Your rules are dumb
It’s not uncommon to find singles who have extended such expectations to every part of their lives. They include how many kids they will have, where they will live, what kind of career they have, and more. The list of rules their life is supposed to follow is quite long if not endless. Well, I’ve got just one thing to say to that. Your rules are dumb.
Make rules for you
Setting rules for how life is supposed to proceed establishes expectations. And that’s a problem, especially where other people are involved. Everyone is so imperfect that you’re almost certain to be disappointed.
I know that sounds cynical. I’m not trying to be. Successful people take the world as they find it, not as they wish it would be. That means seeing things as they really are and calling them out. Expecting people to act a certain way so your life can unfold according to your fantasy is just dumb.
Instead of establishing rules for how others should act, make rules for how you should. Others will almost certainly disappoint you, but you can choose not to disappoint yourself. You can work towards your best life by becoming your best self, and you do that by exercising the discipline to conform to rules that your best self would follow. That process of struggle as you seek to change not just your behavior but your identity fuels the growth for the transformation into your best self.
Leverage life’s little surprises
Your rules for how your life should proceed are dumb for another reason. By staking out an expectation of what will or even should happen, you cut off all other possibilities from being acceptable. And that removes much of the beauty your life could have.
Life is wonderful not because it conforms with some plan of perfection but because of possibility. Variety and spontaneity are the spices of life because they highlight possibilities. It’s the possibility of surprise that helps make it interesting.
Of course, some of those surprises would be more interesting if they didn’t invade your life. For example, my place recently flooded for the third time in the last two months. A surprise to be sure, but I don’t wallow in playing the victim. I choose to leverage the event to fuel my drive to improve my situation. Those improvements require me to think creatively about possible solutions and to work hard to realize them.
If I insisted that my place wasn’t supposed to flood because that’s not how my life is supposed to be, I’d cut off the creativity I need to find solutions. I’d spend far too much time focusing on the problem, which creates a reality filled with problems. I’d miss out on how beautiful my life could be by truly living it — taking it by the reins and making it the best it can be.
Open yourself to possibility
What would happen if you suspended your rules and opened yourself to possibility? Instead of insisting that your life proceed according to some pre-determined expectation, what if you had the humility to embrace an alternative?
I recall in a previous ward receiving an invitation to dinner. The family had invited another family to join us. As we waited for the women to finish preparations, the children were playing outside, and we men were conversing.
Speaking of his wife, one of the men said, “I never thought I’d be happy with a red head, but I am.” When single, he expected he needed to marry a blonde to be happy. What he found by releasing that expectation and embracing possibility was true happiness found not in what he had but in what he gave. And the life he described living was truly beautiful.
Your rules are dumb. Let go of the expectations that life must unfold a certain way in order for it to work for you. Your life will work for you when you do the work your best life requires. And that will bring your more joy in your journey.
Lessons at the well
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.
Pity the pity party
That story greatly resembles dating for many LDS singles. Try as they might nothing they do seems to work. And days like Singles Awareness Day (otherwise known as Valentine’s Day) only highlight the struggles many LDS singles experience daily. In such circumstances, it’s easy to surrender to despair and embrace the pity party. But if you pity anything, you should never pity yourself. Pity the pity party instead.
Recognize your choice
I can talk because I’ve been there. After being single for more than 25 years, I’ve walked the lonely road. I know the heartache when everything you do seems to end in pain. If anyone should have justification to throw a pity party, it should be me.
And yet I’m not throwing one. To the contrary, I’m very optimistic about the future and my future in particular. How can I be so positive amidst so much reason for despair? After all, I’m still single. Nothing has ever worked out for me. True, I’ve had wonderful moments with girlfriends over the years, but it’s all come to nothing but pain every single time. At my age, how can I expect my life will ever be different?
Quite simply, I believe my future is more the product of my choices than my past. I believe fundamental truths which the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches me. And my beliefs run more than just skin deep. They permeate the very fabric of my character to define who I am and what I intend to become.
Choose your focus
For example, I believe the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi when he said everything has its opposite (2 Nephi 2:11). Everything includes the obstacles in our dating lives. What’s the opposite of an obstacle if not an opportunity? Thus, with every obstacle comes an opportunity.
Then consider your focus determines your reality. Focusing on your obstacles creates an obstructed reality. You’ll feel unfairly held back and oppressed by circumstances outside your control. But focusing on the opportunity that must exist with every obstacle turns your reality around. You’ll feel liberated and empowered to pursue whatever passion fascinates your imagination.
Either way you’re not one jot more or less single than you were before. But how you feel inside about yourself, your life, and your future is as different as the bright day is from the dark night. I’ve experienced that difference in my own life. And I’ve seen countless others experience it in their lives as well.
Embrace your reality
Those who surrender to the pity party simply fail to see the opportunities and reasons for optimism and hope truly surrounding them. We should therefore pity them for their lack of understanding and perspective and not their circumstances. We all came to mortality to have hard experiences. Indeed, we wanted the challenge because we knew that was the only way we could grow in eternity.
If Singles Awareness Day has you feeling as burned and failing as my experimental churro crisps were, you don’t have to be that way forever, or even for one more single day. Every day, you choose your focus by what you choose to feed yourself. And your chosen focus then brings you your reality.
Don’t throw the pity party. Instead, pity the pity party. Take the truths of the restored gospel deep into your soul. Let the miracle the Savior can and wants to perform inside of you happen. You can embrace pure joy and happiness without being one iota less single.
Of course hard times will come, as they always will. That’s part of the plan. But when you seek out the opportunities instead of the obstacles, the Lord will open your eyes to what truly surrounds you every day. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
I’m not sure what it was exactly. It’s not like the situation this sister describes is abnormal, extraordinary, or unusual. Confronting loneliness is part of the reality of singleness. I just felt I should address the question posed in this post.
Don’t ask me to compare the loneliness of the never-married versus the divorced versus the widowed. I don’t even know where to begin there, nor am I entirely certain that comparison would provide any real value.
What I do know is that I’ve had my own confrontation with loneliness and overcome it. I know the depths of despair that can enter the heart from prolonged singleness. I’ve been single for over two decades. I also know the pure joy and hope that fill the heart and soul when you change the way you think and adopt a personal ministry. And I know this is true because I’ve lived that joy and am living it now.
Change your thinking
Most of the comments offered in response to this single mother’s question revolved around two approaches: hobbies and renewal activities. They represent two ways of what I see as fundamentally the same approach. And that approach doesn’t address the real issue at hand.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against hobbies. And I’m certainly not against participating in regular activities that renew the spirit, heart, mind, and body. In fact, having regular renewal rituals is a great way to live life. We all need to recharge from time to time.
Yet neither of these methods proposed to combat the loneliness we LDS singles encounter solve the problem. They’re simply bandages covering the problem with a seemingly healthy and often pleasurable distraction. Avoiding problems will never solve them. Real solutions always require us to act.
That action starts when we change the way we think. We need to discard the notion that we have to be married or have some significant other in our lives in order to be happy. We need to stop conditioning our happiness on the choices of others. And we need to throw off any vestige of any victim mentality we have and replace it with a victor mentality. We need to own our lives, taking full responsibility for whatever results we do have and recognizing the power of our own choices in delivering to us the life we want.
Adopt your ministry
Attitude without action will never bring you achievement. Some people get fired up with positive thinking, but then their lives don’t change because they didn’t really change, especially in the way they think. Changed thinking always leads to changed action, which in turn always leads to a changed reality.
One of the best actions more effective ways of thinking always lead one to take is to adopt a personal ministry. Your personal ministry is that unique contribution of goodness you make to the world, the cause through which you uplift and bless the lives of others. We’ve discussed before on the program how adopting a personal ministry can help LDS singles overcome their challenges. Here are just three of those reasons:
Turn yourself outward
When you think about it, it’s not hard to understand why a personal ministry offers so much benefit for LDS singles seeking to overcome loneliness and other challenges we LDS singles face. It aligns us with the path the Savior trod by turning ourselves outward towards others.
That’s in stark contrast to the bandage solutions mentioned earlier. Again, I’m not against hobbies and renewal rituals. But focusing exclusively here will turn ourselves inward towards ourselves. That’s why they will never really solve the problem of loneliness. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with others in ways that remind us we aren’t ever really alone. Only by turning ourselves outward can we connect with the Savior Who fills us with His love that helps us to know we aren’t ever really alone.
If you feel consumed by loneliness, consider your focus. Your focus will always determines your reality. Change your thinking, adopt a personal ministry, and turn yourself outward. You’ll shift your focus towards others and shift your reality away from your problems and into your possibilities. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
A perfect brightness of hope
Part of what enabled him to do this is the Restoration’s fulfillment of the hopes of ancient prophets and saints. They looked forward to the Restoration as a time when all gospel blessings would be enjoined together. Indeed, we who live today have the glorious blessing of the fulness of the Lord’s gospel. And those fruits can enable us to have a perfect brightness of hope for ourselves, our world, and our future.
See the blessings
Elder Holland begins with a list of what he would be looking for in religion were he living in 1820. He and his wife imagined themselves transported back in time with the same spiritual longings that many of the world’s inhabitants have possessed throughout time.
Elder’s Holland’s list provides a wonderful review of the glorious truths restored to humanity — the true nature and character of God, a clearer understanding of God’s plan for His children and especially the role of the Savior in that plan, an additional scriptural witness that enhances one’s understanding of the Lord’s life and ministry, and true priesthood authority to dispense every ordinance required for salvation and exaltation.
Elder Holland saved the crowning blessing for last. In his own words, he would have searched
Indeed, the blessings which the temple extends to bind the living and the dead across eternity truly crown the joy which living the restored gospel offers. As Elder Holland declared,
Elder Holland then directs our attention towards the future. The fulfillment of the hope of ancient prophets and saints for their future can give us hope for the fulfillment of blessings in our future.
Conquering the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps the most immediate of those hopes for the world. But once we overcome that challenge — and Elder Holland assures we will — other challenges will remain, such as hunger, poverty, safer schools, and the eradication of prejudice. And of course, truly conquering those physical challenges will require the adoption of spiritual solutions, what Elder Holland called
Elder Holland then gets deeply personal, and here is where he packs his best punch.
Isn’t that what we all hope for? Many LDS singles hope for a more perfect life, yet marriage never made anyone’s life suddenly perfect. You simply exchange one set of challenges for another.
That said, the hope that marriage can improve one’s life is not unrealistic, especially if one (to borrow a phrase from President Oaks) “marries right.” We LDS singles, no matter our individual circumstances, can and should hope for the achievement of righteous blessings, not only even when that fulfillment seems impossible but especially when that fulfillment seems impossible.
Feel the hope
I suppose that’s why this Conference address touched me. I’m in my mid-40s having never been married. What hope do I have not just of finding the right type of person who would want to marry me but also of having a family of my own, not just one I inherit from a now severed relationship?
I think Elder Holland would say I have every reason to hope. And so do you. The God who has performed miracles in the past can and will perform miracles in our present and our future. I echo with Elder Holland the message of a returned sister missionary in Johannesburg: “[We] did not come this far only to come this far.” Great and glorious blessings await each of us as we stand firm in our faith and continually choose hope over despair.
Truly, the Restoration has blessed us all. The hope of past believers fulfilled gives us hope our present desires for righteous blessings will not be in vain. Choose that faith over fear. Choose that hope over despair. When we walk in the perfect brightness of that hope, we’ll progress towards our best life. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Skip the pity party
Yet a recent experience caused me much reflection on both my own transformation to optimism and how we can all help those singles wont to wallow in their own mire come Friday.
An unexpected experience
Last Saturday, the newest member of my ward was baptized. The service reminded me of my own mission, and I cried as the Spirit brought past sacred experiences to my remembrance.
As I left, I noticed across the parking lot a sister missionary who’d previously been in the ward. She had obviously returned to attend the baptism. Just before her transfer, she and her companion gave me a very special gift. They snuck up to my apartment door and plastered it with paper hearts sharing messages of love, hope, and encouragement.
I never had the chance to thank them, because the very next day transfers came, and elders arrived in place of both sisters. Seeing that sister now in the parking lot, I called out to her and confided that what she and her companion left for me that night before their transfer meant a great deal to me. I then thanked her.
What happened next surprised me. She told me I should be thanked because I’d helped her tremendously. She didn’t go into details — I’m still insanely curious — but then she said something that later drove deep reflection. She said, “You’re awesome.”
A meditated realization
What surprised me was less that she said it (although yes, I wasn’t expecting to hear that from anyone, let alone a sister missionary) or that she was really sincere in saying it (which she was) and more that I found it hard to hear.
That realization caused me much reflection. I’m very comfortable with myself and enjoy my own society immensely. So why wouldn’t I believe I’m awesome? (And why is there an obnoxious song from The Lego Movie playing in my head right now?)
Seriously, why would that message be so hard for me to hear? After some deep reflection, I concluded it was hard for me to hear because I’d grown too accustomed to hearing the exact opposite.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone. Looking back over more than two decades of being a single Latter-day Saint, the vast majority of the messages I received from single LDS ladies were negative. They didn’t affirm my divine worth nor recognize the goodness of a heart that had sacrificed and suffered much. That’s not to say there weren’t those few who gave me positive messages (there were) or that I made my own mistakes worthy of negative messaging (I did). Rather it simply means I heard negative messages so often, especially in the dating arena, I came to believe them.
A more joyful life
I don’t believe them any more. My view today is much more optimistic. But what would my life have been like had I received more positive messages from other single sisters more regularly? And what of the other LDS singles who are now what I once was? What of those who are prone to throw that pity party on Friday because they don’t have a valentine of their own?
If you’re among that crowd, please know you have agency. That means you choose everything for yourself, including what to believe. I struggled for a long time with negative messages until I realized my agency means I get to choose everything for myself, including what to believe. Just because someone else believes something doesn’t mean I must believe it also. I don’t have to believe what I don’t want.
It’s the same for you. When others send you a negative message, don’t believe them! Instead, believe you have great worth (because you do) and God loves you so much He has prepared glorious blessings for you (because He does and He has). Then share that love with others and skip the pity party. Let your messaging reaffirm the worth of every individual. Then you’ll feel your own worth reaffirmed. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Don't you dare
I’ve been thinking recently about what I do here — this program, the blog, and everything connected to it. I’ve had such hopes and plans for helping LDS singles everywhere live better, more joyful lives. I still do.
Bit by bit, it’s all coming together. I’ve come so far since that very first blog post on 12/12/12. I’ve come so far from that first blog post on this website, the post in which I declared my desire for real in my life. I’ve come so far from providing audio clip readings of my posts. And I’ve got farther yet to go before I’m done.
These accomplishments and dreams inspire me. Yet my mind turns to those who could have such accomplishments and dreams but don’t. They don’t believe they’re meant for anything extraordinary. They don’t see how anything approaching greatness could ever involve them. The future they see holds no promise, no hope, and no joy.
If that describes you, I hope you listen closely to the program today. I have a special message just for you. And it’s this: Don’t you dare give up on yourself.
Choose your joy
I know the depths of depression, the darkness that can envelope a soul in despair so devoid of hope that one wonders how life could ever be joyful for any but the luckiest among us. But I also know that vision doesn’t have to represent anyone’s reality. You can choose your joy.
Once, my sense of “logic” would find such statements repugnant, not to mention incomprehensible. What I see now that I didn’t see then are the faulty assumptions underneath that thinking. Just because others believe something doesn’t make it true. Nor does it mean you have to believe it. You can believe what you want to believe.
And you can believe that what you believe and how you think will ultimately determine your reality. That’s how our brains are biologically hardwired. You can choose to think more effectively, to give yourself messages filled with positive energy, to put controls around your emotions, to choose your joy. You can choose your reality.
Let your light shine
Because you can choose your reality, you can choose to be a victim, or you can choose to be a victor. You can choose to wallow within your own self-absorption. Or you can choose to look outside yourself to how you can bless the lives of others.
Think of what that means. We all posses the awesome potential for bringing goodness into the world, for making a real difference in the lives of others. That means you have that potential. You can inspire others to shine their lights bringing goodness into the lives of others when you shine your light bringing goodness into their lives.
But what would happen if you choose not to shine your light, not to make your contribution of goodness into the world? Would others falter because they never had the light you could shine? Would someone surrender to negativity because he or she didn’t have quite enough reserves to resist, reserves that would have been sufficient with your contribution?
The Master taught, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). What distance between God and individual men and women will not be shortened when you choose not to make your contribution?
Partner with Him
That’s why you should never dare to give up on yourself. It’s not about you; it’s about all of us. So when you give up on yourself, you’re giving up on the people who stand to benefit from the contribution you could make, a contribution only you can make. When you give up on yourself, you give up on all of the rest of us.
When many of us look our meager offerings, we wonder how so much could ever hang in the balance. How could our contribution ever be so important? The Lord’s disciples thought this way when they saw they had only five loaves and two fishes (see Matthew 14:17). How could so little feed so many? And yet in the hands of the Master it did. Likewise, the Master can work miracles in the lives of others as you follow His direction to give your contribution.
Don’t you dare give up on yourself! When life looks bleak, partner with the Lord. He will heal you so you believe in yourself and your contribution. He will lead you to those who need your contribution. And His hands will transform your contribution into miracles in their lives. You can bask in their love for you and for the Lord when you make that contribution you can make. And that will bring more joy in your journey.
Enough with the negative
Not paying attention to the news for the last couple of years has made a huge difference in my life. For years I wanted to keep apprised of current events and so read regularly from various sources. But the overwhelming negative slant so many stories took painted a picture of an increasingly depressing world. And it didn’t take long for that depression to weigh me down.
The first step towards correcting an overflowing bathtub is to turn off the water. And that’s what I did with the media. Yet I still wanted to know what was going on in the world. How else could I be a responsible citizen? Thus began the yo-yo days of switching between feasts and famine of media news in my life.
But the yo-yo approach wasn’t sustainable. In the end, I chose to eliminate most media news from my life, largely because of its overwhelming negativity. I couldn’t see how I could live a positive life when I regularly drank from the fountains of negativity, so I said enough with the negative in my life. And as I said before, it’s made a huge difference.
Improve your thinking
One of the first things I noticed after I eliminated that negative source from my life was an improvement in my thinking. It’s hard to believe your world will be heavenly when every day you’re hearing about how the world around you is going to hell in a handbasket.
Once I eliminated the negativity, it became easier to believe in the possibilities of my future. I found it easier to believe in myself and my ability to achieve my potential, that I could make the needed changes to allow the blessings the Lord wants to give me — blessings I want in my life — to come to me.
Understanding that doesn’t take an Einstein. I’ve been saying for years that your focus determines your reality. When you regularly entertain sources of negativity, it’s hard for your focus to be anything but negative. And when you focus on the negative, your reality (otherwise known as your life) becomes filled with negativity.
Of course, the reverse is also true. When you eliminate the negative from your life, it’s easier to focus on the positive. And when you focus on the positive, your reality becomes filled with positivity.
Improve your self-talk
The changes I experienced in my thinking then bled into my self-talk. The messages I constantly gave myself became more positive. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly the negative became positive.
I’ve discussed self-talk many times before on the blog as well as this program. It’s hard to believe in possibilities when you constantly tell yourself they don’t exist — or worse, that it doesn’t matter whether or not they exist because you’re just not worthy or good enough to have them. If you repeat a lie long enough, you’ll start to believe it.
But you’ll also believe the truth when you repeat your encounters with it long enough. Again, your focus becomes your reality. The more you focus on the positive, the easier giving yourself positive messages becomes. And the more you give yourself positive messages, the easier it is to focus on the positive. This self-perpetuating cycle provides a strong foundation for a positive reality so long you keep it going.
Improve your feeling
In an upcoming book I’ve been writing, I cite this statistic: Around 95% of how we feel comes from our self-talk. That’s an amazing statistic because it means we choose how we feel.
That idea may sound like pig swallow to some, but consider this for a moment. Most of what you feel comes from the messages you give yourself, messages you choose to give yourself. You choose your focus. You choose how to think and what to think. You choose all these factors feeding into how you ultimately feel. That means you can and do choose how you feel.
It then follows that when you choose positivity, you’ll feel positivity. Thinking positive lays the groundwork for positive self-talk, which then colors your emotional state with positive energy. All this focus on the positive can’t help but produce a positive reality. And here’s the best part: It all happens with zero change in your circumstances.
When you look within yourself and say you’ve had enough with the negative, you can begin to make lasting positive changes in your life. You can remove from your life the sources of negative energy that make it harder for you to have a positive reality. When you do, you’ll start to see improvements in your thinking, your self-talk, and your emotions. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
For such a time as this
Birthdays are a particular time of year for everyone. But for many LDS singles, birthdays remind them they’re another year older and no less single. That particular aspect gives me pause as I see another birthday approaching me.
I get reflective around birthdays. I think about my experiences over the past year. I think about the relationships I have as well as the ones for which I am still searching. Most of all, I think about how I've changed. Am I a better person than I was a year ago?
I'd like to think I am. But in truth I’m never quite sure. There is one thing, however, about which I am sure. Whatever comes my way, I know the Lord has prepared me for it. I know that the hardship, whatever it may be, will only leave me stronger so long as I choose not to be defeated by it. I know I’ve been prepared for such a time as this.
My mother’s condition drives part of my reflections. I've spoken before about my mother in this forum. But now things have taken a severe turn for the worse. A few days ago, my mother tried to kill herself.
Although it failed to end her life, her attempt has rocked the world of all who know and love her. It's not the dying part that's disturbing. Everyone dies eventually. It's her choosing to leave all of us that's disturbing.
I don't think anyone can really know exactly what's going on in anyone else's head. But I do feel the pain my mother has experienced over the past few years – pain the doctors can't diagnose and have never treated effectively – drove my mother to her disturbing choice. Whether or not that drove her, I don’t blame her.
That said, I can't begin to describe all the emotions that have run through me. But I can begin to have faith that the Lord is still in control and ultimately won't allow anything to veer too far outside His plan.
Feeling after faith
Of course, along with the emotional roller coaster come reflective moments. The reflection I would engage normally with a birthday around the corner is now deepened. And that's not altogether a bad deal.
My first impression is to follow Nephi's example and say I don't know the meaning of all things but I do know the Lord loves me (see 1 Nephi 11:17). And I feel fine with that. My experiences as an LDS single that lead me not to need to know the end from the beginning with regards to my eternal companion translate very well here. Trust in the Lord in any context is still trust in the Lord.
I also know my experiences in learning how to respond positively to the challenges of LDS singles life have made me a better man. And those improvements have prepared me for this moment in which I need to be strong not only for myself but also for others I love.
For instance, I’ve supported my father as he struggles with these events. More than anything, I’ve provided a listening ear. But I’ve also translated what I've learned from being single so long — the knowledge gained from experience that has made me a better man — into the lives of others as well as my own. The result is a new perspective that provides strength, hope, and courage for everyone.
Shining a light
To say things could be better is the understatement of the year. Yet overall I don't feel discouraged or depressed. I have the quiet confidence within me everything will somehow result in good for everyone.
Many of us tend to get so caught up in our own lives we don’t see the great tapestry God is weaving with us. He is preparing each of us not only for the challenges we’ll face ahead. He is preparing each of us to be a light that can shine brightly for those whose hope is dimming. He’s preparing us for times such as these.
People do not light candles to hide light but rather to let light shine so that all may see (Matthew 5:15). We all have goodness to share, gifts the Lord has endowed within each of us not only to help ourselves grow but also to help others along in their journey. When we share those gifts with others, we give the light of hope to others and the light of courage to ourselves. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
You're already accepted
In Western culture we adore people supposedly born with unique talent. Of course, we should congratulate those who have talent. The problem comes when we think those at the top have been born with “it.” That type of thinking leads to so much failure.
We think like this more often than we might realize. Ever heard someone say “I’m just not good at math”? People learn math all the time, and yet some persist in thinking they're “just not math people,” whatever that means. This thinking reflects the fixed mindset, the idea that you either have “it” — the something wonderful you need to succeed — or you don’t.
The fixed mindset has everyone climbing all over each other trying to prove how great they are. They seek to validate their own sense of self-worth in a game of comparisons. Unless you can prove you're better than someone else — that you have “it” — the world teaches you aren’t validated.
The fixed mindset also encourages you to do everything on your own. If you need help, you obviously don’t have “it”. If you’ve ever wondered why some find it hard to accept service from others, it may be because they don’t want to appear like they don’t have “it”.
This one cultural influence frustrates many LDS singles as they try to create families. For example, suppose you have some bad experiences with dating. (OK, so maybe you don’t have to suppose.) Is your normal response to give up because you think you don’t have “it”?
It’s very easy to think, if we weren’t born with whatever wonderful something it is we believe we need to have to succeed, then why even try? After all, it’s obvious you don’t have “it” if you aren’t as wonderful as someone else. So why torture yourself by proving what you fear, that you're unable to have your righteous desires? After all, you just don’t have “it”.
But you don’t need to think that way. Replace the idea of “it” with the idea that talent can be learned. You can then see service from others as an opportunity to learn something new and to improve upon yourself. That makes it easier to embrace.
Learn and grow
No talent of any kind is innate. Learning line upon line is part of the experience we came to mortality to have. Even people who think they aren't “math people” can learn math. I see it every semester with the math classes I teach. Talent can be learned.
And because it is learned, you need to see failure as a chance to improve yourself. Remember that your focus determines your reality. For example, it’s easy to think you're somehow defective because you can’t get a date. And as long as you focus on how “defective” you are, your reality will feel to confirm just that.
But when you focus instead on your efforts, your failure to get a date doesn’t mean something is wrong with you but rather with your effort. Ask yourself, “Why was it exactly that my effort to get a date failed?” and then keep following that trail until you find real answers.
Look to the Lord
Ultimately the Savior has already accepted you. He would not have suffered all He did if you were not worth redeeming. That means you don’t have to prove or validate yourself or even compare yourself with anyone else. You’re already accepted.
And His acceptance is the only one that matters. When you accept that truth, you free yourself from feeling you must have a significant other in order to be accepted. You can more easily be real in your interactions with other people. You don’t have to pretend you're something you really aren’t. That freedom makes life so much more enjoyable.
If you don’t feel that freedom now, then pray for it. The Lord will guide you to embrace your true worth. After all, He knows you're worth it. He’ll help you to feel His love for you if you but ask. When that happens, you’ll realize more fully your own worth. You’ll know more fully that you’re already accepted. 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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