Laugh to live
They’ll also need an experience to move them in that direction. Think Ebenezer Scrooge here. He was all business and no fun. But it wasn’t just Christmas Day that turned him around, because he constantly turned his heart away from the joy that day could bring with his oft repeated “Humbug!” It was the experiences with the spirit of his former business partner followed by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future that turned him around.
And one of the first things he did after resolving to keep Christmas always in his heart was to laugh.
There’s a lesson there for all of us. Laughter isn’t just an option in life but essential to true enjoyment in life. You need to laugh to live — really live and relish life. You need to laugh because your life really does depend on it.
Built to laugh
That may seem extreme to some, almost as extreme as being all business and no fun. Yet some thought upon the subject will lead to the inescapable conclusion your life really does depend on laughter.
After all, what is your life? If you define life in terms of a mediocre existence, then you might make the case that your life doesn’t depend on laughter.
But is that the life you really want? Do you really want to live on autopilot, just going through the same motions over and over, day after day? Don’t you want a life you can savor and truly relish?
Of course you do. You keep feeling the tug of that dream because you’re biologically hardwired to live it. We are built to be social creatures, and laughter connects us with other people. It’s also a natural stress reliever. Certainly your best life will enable you to manage the stress everyone encounters in life.
Taken in moderation
Of course, anything taken to excess is usually detrimental. Laughter is no exception. Taken too far, we can forget ourselves. I’ve seen social environments get so jovial people say and do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Moderation is the key. Taken in moderation, laughter can spread joy, hope, and positive energy. It says we don’t have to choose between business and fun; we can have both. We can attend to our responsibilities, make serious progress towards our dreams and goals, and enjoy ourselves along the way.
Part of that result comes from incorporating that enjoyment into what we do. Appropriately placed, laughter can both promote and manifest that enjoyment. But I believe another part lies in setting aside time with the purpose of experiencing laughter in our lives.
Devoted with a day
That’s what’s really great about Belly Laugh Day. It’s a day devoted to laughter. And it’s perfectly placed in the middle of winter when skies overhead in many areas are typically gray and gloomy. That is, in fact, what inspired the creation of the holiday to begin with.
Whether or not you know about it, and regardless of how you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) it, Belly Laugh Day provides an excursion into laughter. You may be an Ebenezer Scrooge who is all business and no fun, or you maybe you’re stressed under so many demands at present you feel more like crying than laughing. Either way, celebrating Belly Laugh Day can teach and remind us we need to laugh to live. Your life really does depend on it.
How will you incorporate more laughter into your life? Will you read a funny book? Or watch a funny movie? Maybe you’ll join the audience for a stand-up comic. However you take your elixir, a little laughter can lighten your load. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Embrace the new you
But automation isn’t all roses. It keeps us inside a “safe” zone where we can roam freely without fear of pain or other potential pesky problems like death. As great as that sounds, growth is never pain- or problem-free. If we don’t step outside our comfort zone, we’ll never approach our potential, let alone achieve it.
Fortunately, you have choice. Yours need not be a mediocre life on autopilot. You can be phenomenal, and it starts when you step outside your comfort zone to embrace the new you.
Pay the price
Admittedly, the prospect of stepping outside one’s comfort zone literally terrifies many of us. The mind quickly presents memories of past pains that linger on into the present. It’s like our brain is saying, “Hey, remember this? You don’t want to go there; you might get hurt again!”
And that’s true. You might. But here’s another piece of truth: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can stay inside your little hobble with its practically guaranteed pain-free life. And you’ll live that life first with the repressed yearning of wanting more and then with the regurgitating regrets of never responding to that call.
Again, the good news is you have choice. If you want to have or be something more, you can have or be it. You just need to be willing to pay the price in full and in advance to get it.
That’s how everything is. If you want to see the show, you need a ticket. But you’ll never get the ticket until you pay the price in full and in advance. Only then do you get admitted to the show.
Push through the pain
And that’s where most people get off the train. That’s why most New Year’s resolutions don’t even last a week, let alone the whole year or even the first month. The vast majority of us collide with that eternal truth and decide we’d rather be comfortable. And so we revert back to our old habits and spend the rest of the year wishing we had a better life only to repeat the whole cycle again at the start of the next year.
Seriously, is that the life you want? Do you want to go through the same motions over and over, always wondering why you can’t ever seem to escape that rut of failure? Are you sick and tired of always getting less than what you want? If you want a different life, you can have it. You just need to be willing to pay the price to get it.
For many, that point doesn’t come until they get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Only after that moment do they have resolve to push through the pain of growth, achieve their dreams, and become the embodiment of their potential.
Take the risk
And yeah, it’s scary. You very well could get hurt again. But you’ll never see the new you emerge unless you’re willing to risk.
Take love, for example. Many burned in a romantic relationship retreat back to their hobble where they play the turtle in a shell. These people will never know the love they dream about because they’re acting contrary to the nature of what they want.
You can’t have the amazing love we all dream about having without trust. And trust wouldn’t need to exist unless there was something to lose. Without opening yourself to be vulnerable, there’s no need for trust. And without trust, there’s no way to have the deep love we all want in life.
Everything else worthwhile in life — the elements comprising your best life — operate on the same principle. To achieve success, you must be willing to risk failure and all its attendant heartache, pain, and other assorted problems. You must pay the price to get your ticket to the show.
And what a difference it makes when you do. You can embrace a new you. When you step outside your comfort zone and risk failure, you can experience the growth that will set you on the path to your best life. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Have a deliberate faith
I actually felt something enticing me to read it as I looked at the different options before me, but for some reason I can’t fully explain, I shied away from it. At length, not finding the indication I sought elsewhere, I turned to it and began reading. As I read, what I sought was everywhere in spades.
Why I should focus here I have no idea. But as the title of the address implies, when the Lord directs, we should do it. When you think about it, that actually fits perfectly with our discussion last week about walking by faith and journeying with vision.
Adopt a deliberate humility
Elder Clayton begins by describing Mary, the mother of Jesus, at a wedding feast in Cana. When the wine for the feast had been exhausted, Mary turned to Jesus. After a brief consultation, she then instructed the servants, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it” (John 2:5). They did, and thus we have the miracle we know of turning water into wine.
Elder Clayton then described Mary’s original insertion into the Savior’s story when the angel Gabriel announced she would give birth. Mary was of course startled at first. Then as Gabriel began to explain the message he had been sent to deliver, Mary became filled with many questions. But as Elder Clayton explains,
What an amazing example of faith and humility! Instead of insisting to know the end from the beginning before taking the first step, Mary simply submits her will to the Lord. How many of us would do likewise? How many of us singles insist on knowing when we will marry and how it will happen before taking the first step towards eternal blessings?
Display a deliberate obedience
We all face challenges in life. And sometimes we get so focused on finding the solutions to our problems that we forget the “simple practices of faith.” Elder Clayton acknowledges these struggles in our lives while at the same time declaring that those simple practices provide the strength we need to confront our challenges.
We hear about those simple practices so often we call them Sunday School answers. And it’s easy to think of those simple practices providing answers only to routine living; they give us a structure for what we do everyday. But when it comes to real living filled with problems that feel unique and have no easy answers, we often want something more than Sunday School answers.
As seemingly unrelated as they may seem to our unique challenges, simple practices of faith are the answer to whatever challenge we face in life. Elder Clayton declared,
“Those who are deliberate about doing the ‘small and simple things’” aren’t living life on autopilot. They consciously choose what they do and why they do it. They consciously choose to be faithful in all the little questions regardless of if or when they get answers to their big ones. That’s the mark of true walking by faith.
Receive deliberate blessings
Adopting this deliberate form of obedience can do more than strengthen us in our moments of trial. It can also open the windows of heaven to unfolding before us the revelation we need to resolve concerns and overcome challenges.
When we think of revelation, certainly the First Vision comes to mind. It’s hard if not impossible to imagine the Restoration happening without the First Vision. But can you imagine the First Vision happening without the simple practices of faith that the boy Joseph Smith practiced before witnessing that marvelous revelation?
Elder Clayton spoke of the connection between the simple practices of faith and the revelation we seek.
Adopting a deliberate humility before the Lord will help us to display a deliberate obedience to all the small acts of righteous living. That in turn will strengthen us in our search for eternal blessings. Consciously choosing to do what the Lord wants us to do today without insisting on having any answers to questions about the future will qualify us to receive the rewards of faith, diligence, and patience. And receiving those rewards will bring us more joy in our journey.
Back in college I prided myself on being able to procrastinate assignments until the last minute and then pull out my magic wand (also known as an all-nighter) and bring home a win. I actually prided myself on being a professional procrastinator!
Then I got older, my metabolism shifted — more than once, I think — and now I just can’t go late night after late night. My body cries out for sleep!
I also find it easier to hearken to that siren voice tempting me to seek instant gratification now at the expense of more worthwhile pursuits. Whenever I succumb, I’ll eventually look around and ask, “How did I end up here, so far beneath what I intended to accomplish?” Procrastination is truly the thief of life.
It’s normal to play the grasshopper fiddling away the summer while the ants labor to prepare for winter. Playing the grasshopper is easy. Playing the part of the ant takes self-discipline and dedication — in short, hard work.
We encounter these struggles with everything in life, including how we live the gospel. For many, being active in the gospel is little more than following a script, a set routine that repeats itself over and over again. But you can’t live life fully on autopilot. Living your best life requires you to choose consciously. That’s the only way you can get real.
I’ve spoken time and again about our need to partner with the Lord. If you read those words, you probably think they sound right. But you won’t actually feel their rightness until you live them.
It’s easy to think, “Yeah, I know that’s what I should do. But I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s the voice of procrastination inviting us along the easy path leading us far beneath what we intend to accomplish.
That’s not the path we extol when we sing, “I need thee every hour.” Every hour includes all the time yet to come tomorrow and all the time we live right now. Is there ever really a time when we don’t need the Lord? Why then wait to partner with Him?
Yes, living life consciously is hard. Resisting that natural tendency to let our autopilot coast us along is hard. But if we do what is easy, life will be hard.
Don’t let any single tomorrow rob you of the fulfillment you could enjoy today. Partner with the Lord now.
Visit your default future
Often it’s easy to procrastinate until tomorrow what we should do today because the cares of the present moment obscure our view of reality. Visiting our default future cuts through those clouds, allowing us to see more clearly and choose more wisely.
Your default future is the one you’ll have if nothing changes. If you keep doing what you’re doing, where will you end up? That is your default future.
What is our default future if we don’t partner with the Lord now? Where does that path lead us? The Lord Himself informs us.
Our default future will be suffering with unmet needs, suffering we can prevent today by partnering with the Lord now and taking counsel from His hand.
Do it now
If we do what is easy, life will be hard. But if we do what is hard, life will be easy. If we partner now with the Lord, do the work required to receive the revelation that can guide our lives, and then follow that counsel, our lives will be easy.
In that scenario, our default future will still be one filled with challenges. But the burden of facing those challenges alone will be lifted from our shoulders. We will have strength to take each next step in our journey. And we will find joy in each of those steps.
Alma the Younger counseled his son,
Partnering with the Lord means He’ll direct us for good, so of course we’ll be lifted up at the last day if we stay on that path. And the best time to start down that path is right now.
Partnering with the Lord now while we’re single will makes it easier to partner with Him when we’re married, because He’ll guide us to that companion we need, one with whom partnering with the Lord is easier. That will make partnering with the Lord even easier when the children come along — and oh, how you will need Him when the children come along!
Don’t let any single tomorrow rob you of the fulfillment you could enjoy today. Partner with the Lord now, and let His counsel light your way. If you do only what is easy, your life will be hard. But if you do what is hard, your life will be easy. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Single doesn't mean deficient
Somehow it seems like the tide of discouragement always comes back into shore. The battle against its waves never stops.
Many LDS singles experience discouragement when confronting the idea that they're somehow deficient because they're single. If you believe this, I’m here to tell you that you're not.
That idea is so inconsistent with the restored gospel of Jesus Christ that we should ship it out of town on the next truck, bus, train, ship, or plane, whichever one leaves first. This insidious belief will rob you of your power to own your life the longer you entertain it, so don’t!
Make conscious choices
Normal human beings compare themselves with others. Certainly Western culture encourages this comparison by insisting that only those on top are truly validated. And our own LDS subculture prizes temple marriage as a rite of passage. The perceived sum of these influences can easily convince anyone that being single means being substandard.
You don’t have to feel that way. You can overcome your challenges more easily when you make conscious choices about what you do and especially about how you think.
Change your reality with your focus
Yes, it bears repeating. Your focus becomes your reality. When you focus on what you don't have, you'll always feel like you just don’t measure up. And if you focus on that message long enough, you'll lose all hope of ever being accepted. Enter depression stage right.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ tells us a very different story. Christ would not have suffered all that He did for “substandard.” He suffered for all because all are worth redeeming. That includes you.
Don't just follow the herd
It’s easy to follow the herd and just think the way everyone else does. But simply following the herd doesn’t usually lead to a life of joy and fulfillment.
Making conscious choices, on the other hand, usually will. When you consciously choose not just what you do but also how you think, you empower yourself to escape a life lived on autopilot and embrace one filled with true joy and meaning.
Being single is simply a status, just like being tall or short or having blue or brown eyes. It has meaning just like any other status but only the meaning that you ascribe to it.
Associating singleness with deficiency has meaning only because you think they go together. Change the way you think about it, and everything associated with it will change also. When you adopt new and different ways of seeing your world, your whole world becomes new and different.
Do what you can wherever you are
You may not have made all the covenants that you want to make. But you don’t have to focus so much on the one you haven’t made that you depreciate the others.
You can strive to make additional covenants with God while still being grateful for the ones you have made already. You can look for opportunities to acquire a new status while taking advantage of the ones your current status offers you.
You can focus on owning your life. You can embrace a reality filled with real purpose and meaning, irrespective of what anyone may say.
Some of the most admired exemplars of faithfulness did exactly that. I’ll tell you about one of them next week. Oh, and here’s the best part: He provided one of the most widely celebrated examples of faithfulness while he was single. See you next week.
Welcome to the new home for my blog.
It all started back in 2012 — 12/12/12 to be exact. I couldn’t let the opportunity to start something on a date like that pass me by. Little did I know that my first year would be training for what you see today. And I’ve changed along the way. Now that my blog has a new home and we’re starting a new year, I thought it only fitting that I establish a few expectations. This first post may turn out to be the longest post I make, so if you aren’t comfy, now is a good time to get there.
First, it's not about me.
When I started my blog, I had some ideas that needed expression. Many of those ideas were in a book about LDS singles that I've been working on since January 2011. In researching how best to publicize the book, I found the ubiquitous advice to start a blog and use it to promote the book.
But that doesn’t work for me.
See, I started with that idea. And I found along the way that it led me to make everything about me. I felt the tendency to make outrageous comments to drive more traffic or to write for search engine robots to increase page ranking. But things like that don’t matter. It’s people that matter, and it's relationships with people that matter most.
That’s why I started writing my book in the first place.
It’s a longer story that I can share later if you’re interested. Bottom line = I wanted to create something that would help the growing LDS singles population confront and conquer the challenges of LDS singles life.
So I’m turning conventional wisdom on its head.
Writers use blogs as marketing tools to promote books. To me, that’s all backwards. I intend my book to support the blog. And I see the blog as a platform for changing the culture within the Church. We need to get more serious about building Zion. A big part of that means changing how we think about what it means to be single in the Church. Too many LDS singles feel like second class citizens in the Church of Mormon Families Who Sometimes Talk about Christ when they should feel like equal members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the culture will never change if we don’t do anything.
We need to start having a conversation about LDS singles life, one that encourages all of us to change the way we think about what it means to be single in the Church. There are changes that marrieds need to make and many more changes that singles need to make. We need to support one another in these changes.
That means we have to cut the crap and speak the truth.
I’ve been single now for almost 20 years. That’s two decades. So I’m tired of all the high school games and other associated crap that I’ve dealt with in that time period. I want real. I want to connect with other people on a real level and not have everything revolve around my marital status and my desires for eternal companionship.
So when I see crap from anyone, I’m calling them out on it.
That means some of you will discount me or try to ignore me because what I have to say will contradict whatever agenda you have. Others I will simply annoy. Still others will outright hate me. I’m okay with all of that. You see, I want real.
I understand that not everyone is prepared for the truth. That is part of what my book is all about. We all develop habits in which we continue to believe lies about the way the world and our lives are constructed, because those lies make us feel more comfortable. But I’m done with all of that. I want real. That means embracing the truth, no matter what it may seem to do to me in the here and now. And I got three words for those of you who aren’t prepared to hear the truth.
I don't care.
That’s right. Again, it’s not about me. It’s about changing the culture so that we LDS singles can more easily confront our challenges and we can all — married and single — get about the business of building Zion for real. That is, after all, what all of us covenanted to do at baptism and in the temple.
Oh, and I don’t care applies to just about everything.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to trample intentionally on the feelings of others. It doesn’t mean I won’t attempt to regard the views of others with respect and courtesy. I probably won't always succeed, as imperfect as I am, but I will strive to be a gentleman.
What I don't care does mean is when you read one of my posts, you’re getting real — the real me, what I really think and feel, and all presented in a real way. I don’t care about search engine robots because I write for people. I don’t care about page rank or other Internet statistics which in eternity will be meaningless. I don’t care if I continue writing posts week after week which generate no comments. I don’t care what anyone thinks about me or my opinions. I want real, and I can’t get real if I put on rose-colored glasses and pretend that everything is just peachy when in reality it’s putrid. If a cow crapped it out, I’m going to call it what it really is — cow crap!
That means that a lot of conventional wisdom and me just won’t mix.
I’m done trying to be someone I'm not just to impress someone into having a relationship with me — and that’s any type of relationship, not just the romantic kind. I’m done living the lie of a life on autopilot. I’m done going through the motions of being an “active” Latter-day Saint. I want to do what I do because I truly feel it deep inside. I want what I do to mean something. I want real.
Real also means I don’t look on people reading my blog as customers to be marketed to constantly. I don’t like receiving constant emails telling me how I can’t live without purchasing XYZ, so I’ll never send anyone anything like that. It’s not about me or my book. It’s about building a community through which we can change the culture by changing the way we think about LDS singles life.
I refuse to believe it cannot be done. I refuse to follow the herd just because everyone else is doing it. I refuse to believe what I say and do makes no difference. I refuse to believe I'm second-rate or that God must want me to be single because I haven’t yet experienced the subcultural rite of passage that is temple marriage. And I refuse to back down.
Sure, I’m imperfect, very much so. I've got more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. I understand that my endeavors may result in total and complete failure. But that just brings me back to the three words I shared earlier.
I don't care.
You see, I’ve failed so many times in my life at just about everything in life that I am not certain whether failure has any real meaning anymore. But I am certain that just going through the motions is meaningless. I want real. And real is what you will get from me.
I envision a glorious future in which LDS marrieds and singles come together and build Zion – a place where everyone cares for everyone and everyone looks out for everyone. That is the place where I want to be, whether or not I ever find my eternal companion. Of course, such a place is more made than found, which brings me back to my first point.
It’s not about me. It’s about lifting a light so that others can see amidst the darkness. It’s about bringing hope to those in despair. It’s about changing the way that we all think so that we can unite and build Zion. And it’s about becoming more like our Savior so that we can live there and feel like we belong.
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.
Joy in the Journey Radio encourages the free discussion of ideas but reserves the right to remove and/or block comments which do not conform to LDS standards.
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