This week there was a policy change within the handbook of the church stating that children of same-sex couples could not be blessed or baptized until they were 18, to which many responded with pain and anger, while others scrambled to add insight in hopes of softening the blow.
Some applauded the church for taking a moral stand (though controversial), while others immediately announced their intent to resign.
My Facebook news feed has never been filled with so many divisive comments over one single issue as I’ve seen this week. It’s been sad to watch MY friends pulled in two different directions, as the idealogical chasm instantaneously spread wider than its ever spread before.
I had no plans to add my comments to the fray. At first, to be honest, it was because I felt alone in my point of view, and lacked the words to convey how I felt. But as more and more people began to share the other side of it, I still refrained because there now seemed to be plenty of others saying it for me. But there are a few things I haven’t heard anyone else say yet, so here are my two cents.
I have many friends who are members of, or are sympathetic to the LGBT community, and so I preferred to remain neutral in the forum. With nerves so raw and emotions so high, it’s not taking much to offend either party, and I don’t want to offend anyone. The message of my books and programs is irrelevant to this issue, so I didn’t plan to speak of it on my blog.
But there is one thought that keeps troubling me. I believe there are some who are still confused and have not yet decided how to feel about it. People who love the church, who genuinely want to see the controversy in a different light than how they’ve seen it so far, who want to “stay in the boat” as it faces the next white squall, but who have not yet found peace on either side of the issue.
If that’s where you’re at, this was written for you.
(To keep this post on topic, only comments and replies from those in this category will be permitted.)
When I first heard the news, I was shocked because it sounded like the policy was an underhanded snub to gay parents, by punishing the child for their same-sex marriage. It took me by surprise, and I suspected it would trigger a lot of anger in a lot of people. I checked the official newsroom of the church and there was nothing there. No explanation. That it was originally leaked to a news station by an excommunicated member of the church and presented without context didn’t help.
Effectively, some of the earliest reports unexpectedly exposed us en masse to anti-Mormon literature through trusted news sources – not anti because the news wasn’t true, but because it was spun in a derogatory light with nothing available to counterbalance the perspective presented. Like a poison, even a small dose of anti can be crippling if not fatal to one’s faith.
So my second reaction was, “What about this do I not yet understand?”
I asked that question because I wanted to believe that the change was inspired by the head of our church, the living Jesus Christ. I aspire to be a disciple of Christ, and at face value, the policy didn’t seem very Christ-like. However, I also knew that I would never get a witness from God about anything without first considering its possibility.
I presume that there are a lot of people on BOTH sides of the controversy who checked in with themselves and measured it against their world-view. If it fit their beliefs about God and morality, they were comfortable with it. If it went against their beliefs about God and morality, they were troubled by it. Naturally, everyone’s going to check in with themselves.
I tend to be conservative in my views, so you’d think the policy would have felt comfortable. But it didn’t. It seemed to fly in the face of several well-established principles to which I subscribe, such as “men will be punished for their own sins” and Jesus’ invitation to “suffer the little children to come unto me”.
I certainly hadn’t scheduled time to wrestle with something like this. I didn’t really want to stop and figure it all out. I had things to do, a birthday party to throw, shopping to complete, children to transport, laundry to fold, and customer service tasks to fulfill for my business. But this issue was big enough that it demanded my attention, at least until I could find peace of mind one way or the other.
So in hopes of getting some divine perspective, I asked a second question, “What could have possibly motivated such a change?”
Two scenarios came to mind:
1) Since same-sex marriage is still considered a serious sin within the church (one which is now considered apostate), I wondered if perhaps the leadership felt it wise to prevent same-sex marriage from seeming normal to other impressionable Primary children. Seeing it as normal in the world is a much different thing than seeing it as normal in a church which forbids it.
Regardless of membership status, all children are welcome in Primary. But maybe the leaders thought that if a child from a same-sex marriage is seen as a visitor and not as a member, perhaps any comments shared could be received by the other children with something of a filter. Maybe they would be able to understand that the visiting child comes from a different kind of environment than what is acceptable for members of the church, and so, we teach them to welcome and include the visiting child for as long as he or she wants to take part in the children’s organization, but to also be prepared that what is said by the child (through no fault of his or her own) may not always agree with the principles we follow as members in the Proclamation to the Family. I realize this explanation is weak and may seem harsh or exclusive… but remember, I’m just sharing my thought process as I scrambled to understand possible motives for the policy change myself.
2) My second thought was a realization of how merciful the policy was. At face value, it didn’t seem merciful at all. It seemed hateful and cruel. But I know my church to be anything but hateful and cruel, having been an active member for nearly forty years. So I thought I must not have the whole story. That’s when a second scenario came to mind:
Ordinances such as baptism are misunderstood if one equates “eligibility to receive them” with “being loved”. Baptism is not a badge of acceptance to a social club, it is a sacred covenant with attendant responsibilities. You have to understand the depth and significance of the covenant of baptism in order to understand how this policy not only affirms its significance, but how the policy in fact promotes the family, preserves parent-child relationships, and demonstrates wisdom in timing. After all, “The family is the basic unit of the kingdom of God on earth. The Church can be no healthier than its families. No government can long endure without strong families,” as President Spencer W. Kimball affirmed over thirty years ago. We should not be surprised that the church would stand compassionately in a position that encourages peace and harmony in the home.
Nobody is denied baptism, when the time is right. In this case, eligibility is set to age 18, when the child is legally free to live how they choose, and old enough to be on their own.
It also demonstrates mercy, because along with the ordinance comes a covenant, to which the child would be accountable. There are responsibilities and expectations that come with official membership, so membership should not be taken lightly. This new policy, I thought, is perhaps a way of giving the child a chance to make those covenants at a time and in an environment where they are more fully able to keep those covenants, and not come under condemnation for making promises before God that they may not be able to keep.
I’ve seen this particular explanation given many times since. The official statement finally given by the church touches on it here.
Honestly, it’s kind of inconvenient to be a member. With baptism comes a lot of responsibility, and it requires a lot from us, as we each take an active part in the ministry, without pay. But it’s what we covenant to do, because it brings forth other blessings that make it well worth the effort. I’m still convinced that it’s the organization through which God’s program for gathering Israel is carried out, in preparation for Christ’s second coming.
And as for members leaving the church, this truly is historic, and frankly, prophesied. IF the church is Christ’s true church, then we are sifting ourselves by how we respond to policy changes. Policy will probably continue to change as needed to respond to forces that threaten the church’s ability to administer the principles and ordinances of the gospel, in light of new laws and so forth. The ‘what’ remains immovable, while the ‘how’ gets adjustments sometimes.
We’ve been warned that there would come a day when we would no longer be able to rely on anyone else’s testimony of the church, of whether it is divinely guided or not, but that we must gain our own. We will not be able to endure on borrowed light. The church is either what it claims to be, or it isn’t. Joseph Smith either saw God, or he didn’t. President Thomas S. Monson is either a true prophet today, or he isn’t. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, is alive and leading this church right now, or he isn’t.
You might ask yourself: Have I read the Book of Mormon? Have I tested Moroni’s promise? Have I done the same thing to find out if Joseph Smith was a prophet, and whether we have a living prophet today?
If so, and if he serves as the Lord’s mouthpiece, then we should be careful not to reject what is declared. The good news is that none of us are expected to blindly accept anything that is declared.
On the contrary, we are responsible and expected to take our concerns directly to the Lord and get our own personal witness of whether or not any declaration is divinely inspired. Without a personal witness, we will not stand. We will not see clearly, and we will not be able to remain faithful through the last days through the final preparations before his return.
Nobody is asking anyone to trust anyone else in this matter. We’ve all been invited to find out for ourselves, and to get a witness – an unmistakable answer from God himself. It’s literally available to everyone.
Ideally, no matter how we feel about this, we should ALL turn to God for clarity, not just social media. Our eternal welfare hangs in the balance.
I’ve tested Moroni’s promise, and I’ve come to know that the church is Christ’s restored church on the earth today, and I think we are seeing a manifestation of Lehi’s dream, real time. Many are so ashamed by this policy that they have decided to resign. “…And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, …and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost”.
To my friends reading this, if you sincerely desire to stay in the boat, you’re not alone. Be careful what you say until you have the clarity you seek. It seems that the most angry, disgusted, and defensive words are thrown the fastest and loudest. Take time to process your emotions. I wouldn’t want to agonize with regrets one day and be left to say, “I just didn’t understand; and because of my angry words toward the church, look how many were lost!” Hold off until you can process your disgust or disappointment privately with the Lord, seek his will, and then speak only with peace. Avoid the potential anguish and grief that comes from spewing angry words that can’t be unsaid.
But most of all, don’t take my word for what’s right and wrong… you know how to get answers! Sometimes when answers are slow in coming, we begin by simply choosing to believe. I choose to believe every day. Sometimes the witness only comes after we make a choice and begin moving in that direction. Sometimes the witness only comes after we put our life in greater harmony with the teachings we already know to be true.
Yes, it may seem easier to just leave. But I believe this is still God’s program for gathering Israel in preparation for Christ’s second coming, and there is still a work to do. Find out what God would have you do, and then do it.
There is a lot of ministering that is needed in the world. A lot of love, and service needing to be rendered. Love and service can be rendered inside and outside of the church. ALL the Christian churches do this, and non-Christian organizations do this work too. But it is the duty of the tribe of Ephraim to gather in the pure in heart, and supply the saving ordinances and covenants that prepare his people to receive him, and soon. This isn’t just about who feels loved and who doesn’t feel loved inside the walls of a certain building. To argue that this policy is mean or non-loving is shallow and misinformed.
His work is a gathering of the pure in heart – the humble, the teachable – and as Zion is established, those whose hearts are not prepared will feel out of place, offended, and hate what it is. People claim to be more enlightened because THEY would not deny baptism to a child who lives in a same-sex marriage home. So, they’re loving. But are they humble? Are they teachable? Can they pause to recognize the wisdom and mercy on which the policy is based? Are they humble enough to see how the policy demonstrates love and respect to gay parents who (the church acknowledges) are the ultimate authority over those children, even if the church disagrees with their lifestyle?
Sure, membership is inconvenient, and some people already feel burdened by their membership and only needed one last thing to feel justified in leaving for good. Conveniently but sadly, this controversy has given them the permission they’ve been looking for.
One friend of mine was particularly concerned about members who have already gone through so much in the process of learning how to embrace their gay children. These grandparents now agonize that their grandkids won’t be able to be baptized as members, when they had previously hoped to facilitate that.
But hopefully the grandparents will see how this can be a really good thing for ALL involved. It prevents the church from dividing families over doctrinal disagreements while children are under legal guardianship. It respects the family unit, it respects gay parents, and it respects the law. And in essence, perhaps the children of same-sex marriages under this policy are in some ways just as unaccountable as a child who is not yet eight – a concept that should give grandparents a comforting perspective.
Let me share something that adds another important perspective, written by Delisa Bushman Hargrove:
…I used to believe that acceptance of baptism had to be immediate. It took me some time to process that, while absolutely necessary for salvation, there is a time and season for all things.
I first encountered proselyting restrictions as a BYU foreign exchange student in Jerusalem. As a Mormon, I signed an agreement that I would not discuss/proselyte my religious beliefs to residents of Israel.The agreement was reached by the Israeli government & the Church. We respected the law of the land.
The second time–and more particularly emotionally potent for me because I’d become a student of Arabic & Near Eastern Studies–was when, as a missionary in Scotland & while living in Germany, I couldn’t share the Gospel with Muslims. That was hard for me when sincerely approached. I recognized that their lives were in jeopardy if they returned to their country and came to understand the Lord’s respect for life.
A missionary served in our ward in Texas who was a child of polygamous parents and from a polygamous community. He told us about the process it took for him to join the Church. He had to wait until he was 18 and then had to receive special permission from the First Presidency to be baptized. He did not have to “divorce” his family, but did have to recognize the difference in lifestyle and understand covenant expectations.
I’ve fasted and prayed with teenagers who sought parents’ approval for baptism. Sometimes approval was granted. Sometimes it wasn’t, and the child waited the several years to be baptized at/after 18. During those times of prayer, I realized how much the Savior respects parents and their agency. I really appreciated that, as a leader, I shouldn’t/wouldn’t pursue any course of action to underhandedly somehow subvert a parent’s desire for his/her child so that the child could be baptized.
And, today. The Church has been such a voice in the same-sex arena, that I feel that the new policy shows respect to LGBT parents. (no driving any doctrinal wedge between parents and a young child or in any way implying that it will take their children to “save them” from their parents.)
I read the policy in the handbook and did not see anything that indicated the child has to publicly denounce their family. I keep thinking of Elder Christopherson whose brother is openly gay, and who still attends an LDS ward, and the love that is evident within their family.
I do believe that God loves all of His children and acts lovingly and respectfully to each of us.”
Have courage, get your answers that you need for peace – you are promised that you will receive them if you lack wisdom and ask of God (James 1:5). Then stay the course.
Here are a few more posts that provide additional perspective on this policy, which may be helpful:
I’m confident that as you get your answers, you will not only find peace of mind, you will feel God’s love and compassion for those on both sides of the issue, because that what a true answer from God feels like. Most of all, you’ll feel it for YOU, because he wants to assure you and fill you with his love, especially when you’re on the right track.
Updated 11/10/15: Some believe this is only an issue in the minds of those whose faith is not strong enough to trust their church leaders. I want to address this. There are many who have faith in Christ, but who are not so sure if the church leaders are inspired by him. That’s an extra hurdle to get over, and some get over it more easily than others, while some don’t see a need to, and some have tried, but tripped on the way. We need to have patience and understanding for everyone, no matter where they are in that process. I believe we will be judged only according to our understanding, and what we did with what we know. So, let’s be sensitive and try to remember that we’re all just “walking each other home.”
I’ve been pondering the following topic now for over a year, knowing that one day I would try to capture it in writing. But it’s a deep topic and I didn’t expect it to be an easy one, so it’s been pushed off many, many times.
It has not taken much to distract me from doing it.
But I finally decided to get started, at least to begin gathering into one location the many epiphanies and personal notes I had been jotting down in the previous months.
To begin, let me back up a little bit and explain what I’ve been going through since 2008.
As I’ve described in previous posts, our family experienced the “ebbs” of the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way that many other families did. Stress was high, relationships were strained, and we found ourselves questioning just about everything we thought we knew.
After writing two bestsellers, my message focus was evolving from “how to create an amazing life” to “how to make sense out of setbacks and profit from your losses,” because my expertise on the latter seemed to be expanding almost on a daily basis, leading to the release of my third bestseller.
My inner drive to get things done, which had started out as a virtue (in the form of ‘passion for a cause’), had turned into a vice (in the form of ‘workaholic-ness’), but to consider stopping felt like I might be “disobeying a call”, or “letting the world down”, or “failing to reach my highest potential”.
I was exhausted and tried to stop many times, but when the next problem came along (and there were plenty), I always jumped back on because I was convinced I could solve it. It’s a virtue to “think you can,” and then “go after it,” right? How could that possibly be bad?
By 2011, I was so fatigued I lost my drive altogether. Though I had tried to hop off the hamster wheel before, this was different. And it was the strangest thing for me to hop off “for reals” and find myself surprisingly at peace.
(Those who were watching me from the outside were probably thinking, “Well, duh… it took you long enough.”)
As I worked on decluttering my life, once in a while something would be brought to my attention that shifted my thinking just a little bit. It seemed that, depending on whatever it was God wanted me to ponder next, neon lights would figuratively shine on one scripture or another, accompanied by a strong feeling that I needed to stop and ponder that one for a while. Sometimes I’d ponder one for months.
While I was trying to figure things out, I watched as other people were applying the principles of success to achieve their dreams, but with sometimes collateral damage in their wake. When the desire to achieve a goal is strong enough, there is a willingness to go through (or in some cases, cause) a temporary hell in order to reach the success waiting on the other side of it.
So I wondered about myself. Does the end always justify the means? In every case? I wasn’t sure. Even though I had pulled back in my business, I was still clinging to several goals, hopes, and dreams that were all really important to me, but which were putting a strain on my relationship with my husband.
I began to wonder, “What sacrifices was I willing to make to achieve them? Would there be collateral damage if I kept pursuing them? Had I unknowingly already done too much damage?”
I got quiet and wanted to be careful not to post my conclusions without first taking a long time to ponder what was true. What was the truth that could be true in all situations? What was the foundational, guiding principle that I needed to understand?
What is more important: achieving a goal, or preserving a relationship? Surely that depends, right?
As I observed the way other people tackled their goals, sometimes the end DID seem to justify the means, but other times, I wasn’t so sure.
But I did find a truth in all of this. The truth I found, the simple lesson I was beginning to learn, was this:
There is a time and season unto every purpose under heaven. In other words…
Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.
The Jackrabbit Factor is all about helping my readers discover “Why they CAN”. Why they can accomplish the impossible. Why they can achieve their dreams, when perhaps they didn’t previously believe that they could. It’s an important message, which continues to change lives all over the world. I keep hearing from people who tell me what it’s done for them – such as this one, which just arrived yesterday: “In a month’s time we went from $19k/year expecting to be starving artists for the rest of our lives to over $70k/year and much more to come on the horizon. Thank you for sharing… It really means a lot to us.”
But even with all the success that comes from applying the principles, my recent observations and personal experiences were teaching me that “CAN” does not necessarily imply “DO!”
We choose whether or not to “do”, after discovering first that we “can”.
This is agency. We are free to choose.
First we must really come to know that anything IS possible. It’s true – we have the power to exercise that “rare kind of faith” to co-create (with God) an incredible life.
But just because we have the power, it doesn’t mean we should activate that power in every situation.
Forgive the comparison, but it might easier to understand if you look at the similarities between the power of co-creation and the power of pro-creation.
Co-creation is a term that is often used for the application of the principles of success, such as the ‘law of attraction’. It is a worthy, God-given power, under the right circumstances.
Pro-creation is the power to make a baby. This is also a worthy, God-given power, under the right circumstances.
Both activate a creative power. But both must also be used with wisdom and restraint, because without it, their use can lead to pain and sorrow. We are free to choose what we do, but we are not free to choose the consequences connected to those choices.
This is true, regardless of whether the person is consciously AWARE there may be consequences to be avoided.
So, should I should always do what I am capable of doing? Let’s say I’m facing a problem. Should I always solve it?
I concluded that just because I am able and willing to achieve a goal or solve a problem, it doesn’t mean I should always achieve that goal, or try to solve that problem.
What?? This was a new thought to me.
I know… It’s kind of crazy.
How on earth am I going to explain this so it makes sense. Let me start with a few questions:
Is it ever okay to give up on a dream?
Could it ever be okay to set a goal and do nothing about it?
When could it possibly be okay, to intentionally NOT solve a problem?
I’m telling ya what, just when I thought I had life figured out…
Following is my long-procrastinated attempt at explaining it.
I’ve taught classes and written many articles about the importance of action in the goal-setting process or formula for success.
It’s still true: action is important. But this discussion is going to go a little differently.
This isn’t about getting what you want; it’s more about how to ‘counsel your wants’, and why you might want to.
I’ve been a goal setter for as long as I can remember, at least as far back as maybe age 12. This is why I experienced such tremendous depression in the early years of our marriage, because external circumstances seemed to have hijacked my previously well-controlled, intention-driven life.
Seven years of disappointments, and I eventually discovered how many of my failed circumstances were what they were, because of how we (especially I) had been thinking.
I had always derived a lot of self-esteem out of setting a goal and achieving it – out of attempting something hard and conquering it. I decided to get my college degree – for crying out loud – in the ONE subject that had always given me the most grief. Who does that???
I was a conquerer. Nothing else felt quite like enjoying yet another personal victory, and so I rested my future and my children’s success on ‘goal achievement’ being the A-Number-One necessary skill for each of us to develop, and ultimately perfect.
Even worse, I rested the future of my marriage on our ability as a couple to set and achieve goals together.
You might be wondering why I’d say, “even worse”.
Yeah, if you aren’t already ahead of me on this, you really should be wondering about that. I hope to shed some light there.
Simply put, I had lofty expectations for our life together.
But in time, my husband helped me realize that, although he shared my vision to some degree, the pace with which I thought we should be reaching those goals (which I believed was certainly reasonable) made it nearly impossible for him to impress me.
I felt like we were going nowhere. But the reality was that his personal growth was happening differently than I thought it should, in ways that I couldn’t see. I was so hyper-focused on how closely our life matched my vision, that I wasn’t paying any attention to how things might be going from his point of view. He says he was on track toward HIS goals, but to me, it looked like we were stagnating, because I couldn’t see him taking strides towards our couple (ahem, MY) goals.
My expectations always seemed to sit far beyond where we were, (dream big, right?!) thinking it would inspire him to dream bigger, reach farther, go faster, (and thus be happier, of course); but in reality, it only left him feeling like he could never catch up, or never be good enough to meet my expectations, so why try. It was utterly defeating to him.
He had become convinced (after 20 years of evidence) that I’d never be satisfied, and that as a result, his condition in our relationship was hopeless. He lost confidence in his ability to make me happy, and his discouragement was numbing. To make things worse, I could see his unhappiness and blamed him for it, because surely, if he’d just set higher goals and focus more on achieving them, he’d be happier (and so would I). Right?
The truth was that he WAS accomplishing many things… just not the things on MY list. I couldn’t see his accomplishments. So, without my realizing it, my drive for MY version of success had effectively been prolonging our arrival to wherever it was I thought we were supposed to be.
I think deep down I knew I was somewhat responsible for his lackluster enthusiasm toward my vision, but I resented that. I felt like – obviously – we should want the same things, and so naturally, he should also be independently driven to go after them, right?
I’ve been blind. And I wasn’t going to see things differently so long as I kept pushing myself, and him. And it’s not like I was task-mastering him – it was more like checking in on how things were going with this or that, when “this or that” wasn’t even on his radar. This was happening with what I felt were critical issues, but it wouldn’t be appropriate to share specifics on those, so I’ll show you what I mean through one of the less important issues:
For example, he might have been focused on the successful delivery of a critical project at work, and I’d get upset that he still hadn’t cleaned up the garage. (Because part of MY vision included an orderly garage – something he would have to do if it was going to get done, because the majority of its contents belonged to him)
I know, it sounds unreasonable to me too, now that I write about it… I just didn’t know how to change. It’s hard to stop doing the wrong things while you’re still convinced that you’re justified in doing them.
Deep down, I knew I had to change something about myself before I’d see clearly what I needed to be doing about us. I had to stop actively thinking about my goals and hold still for a time, shut out the noise, and instead find out what God wanted me to do.
Through this multi-year process, I learned that some problems should be left alone to be solved by someone else who has stewardship over solving that problem, in whatever time frame they choose to solve it.
Now there’s a leap of faith, to let someone else solve a problem. It can honestly be a harder leap even than exercising your own faith to solve it sometimes.
Especially if that person doesn’t think there’s a problem.
But I began to realize that even if I think I might do a better job, or even if I might solve it quicker, or even if there’s a risk that it may never be solved at all, sometimes it’s better to let others flex their muscles and get stronger through the experience, or learn from the failure, whichever way it goes. No matter what the outcome.
I know – that’s easier said than done. It takes total faith in God to trust that he will help you handle the outcome, no matter how it plays out.
That was my problem. I had always been afraid we’d fail too much if I let go, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the potential disappointments if I disengaged.
Ironically, to take the next step, I had to get away from the world of personal development long enough, stop spending time with friends who were running toward goals, stop listening to mentors (really??), and quiet all the voices in my head that belittled ‘small goals’, condemned failure as being ‘not an option’ (of course failure should not be an option, shouldn’t it??), and which also incessantly urged me on to GREATNESS (as if that’s a bad thing!).
My inner compass, which told me to stop listening to those voices, didn’t make logical sense. But I followed it anyway, because the more they nagged, the more my marriage was suffering. I had to find a better way.
Instinctively, I knew I needed to slow down, and just listen to what might show up if all those voices were gone. I also knew it could take months or even years to unravel the confusion and get myself to true clarity, but I was finally ready to take that journey.
After all, not ALL of the voices in our head are from God. Even the good, motivating messages received and carried out at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or to an excessive degree can be a trap, so we must always be discerning.
In time, a very simple, quiet thought surfaced, reminding me that I have always planned to be with my husband for eternity. It was a simple thought, without fanfare.
So I began to ponder it:
“If we’re really in this together for the long haul, why do I need him to run faster toward my goals? If we will truly have eternity together, what’s the hurry?”
“Well,” I argued back, “Doesn’t timing matter? Shouldn’t we be constantly and anxiously engaged in a good cause? Shouldn’t we be a team? If I let go of my expectations, my life may never end up looking the way I pictured it.”
Could I give up on my dreams?
Giving up on the vision that strained our relationship would mean removing a ton of pressure off my husband… but could I do it? Did I even know how? How can you possibly un-see what you’ve been shown is possible?
Actually, the thought of giving up just made me feel angry. Livid, in fact.
I shook my fist at the heavens and cried many, many times, “If you didn’t want me to have it, why did you let me see what was possible?! Don’t show it to me if I can’t have it!”
But heaven was silent in response. It just let me throw my tantrums and offered no explanation or solace. I ached and agonized like I was grieving the loss of a loved one. I “ugly-cried” many, many times, over many, many months.
One day after I regained my composure I thought, “Fine. I’ll just give up then.” After all, I had made a marriage covenant before God, angels, and witnesses, legally and lawfully binding, and in comparison, there was no official covenant between me and God about life the way I WANTED IT, so this informed my decision.
Resigning to this bitter defeat almost felt like I was committing suicide by poison, and deep down, I was blaming my husband that I had to take it.
Yeah… about that. If this post is feeling a little heavy, here’s your comic relief: (Content Warning – she says the “d” word.)
Blame makes you blind. It makes you see only one side of the coin. I had begun to view him differently than he really was, and I could only see the things that supported my internal ‘blaming’ dialogue.
But that’s where I was at. Pitying myself, I thought, “So be it then, I can be a martyr.”
But then strangely, something about ‘giving up’ began to feel kind of good, and I don’t mean the twisted satisfaction that usually accompanies self-pity.
No, the thought of letting go of my goals was unexpectedly relieving.
Although goal achievement had always given me a ‘high’, I was now experiencing a different, sweeter kind of feeling from considering what life could be like if I stopped actively pursuing “the next level”, and instead, practiced living in gratitude for things just as they were.
I kind of thrilled at the new challenge this would be, of getting really creative in making the most out of whatever future conditions we might find ourselves in, together. Of letting my husband set the pace for our goal achievement, if he chose to set couple goals at all.
My life was over anyway, I thought.
I can be a hot-headed ginger. (NOOOOO, you say.) Some say that we redheads have no souls. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more emotionally volatile than your average female, I’m not really sure. I’ve really been working on tempering my emotions, but during this time, I was really up and down. Some moments I felt amazingly great. Other moments I was back to anger and despair.
“My husband matters more,” I resolved. “My marriage covenant matters more.” I tried to convince myself.
But those well-intentioned thoughts eventually turned into a more sardonic version: “I guess MY life doesn’t really matter here.” I hated it, but that’s really what it came down to.
I thought that if only he would have shared my vision and wanted to get there as fast as I wanted us to, I wouldn’t have to go through this internal wrestle. Basically, I wouldn’t have to choose between my dreams, and our relationship.
But when I finally released all expectations that he would ever change, I actually felt a tiny smidgen of joy.
I have previously said that there is no greater joy than in overcoming obstacles to accomplish a goal. But I think I was wrong. The kind of joy I felt in that moment was surprisingly more exquisite than the joy that typically accompanies goal-achievement.
Now, I’ve felt true and deep joy before, so it’s not like this was a new experience, but I NEVER expected to feel that joy in giving up on a dream.
Achievement, freedom, joy… they’re are all sweet and fulfilling. But there’s something special about the joy that is not connected to achievement, and I think it has something to do with Grace. Achievement certainly plays an important part in our lives, but this kind of joy is unique.
I’ve been pondering this privately for over a year now, while I tried to make sense of it. After having actively championed the cause of goal achievement for over 15 years, what was I to make of this? What do I do with it? Do I share what I’ve been learning? How do I explain it?
It was inexplicable to me, and so I didn’t even dare try.
Until yesterday, when I watched The Saratov Approach, a movie based on the true story of two Christian missionaries serving in Russia who were taken hostage for ransom in the late 1990s. Time magazine had just published an article about wealthy Christian churches, so a couple Russian men plotted to make a quick buck by kidnapping them.
In the movie, there was a segment that was almost perfectly analogous to the thoughts and feelings I couldn’t seem to explain, which have since brought me to a better place.
The missionaries’ situation seemed hopeless, as it became clear that the church wasn’t going to pay the ransom. The families had the means to pay it, but decided not to, because it would have essentially put every other Christian missionary around the world into danger as a potential target for easy money.
Eventually, the lead captor prepared to kill the missionaries and remove all evidence of their crimes, once it became clear that they weren’t going to get the payoff they expected.
Spoiler alert – I won’t show you the ending, but I am going to talk about it, and share a poignant moment from the movie that captures what I’m trying to describe.
Things were not going well, but at one point, the missionary named Probst manages to get OUT of his handcuffs. Pausing to comprehend the new possibilities, he somberly wakes Tuttle and whispers, “We’re free…”
Their plan for escaping is not a palatable solution for the young Christian missionaries. They’ve never hurt anyone, like they were preparing to hurt their captors. They know that nobody would blame them for doing whatever was necessary to become free. They would be completely justified. Though it’s a terrifying prospect, they are determined to muster the courage to do “what needs to be done.”
Do they have the guts? Can they pull it off without a hitch? What if they fail? What if their plan backfires on them?
I’ve taught goal-achieving strategies to help people do the hard and scary things that need to be done in order to obtain freedom. There is a terror barrier that must be faced any time we are about to change our life in significant ways.
In this clip, Probst faces that terror barrier:
But in this moment of decision, where two very different futures apparently hang in the balance, significant moments in Probst’s life flash through his mind. He is reminded of who he is, and why he is there.
He is reminded of a bigger picture, where freedom is not the ultimate or only goal.
In this moment, something divine intervenes, not providing full clarity or even showing a different vision for their future, but providing only a glimpse of what is right for them to do in that moment.
Faith is doing the right thing, even when you do not know how it is going to play out.
This is what I mean by the message of The Jackrabbit “Factor” – how to get to that place of knowing what to do next, even if “what’s next” seems crazy to everyone else.
It’s also what I mean by the message of Portal to “Genius” – that the solution to every problem is only one idea away, so all we really need is inspired guidance, and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that everything will turn out for the best, if we follow it.
As for the missionaries, even though they followed the guidance, they were still captive, and their future still looked bleak. Doing what they felt was right did not seem to change their fate, but neither did they expect it to.
That’s not why they followed the prompting. They only followed it because it was the right thing for them to do in that moment, and they knew it.
So, what happens next? Actually, what happens next doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they made a choice that aligned with the Bigger Plan, even thought they couldn’t see what that was.
Again, just because we CAN, doesn’t mean we SHOULD
What if my goal to be ‘free’ in the here and now brings me an idea or a strategy that can work, but which may have long-term unfavorable consequences that I can’t foresee?
What if the same goal could be achieved in a way that doesn’t hurt anyone?
Or rather – setting the goal aside altogether – what if I decided to let someone else’s life matter more than my own?
I was reminded of my grievance: “My life doesn’t really matter here,” and something shifted. Suddenly it went from being a lament, to a declaration of joy: “My life doesn’t really matter here!!!”
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” ~ Matthew 10:25
So THIS is where he has been leading me! THIS is what it’s all about! I had heard that Bible verse many, many times, but had never seen it quite this way before.
Again, nobody would fault the missionaries for defending themselves. They had every right to do what was necessary to survive. They would have been fully justified in their actions, as are many people who choose differently than me.
But it is still a choice. In the missionaries’ case, God had a different plan, and fortunately they paused long enough to notice. As for me and my goals, I hope I will always pause to see if God has a different plan for me than the one I may be contemplating.
Bringing it all back:
Remember the moment when Probst was prepared to carry out the plan, but something caused him to pause and ponder?
That was me, feeling like I needed to slow down and listen.
Remember that moment when he sat on the mattress and reflected on his decision to NOT go through with their plan?
That was me, simplifying my life and quieting the voices in my head that had been urging me to dream bigger, go faster, and do more.
Remember that moment when he put the handcuffs back on?
That was me, choosing to put my marriage above my goals that had been straining our relationship.
Remember when he was told to write his last goodbyes and he began to cry?
That was me, mourning the death of my dreams.
Remember when he resolved to protect the other missionaries even though it probably meant death?
That was me, resolving to preserve our relationship, even though I was unhappy and had lost hope in our future.
Remember that moment when they realized they felt calm?
That was me, too, as I discovered a sweeter joy than I had ever felt from any of my goal-setting victories. And this time, the feeling didn’t come ‘from within’. It seemed instead to come from outside of me, as if God really wanted me to be clear that it was a gift FROM HIM, letting me know he was really there, mindful of me, and giving me strength and assurance that it would all be worth it in the end.
The rest of the story
As for the missionaries, there is a shift and a happy ending. I hope you’ll get to watch it sometime, because it is powerful. As for me, I’m also seeing things shift in my life in ways that I never expected. I’ve been keeping the details to myself, while I tried to figure it all out and make sure I was coming to the right conclusions.
I made the decision to let go of my dreams without expectations. I was resigned to whatever my new fate would be. I entrusted my life to God’s hands without conditions.
While I practiced intentionally living without a focus on my goals, my husband noticed a shift, too. It was a gradual process, but over time he noticed I was expecting less. I talked less about our plans as a couple. I simply worked on doing well, my basic, mundane, day-to-day responsibilities (instead of always trying to do something that would build our ‘successful future’).
Eventually, without any pressure from me, he started setting some pretty lofty goals for himself – the kind I could see. I didn’t expect him to. I didn’t even NEED him to. I almost didn’t WANT him to, because I thought it might make me feel guilty for not doing the same. (Doing so too early for me would be akin to an alcoholic stepping back into a bar.)
Ironic, isn’t it?
No, he did it for himself. (And I don’t want anyone to conclude that this is what would always happen in a case like this. It’s not about letting go to make someone change, and it’s important to be clear on that.)
But within a short period of time, he lost 35 pounds and took up cycling to keep it off. He started cycling 13 miles to/from work every day, racking up as many as 150 miles a week. He even got up at 3 am on a Saturday morning and cycled from Mesa, AZ to Payson, AZ (80 miles) with a group, after only 4 months preparation.
He’s been tracking his progress with an online app, showing that in some areas, he is outpacing veteran cyclists and ranking among the best in the valley. He is even scheduled to participate in a 2-week cycling tour/leadership training in Australia next spring.
Who is this guy??
His success in this one area began to spill over into other areas of his life, too. Work was better. Our relationship was better. Our family felt stronger. We laughed more, and enjoyed life more. It didn’t matter to me what he did, or how he spent his time. I was really proud of him for working so hard and doing so well.
And best of all, we were finally able to get on the same page with some goals that we could both be excited about, and came to an agreement on a plan AND pace for how we would accomplish them together, hence the reason for my earlier post on what I think about Dave Ramsey.
Getting on the same page again about something was a dream come true for me.
No, we weren’t tackling our couple goals at a pace I would have chosen by myself (they could always be bigger, better, or achieved faster), but it really felt like a good compromise, and I was just happy that we were united again in our vision for the future.
A few months later though, I had a setback.
His cycling started taking up more time and money, and he seemed to have forgotten about our plan. I think it was still there in the back of his mind, but it had become a chore for him to remember it, because he wasn’t nearly as passionate about them as he had become about his cycling goals.
So naturally, I began to resent his cycling, and found myself back in the throes of frustration all over again. I was angry and wanted him to know it.
Having learned my lesson before, I didn’t want to have to learn it all over again, so I had to find peace in letting go. I NEVER expected that I would have to give up on THESE: the smaller, simpler, slower dreams that we had decided upon together.
In many ways, giving up on these smaller dreams was even harder to do than giving up on the big ones. Because once these are gone, what’s left?
I felt anger, bitterness, grief — all of it, all over again — but this time even worse.
We had just seen the movie “War Room” as a family, and it inspired me. So instead of battling it out with him directly, I decided to try the War Room approach. I didn’t have a lot of hope that it would work…
BUT IT DID! Not the first time, but soon enough.
(Someday I may go into that in more detail, but today is not that day. This post is already long enough.)
In short, God changed my heart.
He removed the scales from my eyes and I suddenly saw my husband differently than I had ever seen him. Twenty-year-old chronic issues, deeply buried grievances, hidden wounds from years of conflict, clouded paradigms… all healed in an instant. Perceptions fixed that I didn’t even know needed fixing.
I didn’t even know it was possible. Well, I guess I thought it was possible, but I didn’t think it would be given so easily.
I’d look at him and think, “I GET TO LOVE HIM!” Suddenly I couldn’t wait to serve him. Make him good food. Ease his burdens. Care more about his concerns than mine. Work to create an environment where he feels great. Make our home a place he wants to be. It had always been such a chore before, but with a change of heart and new eyes, I even felt motivated to do things I didn’t enjoy doing before.
It was a miracle – unexpected, unplanned. A surprise gift. But even though it was God’s doing and not mine, I had been gently guided to do what HE needed me to do, namely prepare myself to receive it… not even realizing what I was preparing myself for. Remember, I had “made the decision to let go of my dreams without expectations. I was resigned to whatever my new fate would be. I entrusted my life to God’s hands without conditions.”
And in response, he did this.
God is ABLE TO DO HIS WORK.
I can, with confidence, testify that I’ve seen him do it. Sometimes we just have to stop ourselves from being the limiting factor.
Trust in his plan for your life. Let him lead you. Trust your Father in Heaven above all other mentors. People may play the role of messenger to deliver his message to you sometimes, and thank heavens for that blessing. But always check what you learn from them against what he speaks to your spirit directly.
So what about setting goals?
HEAR ME NOW. The SAME voice that told me to stop setting goals is the SAME voice that once told me to start setting goals. Remember, “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). What’s next for you?
In other words, this is NOT about abandoning goals, and it’s not even about setting priorities. It’s about decluttering, and listening.
This is why one particular message at last week’s General Conference caused me to immediately hop on Facebook and say, “OOOOHHHH – Larry Lawrence’s is my favorite so far! #LDSConf – Shantel – that right there was bootcamp summed up in a conference talk, wasn’t it??”
If you don’t have time to watch the whole video, here’s the excerpt that made me want to shout, “YES!!!”:
I knew a faithful mother who humbled herself and asked, “What is keeping me from progressing?” In her case, the response from the Spirit came immediately: “Stop complaining.” This answer surprised her; she had never thought of herself as a complainer…
A humble young man who couldn’t seem to find the right young woman went to the Lord for help: “What is keeping me from being the right man?” he asked. This answer came into his mind and heart: “Clean up your language.” …
A single sister bravely asked the question: “What do I need to change?” and the Spirit whispered to her, “Don’t interrupt people when they are talking.”
The Holy Ghost really does give customized counsel. He is a completely honest companion and will tell us things that no one else knows or has the courage to say. (emphasis added)
One returned missionary found himself stressed with a very heavy schedule. He was trying to find time for work, studies, family, and a Church calling. He asked the Lord for counsel: “How can I feel at peace with all that I need to do?” The answer was not what he expected; he received the impression that he should more carefully observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy…
Years ago I read in a Church magazine the story of a girl who was living away from home and going to college. She was behind in her classes, her social life was not what she had hoped for, and she was generally unhappy. Finally one day she fell to her knees and cried out, “What can I do to improve my life?” The Holy Ghost whispered, “Get up and clean your room.” …
The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, “line upon line, precept upon precept, … and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, … for unto him that receiveth I will give more.”
That’s it. It’s all about what’s next.
So, what’s next for you?
Freedom matters. Achievement matters, and YES! Goal setting is vital, and not just for making life better for ourselves, but also for accomplishing God’s purposes. But goal achievement is only one tiny little piece of life.
Ironically, we can miss the mark if goal-achievement BECOMES our life.
I imagine the heavenly choirs broke into singing when they observed me finally feeling and recognizing their subtle clue that I was onto something new and wonderful.
So what about all the things I envisioned for my future? I still believe in them, but decided that perhaps they don’t really need to happen in this life, if at all.
Some of my new mantras through this process became:
“Treasures in heaven” – If I have to choose between enjoying riches here or there, I’d rather have them there. I trust that riches will be mine in both places, IF they are needed for me to accomplish my life’s mission.
“Don’t be the limiting factor” – I believe that God has a bigger vision for my life than even what I can imagine. So I’ll trust him. I will live the principles, just to be sure that I’m not the limiting factor in what God can do with me.
“Tranquility” – to live with my spirit at peace, assured that God is guiding my life and that I’ll be prepared to handle whatever I will face.
“Unseen help is active and real” – I still believe in unseen help, but my goals are back to being more eternal in nature again.
“Peace be still” – Whenever I feel anxious or worried, I remember these words, which at one very difficult time, unexpectedly cut through the noise and chaos in my mind and immediately dissipated all of my concerns.
“Simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings” – Richard G. Scott. I will remember that, “by small and simple means, great things are brought to pass.” I choose to simplify.
I am certain that once this process is complete, I’ll be back to my intentional and active goal-setting endeavors again – but this time with greater wisdom. I still know that…
Anything is possible, but I don’t have to want everything.
When I’m ready to run again, I expect to counsel my wants, and keep moderation in mind. I will try harder to be grateful in all things, and more patient with everyone. But most of all, I intend to keep an eternal perspective, and always do as Joseph B. Wirthlin instructs:
Come what may and love it.
Wishing you all the best on your journey through life.
I’m sure a lot of people have probably turned off the news because they’re tired of the political drama (or circus) in this country. They may have heard about some of the issues, but it can be exhausting or even depressing to keep up with what’s happening, and frankly, who has time to worry about something over which you may feel like you have little to no control, anyway?
But if you’d like to at least be a witness to something that will go down in history as one of the MOST significant events OF ALL TIME, sure, turn off the news if you must, but at least take in the summary.
I’m not posting this video because my vote is going to go to Ted Cruz; at this point I’m not sure which one of the candidates will get my support at the polls.
(Besides Ted, I’ve been increasingly impressed with Carly, have a lot of respect for Ben, Marco, and some of the others… and yes, I even appreciate SOME of Trump’s tirades, but no matter who gets my vote, I do respect Ted tremendously for the way he boils it all down in his 59-minute overview.)
Yes, it’s a conservative’s point of view, and I don’t expect liberals to take the time, although the liberals are making history too, as Ted describes.
(On that point, I hope my liberal friends won’t be so quick to discard this… he compliments the liberals in Washington who adamantly and effectively stand for the principles they believe in, and calls for conservatives to learn from it.)
And 59-minutes may seem long, but it’s certainly a quick way to catch up on the hours, days, weeks, months, and years worth of news you don’t have time to digest. This is historic.
Here is a summary of America 2015 – how I believe this country, and our generation will be remembered in the book of life:
Just for fun, and to celebrate The Jackrabbit Factor’s 10th birthday, here are some things you may not know about my books, business, or whatever:
1) The name of my business “ThoughtsAlive” came out of abrainstorm in 2002 over the phone with friends Alanna Webb and Marnie Pehrson. Did you know they also pioneered the first online mall in 1996? True story.
2) Portal to Genius was originally going to be named “Hasenpfeffer in Munich”, but my co-author Garrett Gunderson feared that Google wouldn’t be able to provide a “did you mean…” suggestion when a user fails to spell it right.
3) In the year 2000, my husband showed me an email from Bob Proctor, which asked if we had ever thought about teaching what we had learned. I HAD to do it!! So we invested about $9000 to send me to the training. I didn’t find out until recently that Bob’s email caught my husband’s eye because my husband was interested in becoming a facilitator himself. When he saw how badly I wanted to go, he decided to keep his own interest a secret.
4) When I asked Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul) for an endorsement for Jackrabbit Factor in 2005, he told me no, he was taking time off to be with his family. I had just read his book Success Principles, which has a chapter called “Ask, Ask, Ask”. So I asked to be an exception. He politely declined again, so I decided to impress him by asking again. He finally had to get blunt with me. I apologized profusely for my rudeness and learned a hard lesson in respecting other people’s agency. You can achieve your goals without any particular person doing any particular thing for you.
5) The television interview pictured above from 2005 was horrible. I had 3 minutes to explain Jackrabbit Factor but I blanked out. Great picture, awful experience. The show was broadcast throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area and outlying mountain regions but I think I only sold one book.
6) As I wrote Portal to Genius in 2009, I had writer’s block for 6 months, until the turn of events described in Chapter 35 happened to US and got my creative juices flowing again. You can begin reading Portal chapters here.
7) I’ve lost count of how many times people have posted the following video on my Facebook page. I’m called the crazy rabbit lady, so this is right up my alley. It never gets old. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do!!
8) The Jackrabbit Factor has been translated into Spanish, Turkish, and Chinese. Whether they are good, accurate translations or not, I may never know.
9) Hidden Treasures was originally intended for my peers in the LDS faith (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but has since organically achieved best-seller status on Amazon.com and received glowing reviews from people of Jewish, Buddhist, and other faith traditions. The principles are Universal, and its message is unifying. Have you read it yet? It’s free.
10) In 2003, I gathered a decade worth of event notes containing my biggest epiphanies from over 100 seminars, and prepared to weave them into a story. It was originally going to be about a sea creature that evolves into other life forms, ultimately making it to the surface as it learns each of those important lessons. Somehow it ended up being a story about Jackrabbits instead. I’m kind of glad about that.
John Sims was traveling with an associate. The associate said, “John, aren’t you going to put on your seatbelt?”
John replied with his raspy tenor voice, “Why, are we going to get into a crash?”
“No, but seatbelts save lives…”
John retorted abruptly in his usual blunt way, “Seatbelts don’t save lives.”
“Of course they do!” His friend explained, “Once, I was driving with my family and something told me to make sure everyone was wearing their seatbelts. So we all belted up, and just as we turned a corner, there was another vehicle coming at us in our lane. Even though it was a head-on collision, we all survived because of those seatbelts!”
John was firm, “No, the seatbelts didn’t save your life, whatever told you to put them on saved your life.”
Probably a decade has passed since I heard John relate that story. Leaving a lasting impression on me, its message has deepened and taken on new meaning. He’s right. It wasn’t the seatbelts that saved their lives. True, they played a part in the actual physics of keeping the bodies secure during impact, but the credit belongs to the voice of warning. The “life-saving” seatbelts were there during the entire trip. But the timeliness of the prompting, and the man’s response to it, changed the would-be tragedy into a miracle.
I am reminded of a game I played in high school. Planning to take some friends to a picnic, my friend and I prepared a tape recorder which described our every move as we traveled from our starting point to the final destination.
When it came time for the event, we told our unsuspecting friends to wait at a payphone until we called them and told them where to find the hidden tape recorder. Our instructions: “Turn it on and follow the directions explicitly!”
At the end of the journey was the picnic fit for a king. But along the way, we followed our friends, incognito. The most hilarious moments came when they tried to mimic what we had done, but in the wrong places. Having accidentally fallen out of step, our friends found that the description of our actions no longer suited their surroundings and, to us, it became absolutely laughable. If they had only known where they were trying to go, they could have improvised and found their own way.
Sometimes we look at others who have reached an admirable destination in their life, and then imitate their same steps in an effort to achieve their results. We listen to their tapes, read their books, and attend their seminars; and then we do our best to follow what they say. While we can learn a great deal from people who have what we want, we must realize that we’re not always on the same sidewalk, so to speak, as they were when they began their journey to the picnic. We’ve had different life experiences and carry with us a different variety of baggage, all of which makes a difference. We need to have the destination clearly in view, so that when someone else’s instructions do not work, we are still able to improvise our way to success.
So, how do you identify your picnic? It’s so simple that most people discard the idea as unimportant. This is one reason why few ever discover the power behind it. All you have to do is simply DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT.
If you knew you could not fail, what would your goals be? This is actually the toughest part of achieving success; the part that at least ninety-seven percent of the population will never do. Create a description of the success you desire, and commit it to paper. Write it in the form of a gratitude statement as though it has already happened. Then you are entitled to, and can trust the impressions which come to your mind. By doing this, you’ve done it: you’ve ‘spotted’ your picnic table. As you hang on to the vision, you’ll know instinctively just how to get to it, because it will be in clear view. Without it committed to paper, your impressions will seem random and you’ll struggle to know what to do next. Perhaps you’ve already felt that way.
Take control of your life, and experience the exhilaration which comes from proceeding methodically toward your worthy ideal. Your success begins with the dream…and happens after you’ve done your part to enlist the voice of inspiration on your journey. See it in your mind, commit it to paper, and be grateful for it before it’s even yours. This puts you in tune with that ‘inner voice’, and you’ll finally know just what to do, and when.
This article, originally written November 14, 2003, was adapted and expanded to become the award-winning international bestseller: The Jackrabbit Factor
Positive Thinking Tip: God can always do something good with your less than perfect performance. Rely on him to help make up the difference when you fall short.
We live in a time when life comes at us faster than it ever has in the history of the world. We get stressed, overloaded, and overwhelmed. Under these pressures, it is hard to remain calm… the state of mind necessary to live in harmony with the universal laws of success. Often we get discouraged and lose faith, simply because we spend so much time beating ourselves up for our flaws.
To qualify for the blessings weu’re praying for requires a calm and confident state of mind. But when we’re disappointed in ourselves, it is tough to have faith. The problem is, so long as we’re not perfect, there’s always something to be disappointed about. So what do we do about that? How can we have peace of mind when we’re so imperfect? How can we achieve prosperity so long as we fall short of perfection?
Do we have to THINK, BEHAVE, and DO everything perfectly in order for the blessings to come? No.
For a simple example, I’d make a commitment to study a certain amount each day or week, and I’d sit down to read… just as a baby in the other room would wake up and start to fuss. Or, I’d get the kids to bed and open my books just to hear some crying and then one of the toddlers would throw up.
It seemed that something always got in the way of my ability to make a commitment to myself and keep it. I had gotten pretty good at “self-mastery” before starting a family, but all that changed after the first baby. No longer did I have much say in how my time would be spent, even with all of my good intentions of living a disciplined, structured life.
Finally, one day I surrendered in despair. I realized I had become a cranky, sloppy person with the utter inability to finish anything I tried to start. Anything that did get done was done half-shod. I collapsed in tears and expressed to God how sorry I was that I was such a failure. I was devastated and confessed that I was doing the best I knew how, and that as poorly as I was doing, it was all I could do.
For the first time in years I felt Him really smiling down on me. It was as if He was saying, “FINALLY you realize your dependence on me! NOW we can proceed!”
Everything changed after that. How does this lesson apply to me now? I still have all the interruptions that come with family life… even more now than ever. In fact, a paper airplane just hit me in the head and I’m not even kidding.
I don’t have time to plan, prepare, and execute much of anything as perfectly, professionally, or impressively as I should. Let’s say I’m selling something, and if doing the presentation poorly could cost me the deal, I have two choices. I can either think “oh, dear… I did such a bad job” or I can think, “that’s just going to have to be good enough.”
Which mentality will bring success? Which mindset leads to prosperity?
Now that I know my best is never going to be good enough, and now that I know that God understands and is okay with that (so long as I really try), I rely on Him to make up the difference for my inadequacies. When I’m trying to do a good job and I blow it anyway, I think of Him and pray that He can make something useful out of my less-than-perfect efforts.
So long as I have believed that, I’ve seen miracles.
So then, do we have to THINK, BEHAVE, and DO everything perfectly in order for the blessings to come? No. We will not live the principles perfectly, no matter how hard we try. BUT, we can think of God when we come short, and pray for mercy.
Let me give you an example. Years ago, my husband and I made the mistake of trying to purchase multiple investment properties at the same time. The underwriters on every one of those deals became uneasy when they realized what we were trying to do. The first home went through relatively easily, but the second was more tough. The underwriters kept coming back with more unexpected hoops that we had to jump through, including having us show larger amounts available in certain accounts than what they had originally requested, as well as proving that those funds had already been seasoned for so many months, etc…
Each time we managed to jump through one hoop, they came back with yet another and another and another. Originally they only needed to see X amount in the bank and 3 months of payments in reserve. Then, seeing us as a risky investment, their requirements increased to something like X times two and 6 months in reserve, which eventually turned into a required 12 months in reserves plus a letter stating we weren’t accruing more liabilities, even though they already knew we were. It seemed as though they had long since decided not to extend the loan and were hoping we’d just give up.
After meeting their newly imposed requirements over and over, it eventually became impossible to do the next thing they asked. We were so weary that we were ready to just let it go. We had done all we could do. Then a simple thought came to mind: we don’t have to come up with all that extra money and we don’t have to do everything they are asking… all this would take is for one person in underwriting to simply have a change of heart.
Suddenly it all seemed so simple, because it was going to be so much easier for us to pray for one person’s heart to change, than to pray for another $40,000 (or whatever it was – I can’t remember) to show up in our account by the next day, WITH proof that it had already been sitting there for several months, which would have been impossible to do.
Having finally come to peace with giving it our best and letting go of the outcome, we emailed to let them know that we would not be providing them the proof of the additional unexpected funds they were requiring.
The next day, our loan officer called and said that there was only one final token request (something insignificant), and it would be a done deal. There was no more mention of the large sum of money they had wanted before. It all finally went through.
The point? “You need not run faster than you have strength.” When perfection is impossible (and it always is), God can make up the difference if you will ask for His help and then believe in Him. Do your best to only ask for those things that would be in your best and highest good, and then trust Him. (More on that…)
A woman prayed: “Dear Father, I’ve been doing really well today… so far I haven’t yelled at the kids, cussed, thrown anything around in anger, overeaten, overspent, or overlooked my responsibilities… I haven’t watched too much TV, nor driven too fast. I’ve been good natured and cheerful to everyone around me… But Father, it’s morning and time for me to get out of bed. From here I’m really going to need your help.”
That’s what it comes down to: reliance on that higher power. If you choose to believe that somehow, God makes up the difference between your efforts and what’s required, then it’s that very belief which puts you in the right state of mind to receive the blessing… even when you don’t “deserve” it. In all honesty, none of us really “deserve” it. Only by the grace of God are we even breathing. So, to reach our goals, what does He require? Belief. Belief that He has a way to make up for our failings, and asking Him to help.
So, believe you can achieve your ideal life. Do what you can, and then when needed, say to yourself, “this is just going to have to be good enough.” Can you see how thinking this way is in harmony with the laws of success? If we think we aren’t doing well enough, and if we think that our inadequacy will prevent us from succeeding, then we’re right. Trust God to fill in, believe that He will, and you can succeed.
I just got hit in the head again. I’ve tried to edit this article as I’ve gone along, and now that I’m at the end I really should run through it one more time to make sure it comes across the way I wanted it to, and make sure the sentences are readable and flowey, but a precious little 5 year old has been trying to get my attention for more than two hours, so… it’s just going to have to be good enough.
Originally published February 7, 2005
Added August 8, 2015: Those of you who have been following me for a few years know that those real estate investments didn’t go so well! So yes, be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it. Here are some related follow-up articles that you may find interesting:
For years I’ve been hearing about Dave Ramsey and I’m embarrassed to say that (without listening to him myself) I had him pegged as the guy who helps broke people manage their limited supply, while I elevated myself as the teacher who helps people expand their supply.
At first pass, this may appear to be the case. But I want to set the record straight.
Listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast and radio show has become one of the most inspiring, motivating things I do now for a number of reasons:
1) Dave’s advice is solid. Scripturally sound too, if that matters to you. I honestly wish we had been listening to him back when we first started making a lot of money. If we had, we wouldn’t have nearly lost it all in 2008.
2) The good news is that the principles I teach help you get what you want. The bad news is that the principles I teach help you get what you want. Did you catch that? They work even if you set stupid goals. Dave’s program helps you choose smart goals. REALLY SMART GOALS.
3) In the past, I’ve offered psychological strategies for getting out of debt. While they make sense according to the principles, human beings do a better job getting out of debt by following his advice than they do mine. In time, I hope to update and revamp some of my materials to reflect my new point of view. My tips may seem good and right as they are, but the fact is, he’s got a longer track record of helping MORE people actually achieve the debt-free goal, and I’m not afraid to tell you that.
4) I thought Dave was only about managing a limited supply. The truth is, he has a LOT to say about how to expand your cash flow. I never realized that before! Combine his tips with the principles you’ve been learning from me, and holy moly, you’d be unstoppable.
5) I thought Dave’s audience was only low income wage earners, and that high earning entrepreneurs had nothing to learn from him. GASP! Those of you who are already fans of his know how wrong I was. He has SMART guidance for helping you increase your income through entrepreneurship if that is one of your goals.
6) The principles I teach are a powerful and appropriate rescue when you’re in crisis. But once you get on your feet and start building for your future, his advice will keep you on a solid path. It will keep you out of debt. It will keep you prepared for emergencies, it will keep you on the path toward building wealth, and prepare you to give like no one else. At any point along the way, if you face another crisis, apply what you’ve learned from me to exercise faith and get yourself back on track quickly. Use the principles you’ve learned from me to achieve his baby steps in record time!
7) His baby step goals do not have to replace the goals you already have… but I do encourage you to listen to his podcast for a couple weeks and consider following his advice on what would be the smartest order for obtaining them.
8) He’s entertaining and seriously MOTIVATIONAL! There’s nothing more powerful than hearing people accomplish seemingly impossible things. Like paying off your house in your 20s, or paying off $500,000 in student loan debts in only three years, starting out making only $50K/year. We’ve already made greater leaps forward since listening to him than we were making before.
9) Dave loves to point out how most people who follow his baby steps usually end up getting raises, promotions, or increased business revenue in the process. He says that God tends to bless the person who is on the right path, and I believe that wholeheartedly.
10) Some people disagree with his investment recommendations. I’m not qualified to comment on those. But I do appreciate the education I’ve been receiving, so that I can at least make more informed choices than I’ve been able to make in the past.
Oh, there are plenty of other reasons I’m excited about Dave Ramsey and what I’ve been learning, but just so you know, getting paid to promote him is NOT one of them. He doesn’t know me from Adam – I’m just another one of his listeners.
I just know that if you are feeling a little uncertain about what goals you should choose next, or uncertain about how to get out of debt, or uncertain about how to do what needs to be done without going into more debt, or if you just want to know what it feels like to not HAVE any, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to listen to his daily radio show or podcast.
I have colleagues who do not agree with his philosophies. I have colleagues who don’t agree with me, either. I don’t always say the same thing as other mentors or gurus (here’s why). The fact is, different mentors’ messages have had particular application to our situation at different times along the way.
But now was the right time for us to learn from Dave.
At other times, other mentors have been right for us, and they had different counsel for us than what Dave would have taught. It’s all good. It’s all about getting the right advice at the right time. Not always because it is necessarily the best, but because sometimes we need to learn something from the experience, which helps us become more effective teachers.
Utah Valley Convention Center
220 West Center St., Provo, UT 84601
9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Registration begins at 8:00 a.m.
(Meal breaks will be provided)
Seats are limited.
If you cannot attend in person, we are will be broadcasting this event live so you can watch from anywhere in the world. It’s always better in person, because sometimes technology can be undependable, but it is an option.
I received a fun message recently, reminding me of how simple it can be to apply the principles for truly immediate results.
Check this out:
Hi Leslie! I was thinking of you today. I had lost your book in my daughters room and she finally found it several days ago. I’ve been rereading all of the underlined portions and did something that worked!
I got my car washed yesterday and they put a scratch in my clear coating. My husband said to go back and ask what they would do to make it right.
When I read all of the reviews on Yelp, everything was terrible! My initial reaction was “Why should I even go back? They’re not going to fix anything anyway!”
I decided to apply what I learned in your book.
I decided to be grateful that they were actually going to do something to fix my car and be happy as I was driving over there.
When I got there I met the manager and asked him to come and look at my car. He said, “Are you angry about it?
I said, “I’m not mad. I’m just kind of bummed.”
He said, “I can fix bummed.”
Long story short, he waxed and buffed the scratch out of my car, cleaned up the milk on the inside that the other person had missed. He even offered me a 25% discount for him to do sealant on the whole car to protect it.
He was super nice. I even hugged him goodbye. He said he’s always willing to fix things when customers come in with a “Can you please help me” attitude.
Had it not been for your book I would’ve gone in with a completely different emotion.
I know you probably have hundreds of stories like this, but I couldn’t help adding one more! Really love your books. Really love how things can change so quickly just by using the way we think!
To learn more about what she’s talking about, download my two most popular books, FREE!
Salt Lake City Marriott Downtown at City Creek
75 South West Temple
Salt Lake City, Utah 84101
On Thursday, April 9, Strongbrook is going to be sponsoring their annual Wealth Summit for anyone interested in looking at real estate as a way to build a new income stream, or for creating a retirement income – only $20!
(I am the author of The Jackrabbit Factor, and one of Strongbrook’s approved Mentors, and if you’ve been looking for a way to leverage your resources for higher returns, you need to check this out…)
Find out how you can create rental income with a team of experienced experts. The Strongbrook team finds the right homes in the right markets, shops the auctions, rehabs the homes, rents, and manages the properties FOR you… and YOU get the cash flow.
If you’re not quite ready to invest, learn about their pre-investor program, which helps you earn money now while you get ready to invest.
When you click through to register for the Wealth Summit, select the “Wealth Summit” Ticket (prices range from $10-$20, depending on how many guests you bring with you).
My husband will be there, so be sure to find him, and let him know that I sent you. Here’s a picture of him (with me) so you can more easily track him down:
PS. The Wealth Summit takes place on the evening prior to the Strongbrook convention. Les Brown will be speaking there, along with many other powerhouse speakers. Convention is open to anyone, as long as there is still room. No membership required. For more about the rest of convention, click here.