This is part two of a talk I gave on Mother’s Day and wanted to share with you. Part I is here if you missed it.
In that same talk by Sister Dalton, she said that virtue is the strength and power of daughters of God and then she defined virtue as, “a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards.”
I think that this definition is key to understanding our feelings of never being good enough and understanding where those feelings come from and how dangerous they can be. One word that Sister Dalton used is so important. She said a “pattern” of thought or behavior. A pattern means that something is repeated, time and again, consistently, predictably.
I think that Satan will do anything to disrupt that pattern, breaking down virtue and thus breaking down the power and strength that we as women possess.
I think one of his most effective ways of breaking that pattern is through those feelings of hopelessness and despair. Satan may even disguise those feelings as something good. We may think that of course we should feel guilty, because we aren’t perfect, and think that by berating ourselves for our shortcomings, we are trying to be better people…so those feelings are good, right?
But feeling that kind of guilt is often paralyzing. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by everything that we need to do that we become paralyzed and do nothing at all or stop what we are already doing. It is so easy to feel like what we are doing doesn’t matter, so why bother anyway? So maybe we give up here or there, or skip this or that. Our pattern of thought and behavior is then interrupted, stalled, broken. Our virtue, our strength and power, is then broken. Satan has accomplished what he set out to do.
In speaking of that kind of guilt at General Conference in 2006 (another great talk you should check out), Anthony D Perkins said,
“God the Father is merciful and has infinite love for you despite your faults. Only the voice of Satan will cause you to feel of no value. In contrast, the Holy Ghost will cause you to feel “godly sorrow” 10 unto repentance in a manner that fills you with hope of positive change.
When you feel worthless, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” 11 Refrain from repeatedly thinking or saying negative words about yourself—there is a clear difference between humility and humiliation. Identify and use your unique talents rather than dwelling on your weaknesses.”
This can help us in identifying where our feelings are coming from. Feelings from Heavenly Father fill us hope of positive change. Feelings from Satan cause us to despair, to quit, to stall, to freeze.
Paying attention to our thoughts and identifying whether they are from the Spirit or from the adversary can make a huge difference in our behavior and in the patterns we embrace. What does that look like in real life? I would like to just give a few examples.
You and your husband are gathering your kids for family prayer. The oldest (who should be the example) is rolling their eyes. The youngest is running in circles. The other two are hitting each other. Okay, this may be a direct example from my own life….The thoughts that go through your head are, “My children are never ever going to understand the power of prayer. There is no Spirit here and I have failed failed failed in one of the most important lessons I can teach them.” These thoughts are certainly understandable and may even seem accurate. But are they from God?
I am so grateful we have apostles from God to give us answers to negative thoughts like this one. Elder Bednar gave a talk in general conference and talked about the same struggle he and he wife had with their sons – prayers when they were poking each other and giggling and complaining about their brothers “breathing their air.” He said that years later he could see that “our consistency in doing seemingly small things can lead to significant spiritual results. “ and he quoted the scripture “Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33).
The negative thought would lead you to believe that the hard work of gathering your family for prayer isn’t worth it, the thought that combats it is that you are doing small and simple things that will lead to something great in the future – in other words, it will encourage you to keep a pattern of virtue.
You have been trying to improve your health. You want to be strong so that you are ready at all times to do the Lord’s work. You have been exercising and eating good food, and you feel more energetic than ever. Then someone tags you in a Facebook picture, taken from below, in the middle of a belly laugh, with a triple chin. All health motivation goes out the window. Why bother eating well and sweating when you are never going to look the way you think you “should”? All you feel like doing is eating a bowl of ice cream and taking a nap. Again, this may or may not be based on personal experience. And this may seem like something trivial, something that isn’t really even related to the gospel, but really, that negative thought is not put there by our Heavenly Father. So we know where it is coming from? It is an attack on a pattern of good choices, an attack on virtue – and the response to that comes from Elder Holland in general conference 2005 when he was talking about the way that young women feel about their bodies. (Another great talk you should read or watch later – I love hearing Elder Holland)
“Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won’t be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that’s good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.”
I could go on and on with examples of what Satan would have us believe in order to stall our pattern of behavior and thought, versus the truths that Heavenly Father has for us, which will lead us to hope and continue in the work we are doing. The answers to Satan’s negative thoughts are always there. Heavenly Father has provided them for us from our leaders, scriptures and prayers.
Tomorrow – Part III, Embracing our virtue. In the meantime, can any of you give any examples that you have noticed in your life when have been able to replace those overwhelming feelings with greater truth?