Thursday, July 2, 2015

When It's Appropriate to Give Up


This is probably one of the most repeated and well loved quotes of all time, but there's one problem with it.  It's bad advice.  I will not be surprised if I receive criticism for saying that but if you are willing to read on, I'll explain.

There are most definitely times in life where the best thing you can possibly do is give up.  Here are 9 times that I will outline where this applies and what you should be giving up.  Each is based on a Christ-like attribute listed in Preach My Gospel: faith, hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence and obedience.


Our faith is strengthened through testing it.  One of the best ways to have our faith strengthened and our fears, insecurities and doubts wiped away is if we give up our desire to have all the answers.  This means giving up the need we feel to have absolute assurance of truth from some great, glorious vision or sign, simply acting in faith, not knowing for sure what will come of it.  As we give up the need we sometimes feel for great, grandiose signs from God, we will see the truth about faith.  We'll see that it is a quiet yet firm trust in good things to come that are not seen, that God's word in scripture, ancient and modern, will bring us inconceivable joy as we live by it.  As we give up our demands for all the answers to our questions when we think we need them and trust God's timing we will come to know the pure joy of unwavering faith in our Father's plan as well as a deeper sense of self mastery.


I never understood what the difference was between faith and hope for sure until I finally understood Moroni 10:20-21. Hope is a confident expectation that following Jesus Christ will have good results, a yearning for His divine, transforming power in our lives.  It has to do with our expectations of the future and is inclusive of faith.  Hope is the expectation and confidence we have in the outcomes of living the principles in which we have based our faith.  The greater the hope we want to have, the more we must be willing to give up our desires to please everyone else first, give up any of our goals that lead us to a standard or result less valuable than what God has in store for us.

Charity and love:

These two terms, to me, are synonymous.  Charity is the pure love of Christ and, in my opinion, the only true kind of love.  The pure love of Christ is the only kind of love there is and the small bit of it we feel for others is but a foretaste of the indescribable, all consuming love He has for us.  President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said "In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time."  It's a funny thing, time.  So often it is easy to claim we just don't have time to do certain things. What we forget when we make this claim is that it has nothing to do with how much time we have, but everything to do with where our priorities lie.

With that in mind, one of the best ways I know to grow in charity, Christ-like love, is to change our priorities. Anything we should love needs to have more of our attention. Everything that keeps us away from our loving Redeemer and diminish our value as children of God must continually become less important to us until they mean nothing and the most important things mean everything.  To really have pure love for our Father in Heaven, His Perfect Son and His children here on earth, including ourselves, we have to be willing to give up anything takes our time and attention away from whatever does not make us like Christ.  We must be willing to give up interests that take even a second of our precious time on earth away from coming to know Him.


Virtue, to me, is a state of mind and heart.  There is never a time when we are truly alone and what we do when we feel like we are alone and no one is watching reflects our virtue or lack thereof.  I have highlighted this verse regarding Lehi's vision of the tree of life in my virtue colors in my Book of Mormon: "And I said unto them that the [river] which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water."  Why didn't he see it? It was because he was so focused on virtuous things that he didn't even notice.  If we want to be virtuous, we too need to give up the impulse to focus too much on things of the world, on getting attention and being recognized for everything we do by men.  We need to give up our desires for things that "moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal."[3 Nephi 13:19 and Matt 6:19]  When we give that up and replace it with desires for Godly things, behaviors, habits and beliefs that make us more like Him, more perfect, then we will come to know the true peace, joy and power of being virtuous.


As God has told us through a prophet, "It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance."  If the goal of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to make us like God and God is omniscient, then the only way for us to become like God is to also become omniscient, to know all things.  I know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ this is possible as we seek from knowledge and understanding from the Holy Ghost.  The trick that most people notice about this is the difficulty of sifting through lies to find all those gold nuggets of truth in the world in which we live.

With so many different perspectives among mankind today, our circumstances as we learn and gain understanding can have such a great effect on how we think that we are often blinded by them; blinded to the point where we completely believe any false ideas we have had ingrained in our mind as a result of our own negative life experiences.  So how do we overcome this hurdle?  Giving up any need we feel to agree with what's popular can help.  Giving up the need to be in good standing with the assumed standards of the "knowledge" of men will go a long way as well, replacing it with a concern for maintaining a good standing with the source of all knowledge, our Father in Heaven.  Only He can give us untainted, absolute knowledge in it's purest form.


I think it's safe to say that if you've never doubted your faith, you've never had it rigorously tested.  The classic example of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon is an effective display of the power of contrast to build our patience.  To illustrated this, notice how much easier it is to tell the difference between the colors below by looking up and down than by looking left and right.

In the same way, it's much easier to enjoy the blessings of our lives if we constantly have challenges that are poignant enough to effectively illustrate the value of our blessings.  As Kim so accurately stated in this mormon message, "the greater our sorrow is, the greater our capacity is to feel joy".  Patience, though, goes beyond simply enduring, passively or radiantly, though difficulty, but rather extends to actively going out of our way to work through them and make ourselves, through Jesus Christ, more like God.  Whether it be patience with our circumstances or with people, it also means giving up our concerns about who is right and replacing it with a concern for what is right. It means giving up any desire to please everyone and replacing it with a desire to please God, which will in turn please those who matter in our lives. It means giving up needing to know all the answers about every little (or big) thing right now.  We should be replacing that with a loving trust and gratitude for the Lord's purposes and timing with hope in the blessings and level of self control resulting from such.


Many people reading this may be familiar with the phrase "if you know you are humble it actually means you aren't" which makes humility one of the hardest things to master.  The reason God can say He is humble is because He has mastered humility and therefore knows how be aware of His humility while still staying humble.  As weak mortals we just don't know how to do that.  It's just too far out of our reach without the full power of the Atonement perfecting us as we progress throughout eternity.  I remember seeing a something on pinterest with a picture of a flower that said something like "a flower doesn't look around comparing itself to other flowers, it just grows where it is, always simply stretching for the sun".

A truly humble person will always have the interests and well being of others at the forefront of their minds and hearts.  The rewards of this are obvious.  When any individual feels like they are the center of someone's loving attention, they feel better about themselves, grateful for that person's attention and usually a natural desire to reciprocate will follow.  So how do we reach the point where we are only concerned about other's well being?  Giving up our fears that we will go unnoticed will help.  God notices and rewards every selfless deed we do, and His attention is far better than anyone else's anyways.  Giving up our need for temporal rewards and having gratitude, instead, for the peace of simply knowing we did the right thing for someone else and their life is better because of us is always worth it.  That, in and of itself, is often a great enough reward.


Preach my gospel uses the following adjectives as a part of it's diligence section: steady, consistent, earnest, energetic, persistent, great effort, care, effective, efficient.  I think all these could be summed up with the scripture "Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;"  What on earth would we need to give up to incorporate this Christ-like attribute into our lives?  It seems like kind of a weird concept considering the nature of this attribute.  But, when you think about it, diligence can get tiring for some people.  So giving up on the urge to satisfy mortal desires like non-essential sleep and letting the "same ten people" at church take part in regular needs of the ward might help.  Considering the concept of "good, better, best", replacing some of the enjoyable but trivial activities in our day with something more soul building, something that does good for someone else instead and give up our desires for taking a break with something "mindless".


One of the biggest misconceptions about obedience to God is that it is limiting.  On the contrary, God knows so well what will make us happy and miserable that following His commandments will only ever result in our long term happiness.  It may bring social discomfort and/or pain of some kind for a time, however brief or extended, but the long term joys and love we experience from obedience to God's commands can only result in a positive outcome.  It will always make us better people, more satisfied with ourselves, happier in our relationship with our Father in Heaven and our Savior.  Sacrifice is always a part of being happy and loved and when it comes to obedience.  When we become willing to give up the taint AND the tyranny of the pseudo happiness the world offers, however enticing or great it may seem; no matter it's method of delivery, we come to know the glory of the joy and love of the Lord, which, so accurately described by Joseph Smith, "def[ies] all description" in any mortal language.  Honestly, I know from personal experience that what we gain from obedience to our Father in Heaven and our Savior is infinitely greater and more glorious than anything the world could ever offer us.


Notice how I haven't suggested just giving up and leaving it at that.  I have also given encouragement to replace anything given up with something better.  The phrase "give up" has been given such a negative connotation that saying can seem depressing, but what I am suggesting with this post is to make it something that, of it self, is neither good nor evil, but rather something to be determined by us and God as good or evil, depending on what and when we give up.

So please, give up.  Give up anything that pulls you away from the supernal, unmatched love of God.  Give up anything that taints your perception of yourself and others as children of God with infinite potential.  Give up everything unnecessarily trivial, everything that does not create peace in your relationships, everything that drives the Holy Ghost out of your life or home to any degree, everything that discourages or distracts you from the most important things in life.  Give it all up and replace it with everything you should never give up.  As Moroni put it, "deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.  And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot."

I can think of no greater joy than to give up all those things and find perfect joy and love in filling the measure of our creation, becoming clean and perfect, like our Father in Heaven.

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