Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Gift to be Healed

I'm not a glass-half-full kind of person. Oh, I try to be optimistic and give people the benefit of the doubt, and I've made great strides in my personality as I get older. But underneath it all, I'm afraid I'm just a great big Grinch. As the Christmas season winds on (isn't it over yet?) and the New Year begins to sniff around the yard, I find myself wishing I were far more charitable than I am. When I'm sick or tired, I find it especially difficult to be the cheerful, uplifting person I want to be. And I find myself getting annoyed with people who refuse to give ME any leeway for mistakes. As hard as I try to be forgiving, I still find seeds of resentment, the urge to just lash out at someone for no good reason but to vent. If there is a sin I would give away above all others, this would be it.

Ray's post last month which I've mentioned once before, about casting your burdens at the feet of Jesus, has resonated deeply with me. It continues to haunt my mind. I find that the more I think about it, the more clear it comes to me that as much as I berate myself over my unkindness and resentment and all the myriad other "besetting sins" I possess, my pride which drives me to perfection is the one I most need to overcome.

I am of good German stock. One of the things I have always admired most about the German people is that when the unpleasant needs to be done, they dig in and get it done. Few other people have the sheer earthen tenacity of the Germans. If there is a burden to lift, an obstacle to surmount, they will do it or die trying. Wound in my persona is this underlying belief that if I only work hard enough, I can overcome anything. I have been shown this last year or so that this simply isn't true. There are things I cannot overcome, things I cannot do and obstacles I cannot climb over. My imperfection is one such obstacle.

My husband and I watched a film called Penelope recently. Although this film wasn't stellar in execution, it had an underlying story, a twist on the classic Beauty and the Beast tale which struck me to the core. In it, the beast Penelope only has to accept herself to break the spell. No one else can do it for her. Once she does this, the curse lifts and she is cured. Only by letting go and learning to accept myself in my imperfections and laying those imperfections at the feet of my Savior can I lift the curse that is keeping me from being all my heart most desires. It is not my ugliness which mars me, it is my refusal to let that ugliness be what it is. I came here to earth to experience imperfection. I can never believe that a perfect being can forgive me for that imperfection so long as I cannot forgive myself. If I can't let go of my sins, He won't wrest them from me. Part of asking for forgiveness is recognizing that forgiveness is possible.

Demanding perfection of myself is pride. It is not for me to make me perfect, it is for the Lord. I am only to serve Him and worship Him, and if part of that service is to try to give people the benefit of the doubt and lift them up when they are down, than I will do so. But I will not do so out of a need to be perfect, I will do so as an expression of my devotion to my Savior.


  1. SilverRain:

    What a wonderful post. I am speaking on the Atonement this month in my home ward, and I hope you don't mind if I print this post and use it in that talk - editing out, of course, the reference to my own post. I simply will mention that it comes from a blogging friend. It is the perfect piece for which I have been searching.

    Please let me know if you would rather I didn't share it.

  2. Ray read your post to me. I came back to read it again. You could have been talking about me... This particularly struck home for me:

    "It is not my ugliness which mars me, it is my refusal to let that ugliness be what it is. I came here to earth to experience imperfection."

    Thank you for sharing your insight. It helps put my own perfection complex into proper perspective. Learning to let go and trust Him to help me become who I want to become is a continual process.

  3. Ray—I'm flattered that you'd want to use it. Thank you. I don't mind at all.

    Michelle—Thank you. It sounds like a silly thing, to struggle with perfectionism, unless one does. When I was little, I always wanted to be beautiful until I met and befriended a girl who was absolutely stunning. She hated her looks, and did what she could to downplay them, because she said she felt she was never seen for what she was, only for what she looked like. I think it is far too easy to look at the beauty and talents of others and envy them without realizing that all blessings come with their challenges.

  4. Great post. I'm there with you.

    One thing that itched at me a little- "It is not for me to make me perfect, it is for the Lord." Is this comment too far towards the belief of being saved entirely by grace? Like most things in the gospel there is a middle ground, a balancing act that we are required to perform to be all that we can be. It takes our best efforts and the Lord's atonement together to achieve our highest potential.

    For you personally it sounds as though doing your part isn't a problem. It's the "Believing Christ" part.

  5. Jendoop—I used to think that way, but I think we make a mistake. We tell all these stories about the little girl and the bicycle, and the string of pearls and etc, etc, but I have come to believe we have gotten it backwards. Our good works aren't the cause of salvation, even a little bit; they are the expression of it.

    We are not saved by grace through our works, when we are saved by grace, we show it by our works. In other words, look at James' words. When he says faith without works is "dead", I think he is not saying that faith without works is empty, he is saying that faith does not exist without works. Faith without works is false faith, because true faith always manifests works.

    When we think that we have earned salvation by "doing all we can", we miss two important aspects of the gospel. First, that nothing we can do can ever earn us Christ's grace. His grace is free, without money and without price. Secondly, that there is no such thing as "all we can do". In Christ, we can do everything, because faith in Christ empowers us to perform great works. In Him, there is no end to what we can endure and accomplish.

    That is why prayers for faith to be strengthened and supported in trials can be so much more powerful than prayers to end trials. If we truly believe Christ, and His Atonement, that belief becomes faith when we do what He asks.

    It is clear in Ether 12:27 that we are not to make ourselves as perfect as we can, then go to Christ and be perfected the rest of the way. We are to go to Christ in humility, with all our humanity, where our imperfections will be manifested to us, and He will make them perfect.

    I hope that made sense, it's hard to articulate.

  6. I'm thinking about your response. I really like what you said but I'm still wrapping my brain around it. It's hard to move that bicycle and pearls out of the way :)

  7. SilverRain,
    Thank you for these comments. I'm not German but often struggle with similar issues that you describe- prefer to not ask for help, think that I can manage well enough on my own, etc.

    I love this article. It is long but touches on several aspects of this issue:

  8. You know how much I struggle with this, too. Perfectionism is definitely a barrier to really accepting Christ's mercy.

    I heard somewhere that Bro. Robinson felt he didn't get enough of the grace part in that parable of the bicycle, but of course, that is just hearsay.

    I do think, though, that we choose to invite the Savior into our lives by obedience. His grace is freely there, freely given, but He can only stand at the door. We have to open it. Agency does come into play at some point, else everyone would be able to be exalted without doing anything.

    To me, it's like asking if we choose charitable actions to try to develop charity, or if charity is a gift. The answer is 'yes.' We seek to exercise our agency and make choices that are charitable. But we also seek for the gift and the change of heart that can help us become charitable from the inside out.

    But it's not like our choices somehow activate God's love. It was always there, always available. But we have to choose to receive it. Receive the Savior.

    Just my thoughts....

  9. Here's a quote that helped me sort through this a little:

    "Being like Him means we possess His divine attributes, such as charity. Do we develop charity by our own power or is it a gift from God? It is both. In the current BYU vernacular, we must be “fully invested” in Him—as He is fully invested in us. Only then will God “bestow” charity “upon all who are true followers of his Son.”52 We can’t develop a Christlike love by ourselves, but we can do all in our power to become a “true follower”—meek, lowly of heart, and submissive to correction and affliction. Then the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, “filleth” us “with hope and perfect love, which . . . endureth [forever], when all the saints shall dwell with God."

    From Bruce C. Hafen -- this talk is a great one on discipleship. I think he captures well in talking about charity how there is that tension between works and grace.

  10. Your first paragraph describes me pretty well too. For me, it is quite a balancing act, and I'm afraid that I either err on the side of trying to perfect myself or on the side of losing hope and giving up. Rarely do I seem to find that elusive balance between submission and striving. It is good to remember that we are all "works in progress," and perhaps sometimes we expect too much of ourselves. Perfection and mortality just aren't very compatible.

    I thought I'd share a few excerpts from Elder Corbridge's talk: "We might think we can’t really follow Him because the standard of His life is so astonishingly high as to seem unreachable. We might think it is too hard, too high, too much, beyond our capacity, at least for now. Don’t ever believe that. While the standard of the Lord is the highest, don’t ever think it is only reachable by a select few who are most able."

    "In this singular instance life’s experience misleads us. In life we learn that the highest achievements in any human endeavor are always the most difficult and, therefore, achievable only by a select few who are most able. The higher the standard, the fewer can reach it."

    "But that is not the case here because, unlike every other experience in this life, this is not a human endeavor. It is, rather, the work of God. It is God’s work and it is His “glory . . . to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” There is nothing else like it. Not anywhere. Not ever."

    "No institution, plan, program, or system ever conceived by men has access to the redeeming and transforming power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Therefore, while the Lord’s invitation to follow Him is the highest of all, it is also achievable by everyone, not because we are able, but because He is, and because He can make us able too."

  11. Jim, that quote was awesome. Do you have a reference so I can read the whole thing?

  12. M&M:
    Here's the link to Elder Corbridge's talk from conference:,5232,23-1-947-12,00.html

  13. Thank you Jim and M&M, your comments have given me a lot to think about.


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