Many LDS singles find themselves similarly situated. They can feel themselves abused by the vicissitudes of life, be they setbacks in society or disappointments in dating or disillusionment in the death of a loved one or the lingering loneliness of living alone or the ever present responsibility of raising children alone. Many yearn to break free and live independent of their challenges.
If you feel this way, know that you can break free. You’ll have to work through a war of your own just as the Founding Fathers had to work through theirs, but in the end you can stand tall having given birth to a new you you’ve defended and championed. With Independence Day approaching, you can celebrate your independence and let today be the first day of a new you.
Envision your new you
Believe it or not, there’s a new you inside of you waiting to be set free. That new you can help you feel more joyful and alive than ever before. But it won’t ever happen if you don’t believe it’s there.
That’s the first thing tripping up most LDS singles wanting to change their lives. They refuse to believe. They persist in holding faulty assumptions that hold them back. They insist the future can’t be different than their past, or they just aren’t good enough, or all the good ones are gone, or whatever else their brain can use to convince them to maintain the status quo.
In short, they don’t change how they think. They continue whatever habits they presently have that deliver their present reality. Even when they learn how their biological hardwiring is designed to maintain their status quo, they don’t translate that knowledge into action. They don’t change how they think.
That doesn’t have to be you. There is a new you inside of you, but you’ll never birth that new you into your real life until you change your way of thinking.
Defend your new you
When you change how you think, it’s easier to change your actions and with them the results you get in life. But that’s just the first step. Like the Founding Fathers who didn’t get a new nation simply by declaring it, you must fight to defend your new you.
Your first and most formidable enemy will be yourself. Your brain is naturally hardwired to maintain a status quo. And your brain does this by operating out of habit. The current habits are consistent with your current results, so unless you embrace different habits, you’ll never get different results.
Your second and not quite as formidable but still threatening enemy is other people. We’re all biologically hardwired to get our sense of normal from those around us. And we all want to be normal. So when you embrace a new you, you threaten other people’s sense of normal. They intuitively feel the need to change themselves just to be normal, and most don’t want to do the work that involves. They find it easier to bring you down so they can feel normal just as they are.
Champion your new you
Defending your new you is no small task. It’s a constant daily fight. And it’s a fight that you’ll eventually lose unless you champion the new you.
You must celebrate your victories, no matter how small. You must surround yourself with people who are acting in accordance with the changes you want to see in yourself, people who’ll celebrate your victories with you and encourage you to achieve and become even more. You must cheer the self-improvement lifestyle that will maintain your new you.
This Independence Day, celebrate your independence. Let today be the first day of a new you. Envision and believe in that new you. Defend that new you, and champion it. You’ll find resistance along that path, but you’ll also find the satisfaction that comes from progressing towards the fulness of your potential. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
What impressed me about Sister Porter’s approach was her use of singles to exemplify her ultimate message of the valuable contribution LDS singles can make in their world. It’s a message we’ve been promulgating here at Joy in the Journey Radio by encouraging LDS singles to adopt a personal ministry. We all can powerfully influence those around us for good, and we’ll make that difference in others’ lives when we heed the lessons at the well.
You determine your future
I love the introduction Sister Porter gives to her remarks. She was happily married and serving with her husband in the Church in Eastern Europe. Then her husband’s health took a turn for the worse, and in short order she found herself single.
I don’t know if she actually thought of herself as single. She didn’t mention that in her address, and I know many who’ve lost a spouse to death still consider themselves married by virtue of their temple covenants. If your spouse is not in this life living with you, you may be married for the purposes of eternity, but for the purposes of this life, you’re single.
You also have a wonderful opportunity to effect much good. It starts when you realize your past and present circumstances don’t determine your future. In referencing her unexpected return to singlehood, Sister Porter shared,
The woman at Jacob’s well exemplified this attitude, which applies just as much to men as it does to women. She did not allow her past or present condition to determine her future. She chose to testify of the Savior, and her choice blessed many others.
You have the power
Likewise, LDS singles can chose to embrace a new future by making the higher choice. Too often LDS singles play the victim, thinking that their past is prologue and nothing they do will make any difference.
But that’s true for you only if you decide it is. You’ve been blessed with agency, the second most underappreciated gift of God. And it’s the second most underappreciated gift of God because so many simply don’t realize the power that’s in them because of this gift.
Sister Porter recognized it. After quoting D&C 58:26-28 and emphasizing that last phrase in the verses — “for the power is in them” — she declared,
You’re not in this alone! No matter your past or present circumstances, you can choose to let your light shine, share your goodness with others, and put a dent in the universe. With the creator of heaven and earth at your side, why choose anything else?
You make the difference
This is how great ends come out of small beginnings. The Lord is the Master Gardener, the one best suited to help you grow into the fullness of your potential. He can transform the seemingly meager contributions you make into extraordinary differences.
Sister Porter shared three examples from the Master’s teachings that demonstrate this effect, one involving salt, one involving leaven, and one involving light. Each of these items in even seemingly small amounts makes a tremendous difference in their separate contexts.
Likewise, though your efforts may seem small and inconsequential, you can make a tremendous difference in your world. Your salt can flavor the lives of others, your leaven can lighten their loads, and your light can disperse the darkness surrounding them. As Sister Porter taught,
Heed the lessons at the well and make the higher choice. When you do, the Savior can turn your seemingly small service into the difference others need in their lives. In easing the burdens of others, you’ll find your own burdens eased. In helping others grow, you’ll find your own growth. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
The gospel has the answers
I freely admit my ignorance. I’ve never been married or a parent, so I don’t fully understand the challenges of single parenting. But I do understand singleness and recognize several principles Brother Romney shared that apply to all LDS singles, regardless of age or circumstance.
First, and perhaps most importantly, the restored gospel holds the solutions to life’s problems. You’ll see many of those solutions only after adopting the perspectives the restored gospel encourages. Far too many LDS singles think a solution will eliminate their problem so they can live more comfortably. Often real solutions instead allow you to leverage your problems so you can grow and become more than you were before.
Brother Romney brought out that perspective beautifully. The hope, joy, and strength which he found as a single father came from “small, simple things” like family prayer, expressions of encouragement, magnifying callings, and seeking direction from inspired leaders. Our Heavenly Father has a plan of happiness for you. That plan might not resemble the one you’d make, but His plan will best help you attain maximum happiness.
You’re not in it alone
In his article, Brother Romney raised an excellent question: “I was a father trying to raise daughters on my own. . . . How could I help them prepare to become women?” This variation on the more common theme of “How can I meet the challenge when I don’t seem fit for it?” has troubled many LDS singles.
Yet the answer again lies in perspective. No matter your situation, you’re in this alone only if you want to be. Brother Romney found many resources of support for his situation, including family members, neighbors, and ministering brothers and Church leaders. We all have more resources than we think we do. We just need to apply the Savior’s teaching: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).
Brother Romney rightly mentions that “not everyone will experience this same level of support.” Wards are people, and people are all at different points of progression along the eternal path. Some just haven’t yet progressed that far.
Notwithstanding, the Lord won’t leave you comfortless. He’s provided people around you, sometimes in and sometimes out of the Church, who’ll help in some way. You just need ask, seek, and knock. As Brother Romney acknowledges, “until we let others know the gaps we see . . . those individuals may not understand how they can help.” The squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.
The Lord knows you intimately
Ultimately, the Lord won’t abandon you. He loves you too much to do that. Not only will He walk by your side, the Lord will provide a strength to persevere only He can provide.
The same Lord Who’s assembled a plan for your maximum happiness, restored His gospel offering needed perspective, and provided resources to support you is also intimately aware of you. He knows what you need in the moment you need it.
He knows how overwhelming your specific combination of challenges and circumstances can feel. He submitted Himself to all things “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Through the enabling power of His Atonement, Christ can help you do what you otherwise could not.
No matter the challenge, whether it be raising daughters as a single dad, raising sons as a single mother, or simply finding joy in LDS singles life, you can partner with the Lord and leverage your challenges to grow and become something more than you were before. When you do, you’ll grow so much you’ll transcend your challenges. What once seemed overwhelming will be no more than an afterthought. And all along the way, you’ll feel the strength of the Lord abiding with you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Attend to the fundamentals
Understanding the two parts of making a dating connection is fundamental. The first part involves being agreeable enough. The second involves crossing paths with someone who’s agreeable enough to you and who thinks you’re agreeable enough.
This is where many LDS singles put the cart before the horse. They completely skip over making any changes in themselves to become more agreeable, focusing instead on finding the right singles ward or attending the right activity or joining the right online dating site. They jump ahead to the point of crossing paths with the right person.
Here’s the problem with that approach. Even if you do cross paths with the right person, that person won’t connect with you if you’re not agreeable enough. The fundamentals of the dating journey always operate regardless of whether we attend to them or not. You won’t progress to any stage of the dating journey without the agreement you need to be in that stage, and you don’t make agreements if you’re not agreeable enough. Cross paths with the perfect companion and it won’t make any difference to your dating journey because you won’t secure the agreement you need to progress without being agreeable enough.
How the brain works
Accepting the truth that most of us aren’t agreeable enough as we are now is a hard pill to swallow. We want to think we don’t need to change to be good enough, and it’s because we’re biologically hardwired to think that way.
The brain is designed to maintain a status quo, and it does this by establishing habits. That’s why 95% of what we do everyday is out of habit; habits help to maintain a status quo. The brain will dream of a “better” future; dreaming of a “better” future doesn’t affect the status quo. But when it comes to taking action towards that dream, our biological hardwiring kicks in. Taking action means change, and change threatens the status quo. And so our brain, designed to maintain a status quo, fights the change.
It usually starts with “Yeah, but ...” self talk. You feel the dream, and then your brain replies, “Yeah, but that’s too hard.” “Yeah, but you can’t do that.” “Yeah, but it’ll never work.” “Yeah, but you’ll get hurt.” “Yeah, but ...” on and on and on.
Put first things first
And so it’s easy to believe someone should just love us for who we are with no change required on our part. That belief maintains our status quo, encouraging us to skip ahead to how we’re going to meet that special someone. We focus on that second part of making a dating connection without considering the first part. We put the cart before the horse.
How much progress do you think you’ll make with that? The horse can’t pull from behind and doesn’t push very well. Putting the horse ahead of the cart promotes better progress. Likewise, you’ll make better progress in dating when you attend to making yourself more agreeable before focusing on finding ways to cross paths with that special someone.
As I said earlier, the fundamentals of the dating journey operate whether or not we attend to them. They even operate whether or not we know about them. Dating is not only hard but confusing when you don’t know the fundamentals. The different parts tend to work better when you place them in the proper order.
So don’t put the cart before the horse. If you aren’t agreeable enough as you are now, then you need to spend less time looking for ways to cross paths with a potential partner and more time improving yourself to become more agreeable to a potential partner. Master the fundamentals of what you’re trying to do, and you’ll find more success in your efforts. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
And that’s the rub. Bettering our position to receive a miracle requires work, and most of us don’t want to work for our miracles. We just want them to appear. Yet miracles still follow universal law. Appropriate work on our part aligns us with the universal law governing the miracles we seek. That often involves delivering value, because at the end of the day, it’s all about value.
Focus on fundamentals
So many of our desired miracles involve other people using their agency to advantage us. The miracle of companionship is one such example. Yet this miracle like all others follows universal law, which begs the question: What laws govern the occurrence of this miracle?
The answer resides in the fundamentals of the dating journey. Those who align themselves with the fundamentals position themselves to receive that miracle more easily. Those who don’t stumble and trip up over and over again.
Stepping back and looking at the fundamentals, it’s easy to see they’re all about value. Arriving at any stage of the dating journey requires an agreement, and you secure any agreement by being agreeable enough. That means providing sufficient value. At the end of the day, it really is all about value.
Do the work
And that’s where work comes in. We can change ourselves and our environment to become more agreeable by offering more value and thereby position ourselves to receive more easily the miracle we seek. And we’re not in this alone. When we partner with the Lord, He’ll help us (1) to know what work we need to do and (2) to do that work.
We start by understanding what value we offer today. Those who already offer great value have less to do, whereas those offering less value have more work to do. Either way, we should seek input from others when assessing the value we offer. We’re all inherently biased to overestimate the value we offer. That bias blinds us from many of the imperfections diminishing our value. Input from others combined with counseling with the Lord can help us overcome our inherent bias and blindness.
So when that 400-pound single adult partners with the Lord and considers input received from others, the realization comes that losing weight and taking better care of one’s body will ease the arrival of the companionship miracle. Partnering with the Lord, that single adult seeks and follows guidance to assemble a plan and then involves the Lord in executing that plan. Losing weight then becomes not just a physical change but a spiritual adventure experienced step by step at the Lord’s side with the intention of easing a miracle into one’s life. Can we not feel the increased power behind this approach to securing miracles? It all starts with a focus on value.
Hold the line
As we work to improve the value we offer, we need to remember value has different meanings in different contexts. We also shouldn’t forget everything’s interconnected.
For instance, value in the dating context isn’t value in the eternal context. We all already have immense value in eternity as children of God, but we all have different value when it comes to dating. The value of an attribute differs with context, but low value in one particular context often means a lack of attributes valued in that context.
When we see ourselves lacking the valued attributes in the context of a desired miracle, we shouldn’t surrender to despair. Instead, we should partner with the Lord and get to work. We should look for invigoration in meeting the challenge and work with faith that, with the all-powerful Lord at our side, we can make any miracle happen. Making gains in one area of our lives can strengthen us in other areas, giving us a further boost towards making our miracle happen.
At the end of the day, it’s all about value. Looking through that lens can provide a clarity of vision regarding needed changes. As we make those changes in partnership with the Lord, we can feel more confidence as we ease the miracles we seek into our lives and more gratitude when those miracles finally appear. And that will bring us more joy in our 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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