young man was single.
It seemed right to think that. Increasingly LDS singles aren’t marrying at all, and those who do marry do so later. Thus, many LDS singles wonder how the plan of happiness can be working for them when they seem shut out from the blessings of happiness they desire. In that light, Elder Ochoa’s address could’ve been addressing LDS singles when he said,
But Elder Ochoa never identified that discontent young man as single. He may have been single, but he also could have been married. We simply don’t know because Elder Ochoa never said. That’s important, because my assumption the man was single led me to an erroneous conclusion about Elder Ochoa’s address.
Distinguish between two plans
Here’s the real problem: There’s two plans we’re talking about here. The first is God’s plan for His children that spans eternity. The second is our plan for our lives here in mortality. With both plans intended to result in our happiness, it’s easy to get them confused.
Many LDS singles do in fact confuse them because of faulty assumptions behind their thinking. The largest of these is the idea that righteous blessings result from righteous behavior. The faulty connection assumed here provides particular challenge when the blessing sought is marriage, a blessing not predicated entirely or even largely on righteous behavior. Notwithstanding, those singles who chose to assume that faulty connection in their thinking are more likely to turn tone deaf when they hear messages like this:
Many LDS singles who falsely assume righteousness leads to marriage hear that and respond, “What are you talking about? I’m trying to honor my covenants, so of course I’m following Jesus. But I still don’t have my desired blessings, so how can you say the plan works?” Again, we’re talking about two different plans here. Just because our plan for mortality isn’t working doesn’t mean God’s plan for eternity isn’t also.
Focus on the right plan
Elder Ochoa doesn’t address that distinction. His solution for people who feel the plan of happiness isn’t working for them is to act in faith, turn to Jesus, and humble themselves. That’s a great approach when you’re talking about God’s plan that spans eternity. But it offers little to those largely concerned with receiving a blessing in this life.
That’s why my faulty assumption at the start of his remarks led me to conclude falsely. Every time Elder Ochoa speaks of “the plan of happiness,” he’s talking about God’s plan that spans eternity. But my faulty assumption at the start got me focused on receiving a blessing in mortality. And with that focus, I couldn’t connect with Elder Ochoa’s real message.
Is the plan working? That depends on which plan you’re talking about. If you’re talking about the plan you make for yourself for happiness in mortality, then it may or may not be working, depending on your assumptions. But if you’re talking about the plan God made for His children to be happy in eternity, then yes, that plan is working great so long as we make and keep every sacred covenant we can.
When you question your assumptions and get clear about distinguishing between God’s plan for life in eternity and your plan for life in this world, you can better feel the power of perspective helping you to let go of everything holding you back from enjoying each moment irrespective of your circumstances. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
That relaxed attitude was no match for the “Yeah, but”s that always intervene when we’re stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone. “You should work on that dream” confronts “Yeah, but it’s been a long day and I’m too tired” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. “You should finish that task” meets “Yeah, but I’ve got bills to pay [or insert other work that appears to take priority]” and you don’t make any progress on your goals and dreams. So if you want to move towards your goals and dreams, don’t be a butthead!
Leave your comfort zone
So long as we stay within our comfort zones, we’ll always have average lives of mediocrity. And that’s the way our brain likes it. How do I know? Quite simply, it’s designed into our biological hardwiring.
Anciently, venturing too far outside your comfort zone could get you killed. Thus, the forces of evolutionary biology adjusted the design of our internal controls. Our biological hardwiring now provides a check point if we go too far beyond the borders of safety. “You don’t really want to go this way” becomes the persuasion of the moment attended by a natural pull back within our comfort zone. It’s all designed to keep us safe.
But staying safe will never result in your best life because staying safe leads only to mediocrity. Now, I’m not saying we need to be a reckless version of Evel Knievel. What I am saying is playing it safe every time never got anyone anywhere. Your best life isn’t found inside your comfort zone. If it were, you’d have your best life because it’d be easy to find and you wouldn’t be dreaming of something better.
Turn knowledge into action
None of this is new to me; I’ve known all of it for years. So why then have I kept slipping? Why hasn’t the knowledge of how my biological hardwiring works translated into forward-propelling action? It’s comforting to know that even with all my slipping the ball’s at the one-yard line, but even still. why isn’t it in the in-zone?
I simply haven’t been vigilant watching for lapses. Our biological hardwiring has us operating mostly out of habit, so it’s easy for eyes to drift away from watching out for potential slips. And those opportunities to slip sneak so silently upon us that not watching vigilantly essentially invites slips towards our goals and dreams to occur.
Those slips often begin with “Yeah, but.” Without vigilant watching, those “Yeah, but”s come and carry the moment. Each surrender to natural inclination is a vote to stay average. Over time, those votes can aggregate to deliver a life of mediocrity. In this way you can get close to scoring but never actually do.
Adopt a new habit
Can you ever get the “Yeah, but”s out of your head? No, they’re a part of your biological hardwiring. But you can develop habits for confronting those “Yeah, but”s successfully.
Begin by deciding your response in advance. Then write out that response: “When I get told ‘Yeah, but’ X in such-and-such situation, I will Y.” Writing out your response burns it more into your brain so that, when your trigger event occurs, you’re more likely to follow through with your pre-determined response. Once you play that out enough times, you’ll have a new habit that propels you forward to your goals and dreams.
So don’t be a butthead. Don’t just let the waves of life carry you wherever the winds happens to blow. Own your life. Take control. Reject any surrender to “Yeah, but” by setting yourself up to adopt the habits you need to succeed. You’ll find yourself slipping a lot less and scoring wins a lot more on the road to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
There really was nothing wrong with me, but there was something wrong with my thinking. Despite seeming natural, these sorts of comparisons with others are never fair. And I wasn’t alone there; many LDS singles unwittingly compare themselves to others. But you should compare you with you and no one else.
Understand how you’re built
Comparing yourself to others is inherently unfair. We all have different backgrounds, different knowledge, different experiences, different ways of seeing the world. Comparing yourself with others is like comparing apples and oranges. They’re both fruits, but beyond that they have few similarities.
Yet recognizing that no good comes from that comparison doesn’t stop anyone from doing it. Why does it seem so natural to compare ourselves with others? Why are we so prone to make these comparisons despite their inherent unfairness?
The answer is biology. We’re all biologically hardwired with a basic desire to be loved and accepted. Since like begets like, that desire translates into a desire to be normal, to fit in, to belong. And so part of our biological hardwiring assesses what’s normal by comparing ourselves with those around us.
Think of that system as a sort of thermostat. We set our “temperature” to match the “temperature” of those around us so we’ll be like them and therefore fit in. This is why fat people who hang out with fat people find it hard to lose weight and fat people who hang out with skinny people find it easier to lose weight. In both cases, biology prompts the individual to be more like those whom that individual spends substantial time.
Leverage how you’re built
The same biological hardwiring works in any situation, including the one in which LDS singles feel like Moroni as they watch their friends leave singles life one by one. They feel out of place because they’re not like those around them. Time’s progressing, but they don’t seem to be.
How do you deal with such situations? If your biological hardwiring has you wanting to be like those around you, and you find yourself stuck and unable to be like those around you, are you doomed to a miserable existence? My response? Only if you want to be.
You can’t change your biological hardwiring, but you can redirect its influence. First, recognize both your propensity to compare and the inherent unfairness in comparing yourself with others. Then accept comparisons only between you and you. Every time you find yourself comparing you with anyone else, stop, remind yourself how unfair that comparison is, and then compare you with you.
Essentially, you compare the person you are today with the person you were previously. It may be the person you were last year, last month, last week, yesterday, or even earlier today. But if you can see a reasonable improvement between the previous and present you, you’re making progress. And that’s what really matters.
Grow into something more
Of course, simply making progress doesn’t necessarily satisfy the basic need to belong, especially if everyone one around you isn’t comparing them with them. But that just highlights the need to choose with caution those with whom you choose to spend your time. Maximize your time around others who’ll help you compare you with you, and minimize your time around others who won’t.
In the end, it won’t matter whether you did this or that within whatever time frame as much as whether the you at the end is better than any previous you, because that will mean you made progress along the eternal path. And making progress along that path will mean your time spent in mortality was worthwhile.
Stop comparing yourself with others. They don’t have the same combination of background, knowledge, experience, and perspective you have. For all we share in common, our individual experience in mortality really is individual. So compare you with you and no one else. You’ll turn your focus more on making the progress you need to make, and that focus will then determine a reality of progress. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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