Sunday, December 6, 2015

In Failing to be Another, I'm Learning to be Me

"Why do we feel damaged when somebody else is blessed?"

I once heard Elder Jeffrey R. Holland ask this as he expounded upon the New Testament parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). He called this a "fundamental question that we ought to work through in our life before it’s over."

I'm over 30, yet I still struggle to answer Elder Holland's question. I'm one of the weakest creatures of God's creation. He hasn't blessed with me with extraordinary physical or intellectual gifts, so I've spent much of my life envious of others endowed with more talent, more money, more success. I've repeatedly failed to be them, forgetting that there's a divine, unique me.

Fortunately, failures bring us nearer to truth by a process of elimination. My inability to be what others are brings me closer to learning who I am and what I can offer the world.

Scripture and the words of religious leaders also help.

To wit, I take great comfort from Alma in the Book of Mormon. Even as a spiritual leader, he was slightly off center in his wish to preach repentance to the entire world. He recognized sin in his desire to do it all, and came to the humbling understanding that he wasn't the only resource God has to accomplish His divine project. "I ought to be content with the things which the Lord hath allotted unto me," Alma says (Alma 29:3).

Another spiritual leader, Paul, teaches that the church is like a body, and reminds us that "the body is not one member, but many" (1 Corinthians 12:11). And in the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus teaches the liberating doctrine that "to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God" (D&C 46:11, emphasis added).

I'm reading Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence, an outstanding new book from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. I treasure his wisdomespecially his exegesis of the book of Genesis, which contains these two insights:

Peace comes when we see our reflection in the face of God and let go of the desire to be someone else. (p. 139)

There is no need to want someone else's blessing. We each have our own. (p. 170)

I've spent too much of my life thrashing about in attempts to be what other people are and to have what they have, all the while not trusting God's promise that I have something special to offer and forgetting His teaching that I need to be content with that offering.

And so I move forward, seeking to be the me God wants me to be. Recent experience shows me that few things bring more peace to my soul than to see my true self in the divine mirror.


  1. Great post. Do you have a reference for the quote from Jeffrey R. Holland? I'd love to read the quote in context.

    1. I am also looking for the location of that quote by Jeffrey R. Holland