When I was 16 years old, I worked in a dental office. I loved, loved, loved my job, but there was only one downside: The cliques. The front office women (receptionists, office manager, etc.) and the back women (assistants, rovers, hygienist, etc.) were always quarreling. There was constant backbiting and complaining. It was never anything outlandish, but it was childish. And as a 16 year old, I saw right through it.
I asked my mom what was wrong with these women. I said, "I thought that when we grew up high school behavior stopped."
"Oh, no. No, Cheryl, actually, it usually gets worse as we get older," my mother replied.
That was NOT the answer I was hoping for. I tried for years to assume it was because these women lived in a small community and hadn't traveled around much. I was also arrogant enough to assume that their education wasn't as good as it could have been. No matter what I thought, though, I realized, as I have gotten older, that my mom was correct. It usually gets worse. But in the case of this post, I'm not going to talk about how petty differences become too big for us to handle, rather, I want to talk about how I have become worse as I have gotten older.
We are here to learn and to learn fairly slowly. Line upon line, precept upon precept, experience by experience, we grow, learn, grow, learn. It's a slow and usually a very painful process, mixed with joyful moments. Each time we learn something new, it tends to be a result of some kind of hard lesson we've had to learn. For the lucky ones, we've learned it by watching others' experiences, but for the most part, we have to go through these lessons ourselves. For a lot of people, these lessons --without the right foundation or knowledge --tend to embitter people; they become entrenched in their own prejudices without even knowing it. The expanding circle of knowledge is too scary for them. This is usually the breeding ground for any prejudicial behavior (including racism), the halting of learning, and can result in the scenario I related above.
However, for those who are not afraid of the expanding circle of knowledge (and let me be clear that this is not limited to academic knowledge; this is any knowledge, i.e. emotional, mental, spiritual, etc.), we tend to enter --with each expansion --what I call the "realization" stage. We realize how broken we are; we recognize where we have erred in the past, and we try harder not to err in the future. This is why mothers of teenagers look at each other with knowing glances and smiles when speaking to younger mothers because "they know" and they "wish they had known."
We all "wish we had known." But if we had known what we know now, the experiences that gave us what we know now would never have had to happen. And we can follow that path all the way back to Satan and his crappy plan for no agency.
The hardest part, then, is coming to the point where we can be reconciled with our past mistakes without regret. I think it takes a lot of time, though.
In my Gospel Doctrine lesson today, I read this quote from President Joseph Fielding Smith:
I believe the Lord meant just what he said: that we should be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. That will not come all at once, but line upon line, and precept upon precept, example upon example, and even then not as long as we live in this mortal life, for we will have to go even beyond the grave before we reach that perfection and shall be like God.I have to constantly remind myself that this is a process, a journey, a chance to learn and grow. Although I don't think I'm plagued with the "perfection obsession," I do think I'm too hard on myself when it comes to obtaining wisdom. I figure, "I know this stuff, right? Then what is wrong with me!?" I need to chill out and give myself a break. If I'm truly putting one foot in front of another, constantly "checking in" to make sure I'm on the right path, then I'm doing pretty dang good.
But here we lay the foundation. Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection. It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today. … If we are keeping the commandments of the Lord, we are on that road to perfection.
This morning in Sacrament Meeting, I sat with my children (Brandon is out of town) and had the thought that instead of thinking about how my children were being so irreverent (which they really weren't), I needed to think about how I was doing something awesome. I was at Church. With my children. Alone, even! Teaching them, by example, how important Church is to me and to our family. And even though it wasn't a perfect day (#5 cried all through nursery and so they had to give him back to me after I taught my lesson), I realized that perfect days aren't the point. Bringing my children to Christ is the point.
So, dear reader, I want you to look at where you are in your life and I want you to see how far you've come. Don't look back at your stupid mistakes with massive regret (unless you have some apologizing to do!), but look forward. Keep trying. Keep learning. Don't give up, because gosh darn it, if you give up, then what hope do I have, eh?
That is all.