Interpret others more appropriately
The first lesson took me years to learn. But once I got it, what a difference it made! After all, how you think about yourself largely contributes to how you portray yourself to others.
Most people believe the actions of others reflect their identity. When someone summarily dismisses you, it’s easy to believe it’s because you don’t have any value. Those who believe this fallacy can easily disparage themselves into depression.
But what others say or do doesn’t reflect your identity but rather your effort. If people are passing you by, it’s not because you don’t have value but rather because you don’t offer value. Offering is a choice, one we all can make. Focusing on what you can do rather than on what you lack always produces a more positive reality.
True, not everyone will respond positively to your offering. Some simply won’t see any value in it. But that just means they’re visually impaired. What will you do to help them see? Again, focusing on what you can do produces a more positive reality.
See as God sees
Perhaps the most important choice you can make to help others see your value is to learn to see as God sees. I’ve been learning this lesson over many years, and I’m still learning. But what I have learned so far has improved my life tremendously.
What do you think God sees when He looks at you? We’ve all heard“the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). But why is that? What does He really see when He looks at you?
He sees potential. His sight isn’t confined to the moment, as our sight often is. He sees not just what we are today or even what we were yesterday but we can be tomorrow. Too often, especially when we’re discouraged, we aren’t looking forward to our potential but rather behind to what we were. We tell ourselves so often the lie about our past determining our future that we believe it. If only we could see as God sees!
That’s not likely to happen without partnering with the Lord. When you let Him guide your feet, He can also guide your eyes. We see a marvelous example in Enoch, who initially didn’t see very much in himself (Moses 6:31). But the Lord helped him to see more clearly (Moses 6:35-36), and the result was mountains moved and rivers turned from their course (Moses 7:13). Just as He helped Enoch see his potential, the Lord will help you see yours when you partner with Him.
Loving yourself will also help you see that potential. You know yourself better than most people, so they’ll simply take their cues about you from you. If you’re discouraged about yourself, then most people will follow that lead.
Conversely, if you’re care about you, then most people will follow that lead. When you demonstrate through your actions that you’re worth something, most people will also think you’re worth something and act accordingly. Again, people respond not to who you are but rather to what you do. And you choose what you do.
So choose to learn the lessons that reveal your true beauty. Learn to interpret others more appropriately, see yourself as God sees you, and love yourself. In learning those lessons, you’ll come to see you really are beautiful. You’ll release yourself from an unnecessary burden of despair and depression. You’ll feel more hopeful and optimistic about your future. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Sister Craven begins by describing a sign she once saw advertising happiness for only $15. Of course, the sign was deceptive. The trinkets and souvenirs offered in exchange for that $15 could never bring the true happiness each of us yearns to have.
Sister Craven’s experience describes how many of us are similarly deceived. A casual approach to spirituality may seem inviting and even appropriate. But only by being careful with our covenants and obeying them with exactness can we hope to yield the true joy we seek.
Sister Craven explains,
What a magnificent insight! Sister Craven continues,
The amount of joy we receive from covenant living is in direct proportion to the care and attention we give in living those covenants with exactness. We can unleash true power in our spiritual lives when we reject a casual approach for a careful one.
I remember on my mission hearing my leaders advocate obedience with exactness. What fascinated me as I heard Sister Craven repeat that idea was the thought of expanding that attention to every aspect of our lives. If being careful with our spiritual lives can yield great power, how much more power would being that careful with every aspect of our lives bring?
What would happen if we were just as careful with those who matter most to us? Think for a minute about the people who mean the most to you. Of course, others will always have their own agency, but how much more enjoyable would those relationships be if we exercised great care in the details of those relationships?
And what would happen if we exercised great care with our mind? If we were more insistent on having certain standards for the books we read, the music we listen to, the movies we watch, and the other forms of media that we consume, how much more pure, powerful joy would sweep into our lives? What if we were more careful with improving ourselves — taking a class, learning a new skill, or improving some aspect of our character? What increase in joy would come from that?
How much more power could we procure if we were truly careful with our body? Too many of us are quite casual when it comes to diet and exercise. Too many of us aren’t very careful with personal finances. Too many of us take a casual approach to our careers by allowing the here and now demands of our job to overwhelm any notion of career direction. How much better would we feel about ourselves and our lives if we exercised greater care towards our body?
Act with order and diligence
If you stop to think about all this for a moment, you may conclude as I did. Exercising great care in any one area is work. When you extend that work to every area of your life, the task can quickly feel overwhelming.
The Apostle Paul counseled, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40). King Benjamin taught his people similarly. “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
In other words, we don’t need to be perfect today. But we do need to exercise care by doing something every day to move towards personal improvement. As we exchange our casual approaches to every aspect of life for more careful ones, we will reap a harvest of joy and power from the seeds we have sown daily. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
Making conscious choices allows you to overcome the challenges of your life. By breaking you out of autopilot, they break you free of the bonds of a mediocre life.
But your life won’t escape mediocrity if you make conscious choices about only a few things. You must make conscious choices about everything. That can burden just as much as the mediocre life your conscious choices helps you overcome.
Instead of swapping burdens around, you can leverage the power of habit. By working on your life one area at a time, you can adopt the habit of making conscious choices in a way that tips the balance towards liberating you.
For many, personal finances will likely top that list of life areas to reform. New Years resolutions regarding finances enjoy almost as much popularity as losing weight. Plus it’s just hard to feel free in other aspects of your life when this one area has you in bondage.
You need not feel imprisoned. Just as you can free yourself from the shackles of old, defunct ways of thinking, you can remove the chains of financial servitude. You can put your house in order.
Pay your tithing
The first step is to give the Creator of the universe what He’s marked as His. In so doing, you access the powers of heaven. Given the strong, thick cords that often comprise financial bonds, getting all the help you can just makes sense.
In my life, I’ve almost always paid tithing. Yes, I said almost. And yes, there’s a story behind that.
When I switched my career to education, I couldn’t find a job. So I made my own by starting a tutoring business. I learned lots in that experience, but I also didn’t make any money. And when you don’t make any money, you don’t pay tithing.
I had that business for just over a year — plenty of time to develop a habit of not paying tithing. So when I finally found a job in education, I followed my default habit and didn’t pay tithing. And, as I look back now upon that time, I see I didn’t have the blessings that come with paying tithing.
I’ve worked hard to re-establish the habit I once had, and now I’m seeing the blessings from paying tithing. The Lord has provided miracle after miracle in providing me financial support once I first walk by faith and pay my tithing. No financial house can be in order where tithing is not paid.
Eliminate your debt
Of course, excessive debt also indicates a financial house out of order. No matter how hard you work, interest will always work harder. Interest never sleeps. Interest never eats. Interest never stops.
Just like turning off the faucet stops an overflowing bathtub, the first step to clearing debt is to stop the flow of new charges to your existing debt. This requires a huge amount of discipline which many people don’t have (which is why they have financial problems to begin with).
But there’s good news. If you pay your tithing, you can access the powers of heaven to turn things around. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to write the last check that paid off my student loans. I also remember when I received the title for my car. Those were wonderful moments when I savored freedom.
They didn’t come all at once. They came as I exercised the discipline month after month to pay the small portions I could every month. Step by step, I achieved my freedom.
Save what you can
Once you get out of debt, it’s best to stay out. And part of that is having enough in store to weather the rainy days that will surely come your way. One accident, one job loss, or one other unfortunate event can quickly bring you back into the bondage of indebtedness.
Again, the end result doesn’t happen overnight. You need the discipline month after month to set aside what little you can every month into savings. And you need the discipline not to touch that money outside of legitimate emergency need.
I’ve never been a profligate spender, so I’ve always saved by default. Most people aren’t that way; they spend most of what they earn every month. Still, I can see some wisdom in making the conscious choice to set aside a certain amount for savings every month. There’s a difference between simply letting something happen and acting to ensure it happens.
In the end, the conscious choices we make in managing our money reveal the discipline we have in managing ourselves. By making the right conscious choices, we can have a house in order. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
As 2018 dawned, I had heard about the Church’s new self-reliance initiative but didn’t know much about it. I became more interested upon learning part of it concerned starting a business.
Then a self-reliance fireside in my stake was announced from the pulpit, and I went. I learned stakes throughout the Church now hold self-reliance classes every 12 weeks in four areas:
After the presentations, everyone divided into groups based on which area interested them most. In this way, we formed ourselves into class groups. Group members then decided when and where to meet for the next 12 weeks.
Now that the 12 weeks are ending, I can’t say enough good things about this new self-reliance initiative. This program can bless everyone to improve upon themselves. But it can also bring joy to LDS singles while making them more attractive for eternal blessings.
Throw off frustration and hopelessness
Many LDS singles feel frustration and hopelessness in their pursuit of eternal blessings. Paired with negative self-talk, that frustration and hopelessness can grow to astronomical levels.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Frustration results from having unmet expectations. Change your expectations, and you can avoid frustration.
But changing an expectation so it’ll be met doesn’t discard hopelessness. That feeling comes mostly from the sense of lacking motion. It’s easy to feel hopeful when you’re moving in some direction. Even if you don’t know where you’re going, at least you know your destination might be a better place.
That’s why I’ve long advocated LDS singles adopt a personal ministry. Working towards worthwhile objectives from a personal ministry provides a feeling of progress many LDS singles aren’t finding in their dating journey. And a personal ministry just might ease that dating journey, because everyone is more attractive when devoted to worthy pursuits.
That’s not the only way to feel a sense of progression. The Church’s self-reliance classes can accomplish the same ends. They align directly with the noble pursuit of improving oneself.
I really like the program’s structure. There’s no dedicated instructor. Instead, the Church provides basic materials we all use to learn from one another. Each lesson contains commitments which class members are supposed to keep, and keeping them provides valuable lessons. At the start of each new lesson, class members report on how well they kept their commitments and what they learned from it.
Class members are also paired as action partners. Action partners contact each other during the week to provide support for keeping commitments. I really love this model of everyone helping someone else. That’s a great environment for improving oneself.
And let’s be honest. Some of us are single because we need to improve ourselves. We need more education or a better job to attract the companion we desire. The Church’s self-reliance program can help there.
Bring it all together
Attending my classes, I learned more about how to start a business. But I also learned how intertwined the gospel is into every aspect of our lives.
Each lesson begins with a review of foundational principles — gospel standards of living found in the scriptures and the teachings of modern-day prophets and apostles. These foundational principles connect to the rest of the lesson content as well as the commitments we need to complete during the coming week.
The Lord cares not just about the spiritual aspect of our lives, but every other aspect as well, including the way we provide for our temporal needs. We can and should partner with the Lord to improve ourselves and our temporal situations. Those who are more self-reliant — and therefore less dependent on others — are able to give more, serve more, and satisfy the needs of more people.
Taking my self-reliance class over the past 12 weeks has taught me more than just how to start a business. I’ve learned more about how much the Lord truly loves all of us, how interested He is in the details of our lives, and what glorious potential we can fulfill when we partner with Him in every aspect of our lives. When we do, He’ll make more out of our lives than we can by ourselves. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
Lately I’ve been talking about the fundamentals of dating because so many don’t understand them. Today I’m addressing one fundamental in particular.
But first we need to consider what we’re trying to accomplish. Because dating involves the agency of another person, success in that journey is correlative, not causal. That means we get better results by making ourselves more attractive rather than campaigning directly for it.
I’ve tried the direct route before. After years of effort, I can say it just doesn’t work.
So now I’m where every LDS single should be — on the correlative train. Instead of pursuing marriage directly, we should live our lives such that others will want to share them with us. We get that kind of life by making ourselves more attractive — physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Each of these aspects is intertwined with the other three. Take losing weight, for instance. Losing weight of course has physical aspects, but it also has emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects as well. Those who ignore those other three aspects are essentially taking a proverbial knife to a gun fight.
Include the physical
I believe the best solutions are holistic; they consider the whole as well as the individual parts. Losing weight is no different, though I confess it’s been really hard. Losing weight is the Holy Grail of modern life — forever beckoning, and forever elusive. But that just means I don’t understand the fundamentals!
For years I tried increasing my understanding of biology. Much of my knowledge here is hard won through research in books and testing in the laboratory of trial and error.
That’s how I know if I don’t keep myself fully hydrated, I won’t lose weight. I now drink mostly water whenever I drink anything, starting with a full glass of water when I get out of bed in the morning.
Good nutrition is also important. I’ve seen better results with a daily regimen of vitamins and supplements. Yes, it’s better when they come from food, but I haven’t the time to track how much of each vitamin every food I consume contains. It’s much easier to pop a pill and be done with it. You need to find what works for you.
Don’t neglect the emotional and mental
Because weight loss is interconnected in its aspects, we can’t focus on just biology. The emotional aspect is of especial concern for LDS singles.
Acceptance in LDS subculture depends greatly on whether or not we get married. Thus, failure in our dating journey can easily leave us feeling unaccepted.
That’s what makes eating extra food — and especially the foods we shouldn’t eat all the time — so very tempting. They never say no. They never turn us away. And they always make us feel good.
At least they do in the moment. Emotional eating always comes back to bite you (pun intended). We’re not likely to lose weight without addressing the underlying emotional issues driving unhealthy eating habits.
And let’s not forget the mental aspect of losing weight. If we believe we’re “big-boned” or genetically disposed to carry fat, we’re setting ourselves up for failure. We’ll never put forth the effort as intensely and for as long as we need if we believe any of that. We have to believe before we receive.
Emphasize the spiritual
Of all the aspects to consider, the spiritual is the most important. We need to articulate clearly and precisely why we want to lose weight. And that why needs to be powerful enough to carry us through the hard times.
The most powerful spiritual drivers are faith-based. We activate that faith when we understand the doctrines and principles behind our objectives.
So what’s the gospel doctrine behind losing weight? Certainly the Word of Wisdom comes to mind. And how about the doctrine that our body is a temple? If you considered just that one idea every time you put something in your mouth, what changes would you make to your eating habits?
What’s the biggest reason why I’ve struggled with losing weight for so many years? I’ve been approaching it backwards. Even with the holistic nature of my approach, I wasn’t starting with the spiritual aspect. I started with the application — give me the fix I need to make my fat melt away — rather than with the doctrines and principles behind the application.
Recently, I’ve picked the torch back up. I’m trying again. So can you. But this time, let’s start our holistic approach with the spiritual. That will bring us better results. 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 now I produce a weekly radio show 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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