A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing from Danny and Mara, writers of A Blog About Love. I was able to attend through a stunning turn of events, and I am very grateful that I was able to hear from them. They have a powerful message to share.
Their message is so powerful, in fact, that I want to share it with you.
There are three basic decisions we can make that are at the heart of courage. These decisions are: (1) Identity. A strong sense of who you are. (2) Becoming. Understanding your situation and making decisions to achieve the most you can. Choosing faith, hope, and love over fear, doubt, and anger. (3) Pursuing virtues for virtue’s sake. Loving for the sake of loving. Choosing to be virtuous simply because it is a virtuous thing to do.
We all go through a process of finding out who we are. I don’t think this process is ever completely over. However, there is one part of understanding who we are that is far more important than all the rest: understanding that YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD.
In the Book of Moses, chapter 1, Moses is taken up to the top of a mountain. There, Moses beheld God’s full glory. God’s full glory! Can you imagine! Moses had the glory of God upon him so he could even endure God’s presence. All that God is. Moses was seeing it all. God said to Moses, “Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” Moses is beholding all this amazing glory — he is seeing God face to face! — and Moses hears God saying that God is everything. He is the beginning and the end; he is eternity. Moses must be overwhelmed by the power of who he’s seeing.
And then, as if Moses weren’t already completely blown away, God says, “And, behold, thou art my son“.
Wow. Moses, beholding God’s full glory and hearing about all that He is, is told that he is the son of this God Almighty! That was probably not a phrase that was tossed around in Moses’ childhood. He had probably never heard that he was a son of God. And as he’s witnessing all this glory, he is told that he is the son of God. What an overwhelming feeling that must have been, to find out that you are a child of God!
God then proceeds to show Moses all of His creations and all of His words. And Moses, with this new understanding that he is God’s son, sees all the workmanship of God, which workmanship is without end. God shows him the world and all the people in the world. Moses is seeing everything.
After Moses sees all this, the presence of God departs from him. After Moses again receives his strength, he says, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” He feels such humility. He knows that God is powerful beyond measure, and undoubtedly he is feeling humbled to have learned that he is the son of that God, the Lord God Almighty.
That is each of us. We are all God’s children. All that you ever thought you could become — you are destined for so much more! All of us have power to become, and that power is greater than any we could have ever imagined. You have unimaginable capacity for greatness and love and overcoming.
Identity is where everything else good begins. When we have the knowledge of who we truly are, we have power beyond measure. Don’t let those phrases — “son of God”, “daughter of God”, “child of God” — become cliches. That is power. You are a child of God.
Choice and Becoming.
How do you react to life? Each day, you can choose how to react to every situation you are in. You can choose to react in faith, hope, and love, or you can choose to react in fear, doubt, and anger. It’s that simple. You choose your reactions.
Jesus Christ is the best example of reacting well, in good times and in bad. Let us not forget that in the very worst of times, as he was hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34] He forgave those that were in the very act of taking his life. He chose to respond in love, rather than in anger.
The script in our minds, our motto, that thought we turn to, can define how we react. If your script is a negative one, you will generally respond in a negative way. Try changing your script to reflect your true identity. Say to yourself, “I am divine. I can do hard things.” If you live as though you are divine, you can begin to face situations with strength. You can live life as though you are divine because you are divine. You are a divine being. Live your life to reflect that. Your self-worth can guide you through terrible times as well as great ones. Tap into your divinity. It can change your life.
It isn’t the circumstance that matters. Circumstances are irrelevant. It’s the way you react that matters. Much of life is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As it says in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, verse 63, “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” This can be true for both the joys and wonders of life as well as the torments. If you are seeking good, you will find it; however, if you are seeking evil, you will, indeed, find it.
If you’re looking for it, you will probably find it. If you choose anger, you will find it. That is also true of your reactions. If you choose happiness, you will find it. Learn to pay attention to how you respond to situations, and then choose virtues that consistently yield happiness. You then cannot help but grow in joy and happiness, regardless of the circumstance! It is all in the way you choose to react.
Let’s revisit the story told in 1 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. Nephi’s father, Lehi, was a prophet in Jerusalem. Lehi was instructed by God to take his family into the wilderness, and, since he had faith in God, he did so. Nephi chose, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to be obedient and happy about the circumstances they were placed in. Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel, did not choose that path, however. They were constantly murmuring against their father. They would complain; they were angry. Nephi and his brothers were in the exact same circumstances, but the manners in which they chose to react were starkly different. Nephi chose to react in faith and hope, whereas Laman and Lemuel chose to react in anger. It’s the lens you choose that ultimately changes how you react to good and bad situations.
John 14:27 states, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” The Lord’s peace does not come with circumstance. It is entirely independent of circumstance. Don’t feel fear, doubt, or enmity — don’t use that as your lens. Instead, feel faith, hope, and love. It can completely change your outlook on life! You can receive great amounts of joy, even when you have the biggest reasons to be angry.
We all have the amazing gift of agency. Agency is not just about choosing to do things — it’s also about the spirit with which you do things and the way you view the world. The virtues you choose to embody create a better experience of a circumstance. Be very careful and deliberate about what you choose — about yourself and how you view yourself. When you are aligned with God and His virtues, when you are at one with Him, you will not fall. How you do things, in addition to what you do, matters. Faith, hope, and love are the Hows.
If something goes wrong, it’s easy to react negatively. Try being still. You’re not going to be still automatically in a poor circumstance: you have to make it happen. It’s easy to think about yourself in those circumstances, but that’s where the anger comes in. Try thinking about someone else. Channel love and compassion. Pursue virtues. The Holy Ghost will assist you. Joy and love will come to you. The circumstances are irrelevant. You can do this!
Everything we do is an opportunity to live virtues. Ask God for an opportunity to practice. If you make up your mind to do it, YOU CAN. Replace anger with compassion. Have no expectation to gain. This is applying Christ’s Atonement in your life. Be the virtue because the virtue is the best thing you can have. James 1:3-4 states, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Let the virtue act on you and have its perfect work. There is a difference between doing and being. God is love. It’s not conditional. Don’t let your virtues be conditional. Be the virtue because it is virtuous. IT WILL TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE. You can thrive through your trials. We each have the opportunity — I have the opportunity — to pursue virtue. You and I can do it right now. We can be virtuous, simply because virtue is good. Choose virtue, for virtue brings joy.
I won’t pretend to be an expert. I am not an expert. I get frustrated. I get annoyed. But I am practicing. I’m learning to work on recognizing where I can choose my reactions. I am trying to react with love and understanding. It’s a work in progress, but I want to be able to channel love and feel love for everyone around me. My circumstances are irrelevant. I am a daughter of God. I am divine, and I can choose to be virtuous. And that will lead me to a more joyous life.
I love the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is through Him that we become perfected. He gives us trials so that we can learn, and He gives us the strength to overcome. He is the perfect example of love and compassion, for He is love and compassion.
Read Mara and Danny’s thoughts on this topic here. (and you might see my photo there, as well.)