Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Tarnished Mirror of Self-reflection

I've been thinking quite a bit about charity lately. I'm a very selfish, uncharitable person and I don't want to be. When I was a very young child, it wasn't hard to reach out to those who needed me, but the older I become the more pain I feel and the more afraid I am to help or be helped.

Many things have been going on in my life over the past several years, and the past year in particular, I have found myself in the completely unacceptable position of relying on others for emotional support. I find myself, more often than not, complaining to people about my unsolvable problems. I find I have become a very ugly, very dark person to be around. Absorbed in my own problems, and having no way to either solve them or accept them, I feel the burden I'm placing on those around me, which is in turn making me want to withdraw more rather than less. And, as awkward and clumsy as I am, most of my efforts to return the gesture of a listening ear and safe place to vent are not fruitful.

I hate what I am becoming.

My desire to serve others is swamped by my desperate need for help that cannot exist and my inability to show that I want to help others. How I would love to get my mind off my problems by listening to someone else! I am no longer good at listening, at serving God's other children. I am afraid to reach out both because I don't know what I can offer others, and because I don't know how to show that I'm sincere without my own selfish needs washing over my intention to serve. Exhausted and with very little time and fewer acquaintances, what can I do? How can I find the strength to drop my burdens and serve?

How does one cease to be selfish and develop charity?


  1. SilverRain,

    I am the last person to give advice on how to be charitable but I wanted to let you know how much I admire your writing. You are one on the most honest bloggers out there.

  2. SilverRain,

    (This is LONG - even for me. Please pardon the length.)

    I wish I had an easy answer, but I don't. What flashed through my mind as I read this post is interesting, and I'm not sure you will want to hear it - but it is what flashed through my mind, so I will share it.

    DISCLAIMER: I am NOT saying I think it is analogous to your situation, and I am NOT saying your answer is the same as hers. ALL I'm saying is that this experience came to mind. That's all.
    Years ago, I was the voice of a blessing given to a friend who called and requested one. I had no idea what was causing her distress, but I agreed to be the voice. I will NEVER forget that blessing.

    In a nutshell, she was told that she would never overcome what was troubling her so deeply in this lifetime. (I found out later it was depression.) She was told that she would have to endure to the end of her mortal life without full relief - that she would die without having conquered the thorn of her own flesh. She then was told that the joy and sweetness she would receive for that endurance would make her pain and suffering pale in comparison - that she would praise God eternally for allowing her to suffer in that manner when she realized the full glory of her reward.

    I talked with her years later and was stunned when she said, "Remind me to never have you give me another blessing." When I repeated what I just shared with you, her reply was interesting:

    "I was so floored and upset by the first part of the blessing that I totally tuned out the rest. I never heard the actual 'blessing' you pronounced."

    I'm not going to delve into all of the implications of that experience, since I have no idea why it came to mind. I don't know how it might relate to you and your current situation. I really have no idea. I hope, however, the impression was inspired for some reason.

    All I will say is to listen to the voices that witness of His love for you and His awareness of you and your suffering.
    One more thing that just hit me as I was about to submit this comment:

    I wrote a post on November 12, 2008 entitled "Righteous Complaints". You might want to read it again. ( You also might want to read your comment and my response. There is a balance, and my wife has found an interesting way to strive to strike that balance.

    Check out her blog ( and read her "Blessings" posts. She generally writes them each Saturday - sometimes, like this past Thursday ("Crying"), with one mid-week after a particularly hellish day.

  3. SilverRain,
    I always enjoy your posts and comments and find them to be very insightful. I consider your sharing through your blog a form of service and charity.

    I obviously do not know you personally, but I identify somewhat with what you have expressed, and I wish that something I could say would help.

    There are times when we all need to rely on others for emotional support. You also mentioned that you have tried to be a support for others- don't minimize the impact that you have. You would be surprised at how many in the blogosphere respect you, and I'm sure that you have had a positive impact on others in "real life" even though you may not readily see or recognize this influence.

    Don't try to "run faster than you have strength." Take small steps. Seek inspiration and comfort through prayer and the Holy Ghost.

    Hang in there SR- some of us regularly check your blog and rely on you for your insightful posts.

  4. My dear friend,

    As you struggle through this time, I hope you can take a minute to look through past comments (and ones here) to know that you serve through your honesty and testimony. And you have served through other talents as well.

    But perhaps more importantly than that, as someone who knows you, a thought that came to mind is that you ARE giving SO much simply (but it's not a simple thing) by being a mom. You love your daughter with a fierceness and determination and focus and love that is so unspeakably valuable. Of infinite worth. You are sacrificing for her in SOOOO many ways. There is no greater service than that.

    You have loved me, and shown that love many times. And I thank you for it.

    And fwiw, I am trying in my life to test thoughts and feelings by their fruits. Truth is light, love, happiness, joy. When I feel as you are feeling (and again, I have been there, many times), I can look back in times of more clarity and realize that what I was feeling was not based in truth.

    The truth is that you are giving MUCH. And the truth is that things take time, especially progress and putting off the natural (wo)man.

    I am sending you a hug, and hope that you can be patient with yourself, and hold onto the love that others have for you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

  5. SilverRain,

    I believe M&M when she says you do serve. Recently I learned something about depression that rang true but still surprised me. Most people (AKA- not depressed) view themselves more favorable than is reality (ie. they think they are charitable 80% of the time while those around them would say 50%). While those with depression see themselves in a negative or realistic light. This said so much to me about another way I can fight depression. I can remember the positive things that I do and leave the negative ones(even by omission) at the feet of the Savior. Pleading with him to forgive me even as I feel helpless to change. It seems that is what you are doing. And you desire to, that is the start of all good things.

    Something I thought of when you asked how to learn to serve was my own experiences with visiting teaching. Don't roll your eyes at me just yet! Years ago I began to see visiting teaching as those sisters the Lord knew I could be friends with. As I visited with those sisters as my friends I realized that they had healing and help to offer me as much as I had it to offer them. Many, many of my visiting teaching experiences since that mental shift have been so sweet.

  6. Sorry, everyone, for the time it's take me to respond. I've thought over the responses, trying to adjust my thinking. I'm so fortunate to have such wise people out there to help me. Thank you, all.

    Ray, thank you for your story. You could not have known how inspired it is. I've been told repeatedly to, essentially "Be still" and learn who God is. I'm having such a rough time learning that. As I've mentioned to you before, your words on dropping the burden at Christ's feet have affected me deeply. I'm struggling every day to just that, and I feel I'm failing miserably. I am certainly discovering how deep my selfishness and need for control go.

    The good part is that never before have I glimpsed into the divine character that Christ really has. I always thought that it would be, if not easy, at least easier to suffer the mockery and ridicule He did when He experienced the Atonement and Crucifixion. Instead, now I wonder at the magnitude of the hopelessness He must have felt, and yet He was still able to bless them that cursed Him. How I wish I could do that! How I long to turn the other cheek!

    But far too often, I come up far too short. I use sarcasm when I should use patience, and I try to defend myself when I should reach out and open my heart more, despite the certain pain it causes.

    To Sanford, Jim, M&M and JenDoop—thank you. Your support means a great deal to me right now. The strange thing is, I've felt depressed before, and I don't feel that way now. I'm just feeling trapped by my own emotions, among other things.

    M&M—Especially you. I hope you're right.

  7. The pain can make a huge difference. I'm sorry it is so hard for you right now.


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