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 remember a single young woman who once extolled the “virtues” of the pity party in a Sunday School class. "Pity parties are actually good things," she said. She compared the pity party to a release valve. And expunging all that inner bad actually brings you closer to Christ, or so went her logic.
Anyone else hear fingernails on a chalkboard? Such an abomination comprising old, defunct ways of thinking needs to be stamped out of existence before it infests the place like cockroaches. But in the moment I decided to be diplomatic and hold my tongue.
Now that I'm not in Sunday School, I'm taking off the gloves (though I’ll still be a gentleman).
The real 411 on the pity party
We all know the pity party scene. You feel sorry for yourself because you can’t get what you want. And hopelessness overwhelms you so much that curling up into the fetal position for a future filled with misery and sorrow seems the only option.
When you start to feel that way, you should have huge red lights flashing in your head.
That feeling is a warning you're on the wrong track. Confronting disappointment is part of the mortal experience we all came here to have. Another part is learning how not to be overcome by it.
There is always hope because there is always Christ
There is always hope because there is always Christ. By following His example, you can overcome your difficulties rather than be overcome by them.
And when I say "follow His example," I'm not referencing stale Sunday School lessons about service or keeping the commandments. I mean embracing a new way of thinking so that you can overcome the challenges of your life in the way Christ overcame His.
The Savior's example
When Christ walked on the water (hey, now that's new and different thinking), he invited Peter to follow Him. The storm was howling all around Peter, but he acted in faith.
As long as he clung to old ways of thinking ("you can't walk on water"), Peter would stay in the boat. But when he embraced a new way of thinking ("you can walk on water when the Master invites you to do so"), he saw that it worked. That is, until he began to doubt.
When you feel the storms of life howling around you, you can surrender to that pity party or you can follow the Savior.
Can you see Christ shrinking into a pathetic little clod of pity? I can’t. Yet isn’t that what that pity party makes you? What’s ennobling or inspiring about that? Certainly no one benefits from that, least of all you.
If you can't imagine Christ doing that, what do you see Him doing? I see Him renewing His focus on His mission. I see him focusing on others instead of Himself. I see Him living a different reality because He has a different focus.
That's why I can never accept the pity party. It shifts your focus inordinately upon yourself.
Your focus determines your reality
Feel trapped in a pathetic reality? Then your focus is pathetic. Your focus determines your reality. When you focus inordinately upon yourself and your unfulfilled desires, you darken your reality. Want to change your reality? Change your focus.
The Master's life was meaningful because He filled His life with meaning. He knew what He was all about, and that’s where He kept His focus. Pity parties couldn't touch Him.
They won’t touch you either if you adopt new and different ways of thinking. Moments of discouragement will always come; that's part of the mortal experience we came here to have. But just because you encounter that emotion doesn't mean you have to surrender to it.
So this Valentine's Day, ride a new train. Find a new reality by finding a new focus. Look for someone you can lift. Make a difference in someone's life. Build or repair a relationship that is meaningful to you. Let's all say, "Down with the pity party and up with new and different ways of thinking."
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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