Thứ Ba, 28 tháng 5, 2013

on guilt and perfectionism and other problems

Recently, I had a conversation with some good friends about some of the ways in which Mormon culture occasionally misses the mark. In my recent study of the scriptures, I've been impressed by how central grace is to EVERYTHING, and how often we forget that.

My friends and I were discussing Mormon single culture, as we often do, and the fact that, when you reach your late twenties/early thirties unmarried, people want to help. They like to make suggestions about what's wrong with you and who you shouldn't have broken up with and what you need to change to win at the dating game.

It's all extremely well-intentioned and terribly misguided and unhelpful.

And this kind of thing happens all over the place, not just to us unmarrieds. Judgment is passed on those who haven't yet had children, mothers who stay at home, mothers who work, fathers who stay at home, people who have made mistakes, people who've chosen lifestyles we disagree with, people who have social or emotional weaknesses or idiosyncrasies, and on and on and on.

As much any of us try not to, it's hard not to internalize some of this talk from others and think, "Maybe they are right. Maybe all my problems are my fault. Maybe I'm no good. Maybe I can't make it to where I want to be."

In our discussion on these problems, my friend brought up this story and this video:
And it reminded me that Christ's response is never to condemn us to guilt and misery and discouragement. He never asks us to make a laundry list of our failings. Instead, He asks us to focus and depend on His strength. He is always there to grasp our hands and lift us up when our own mistakes and others' judgments have brought us down.

Even as this woman is taken in the very act of her sin--she hasn't repented, she hasn't changed yet--Christ still sees infinite worth and potential in her. He also sees her need for compassion, not condemnation. One of my students recently shared with my class this powerful quote from President Spencer W. Kimball: "Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. . . . We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings."

And this is how we transform others: we offer them grace, forgiveness, understanding when the rest of the world is only throwing stones. We recognize their goodness and potential, even if we have to look deeply for it, and we cultivate it.

This is the message that Christ came to deliver, and it's a message that offers hope and happiness to anyone at any point in life. As His followers, what prevents us from spreading this message of love, hope, grace, acceptance? Why do we condemn where He did not?

It seems to me that we can easily be caught up in a Mosaic-law approach to life: we have to keep all the rules and force others to keep all the rules in order to feel safe or secure. In reality, I think Christ taught us that loving people is the most likely way to help them transform and to help ourselves transform.

 I think the first step is acknowledging that we're all guilty and we're all incapable of perfection--then, we don't have to worry so much about what our neighbor is doing or about proving our own righteousness or worthiness. Instead, our energy is freed up to love and lift others as Christ did--to receive the GRACE that is our only chance at improvement, and then offer that undeserved grace and love to others.

And that's the whole point, isn't it? Isn't that what Christ came here for? To help those (read: all of us) who need His help but don't deserve it?

 It's when we are least deserving of others' kindness and compassion that we need it the most and, perhaps more importantly for Christ, that we are most grateful and accepting of it.

 Written by Meridith at

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