Thursday, October 29, 2015

Character and Personality--It's not about fitting in.

A few years ago I found out a good friend of mine wasn’t attending the Relief Society class (the class for women taught by women) at church. When I asked her why, she replied, “I feel uncomfortable.” Upon further prodding she opened up and said, “I don’t fit in. I’m not like them. I can’t be like them. That’s just not me.” 

I watched this amazing woman ostracize herself from a group of wonderful sisters because she held onto the notion that you must abandon any sense of individuality in order to fit in or fit ‘the mold.’ What a deflating and damaging misconception! 

In my years of service in the Church I’ve worked with women and young women of all ages who are all striving to be more like Jesus Christ. Some have it in their minds that going to church requires you to conform to a certain personality type, to embrace hobbies that don’t come naturally to you, and to ultimately sacrifice any sense of uniqueness, as if sharing the same faith means sharing the same personality. They think of conforming as the death of who they really are, and that it is simply not true.

Yes, God does want us to change, even conform, but I don’t believe He wants us to conform our personality to the style and likings of the people around us. He wants us “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). That means that we are to become like Jesus Christ. In His own words, He said, “Therefore, I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). We are to conform to perfection. But what does it look like? Does it include highlighted hair, a size 6 dress, a spotless house, and a love of canning seasonal fruit? Thankfully, no. Not that these things are bad, but if perfection rested upon them, I’d be in big trouble!

Perfection isn’t a personality issue, but one of our character. There is a subtle, yet very distinct difference between the two. Your personality is made up of your behavioral patterns habits, temperament, and emotions. You may have the personality of an extrovert, an optimist, a jokster, serious, lazy, hard-working, etc. Personality traits are easy to see because we are always showing them in all that we do.

Character goes deeper and is not always easy to see because it is often times revealed in specific circumstances. Your character is based on your beliefs and can include things like honesty, virtue, kindness, and selflessness. Have you ever had someone you thought was one way (based on their personality) who, when put into a difficult circumstance, reacted totally different? You may have heard someone say, “Well, that’s their true colors coming through.” Our character is our ‘true colors.’ It’s the stable, constant, undercurrent of beliefs and the condition of our heart that lie under the ripples of our personality.

When we are asked to conform to the image of the Son, I don’t believe we are meant to abandon all the good and fun stuff that makes us us! We don’t have to change our personalities to match everyone else in the room. What a tragedy that would be! No, I believe we are to look at the things that lie deeper in our hearts, embedded in our character, that might not be congruent with the character of the Savior—things like pride, greed, selfishness, and anger. Those are the things we are asked to change and can change through the miracle of repentance.

Does this mean you don’t have to change your personality at all? Not quite. Just as there are negative character traits, personality traits like being bossy, impatience, aggressiveness, critical, secretive, or rude are all pretty bad. These negative personality traits can be hurtful to others, and can and should be recognized and addressed. You might find, however, that the more you focus on conforming your character to be like the Savior’s, these negative personality traits naturally will begin to disappear.

We don't have to become like everyone else, we simply need to become our‘best’ self. That happens as our character is refined through repentance and our personality is polished; the harmful stuff is washed away and all the wonderful stuff is left.

Paul of the New Testament is one of the most powerful examples of personality and character. Before Paul was converted, his name was Saul. Saul had a strong personality. He was dedicated, tenacious, and brave. There was one major problem: Saul hated Christians. He hunted them down, putting as many into prison as he could. On his way to Damascus to persecute more believers, a light encircled him and he fell to the ground. The resurrected Christ appeared to Saul and told him to go into the city.

In the meantime, the Lord appeared to man named Ananias in a vision and told him to find Saul. Saul’s reputation had preceded him, and caused Ananias concern, and perhaps even fear. The Lord answered, “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto me” (Acts 9:15).

How could Saul be a chosen vessel when he was persecuting the Lord’s own followers? The Lord knew who Saul was and what he would do when his beliefs and character conformed to the Savior’s. He was baptized by Ananias, and immediately set out to learn all he could about the gospel (part of that tenacious personality.) He changed his name to Paul as embarked on a life-long mission to right his wrongs preach the gospel to anyone who would listen. He was nearly stoned to death, shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, and imprisoned, and in all of it he praised God and gloried in his tribulation. That was his personality!

That is amazing and so very comforting to me that Heavenly Father sees who we are and what we can do. It reminds me of what I tell my kids, “Use your powers for good.” It is often half-jokingly, but always true!

It's not about fitting in. You belong. You have a place.You are wanted. You are needed. So, build your character and embrace your personality.Conform yourself to the character of Jesus Christ and be YOU!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Repentance isn't about tearing yourself down

My daughter texted me the other day, upset. She slept in, was late for school, and missed a class. Then she got a poor grade on a test she should have aced. Here's a part of our text conversation:

DAUGHTER: "I would've done better if I wasn't such a moron. I didn't set the alarm and missed my class. Now I've disappointed you and dad, and missed the chance to review the stuff from the test in class and did stinking poorly."

Now, I'm really good at negative self-talk. I try to avoid it when all possible, but it's a skill I have in my arsenal. Apparently  my daughter does, too. Emotional genetics, I suppose. But I don't like my daughter talking bad about or to herself. Hence my response:

ME: "No negative self talk. Repentance isn't about tearing yourself down. It's about lifting yourself up. Take this learning opportunity and use it to be just a little bit better. Then move forward with joy."

I often have no idea what to say to my teenage daughter. I also often say the wrong things. But that, right there, was the right thing at the right time. I know it's right, because after I sent it to her I reread it, and the truth of what I wrote settle into the nooks of my heart. I realized that it applied not just to her, but to me as well. To all of us.

We all make mistakes. We all screw up. We can't help it. Sure, we can help how much, but no matter how hard we try, we will not be perfect. We take the stick of false expectations and beat ourselves up, and even condemn ourselves, for making mistakes. Many of our mistakes are avoidable, yes. And some are just stupid. But, as in all mistakes, that's when repentance comes in.

I don't believe repentance is supposed to be a process of tearing ourselves apart. It really is about lifting ourselves up. Jesus Christ already suffered for us. Of course we must feel Godly sorrow for our sins. Godly sorrow brings about a broken heart and contrite Spirit. (Psalms 34:18). But, self-defacing, unforgiving, and sometimes damning attitudes we take towards ourselves do not belong in real repentance.

Repentance is about recognizing what God wants for us, understanding our responsibility to improve, and the mercy and blessing it is to have a Savior who has already paid the price of our sins.  Are these not things to rejoice in?

Of course we're gonna mess things up. That's what we do. We trip and fall. We make bad choices. But, when our eyes are focused (as well as they can) on doing His will, we might fall but we will never fail. Repentance, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, can lift us up again.

Repentance isn't a rehashing of our shortcomings and imperfections. It's the acknowledgment of the perfect mercy of our Savior.

Repentance isn't an exercise of self-abuse. It's the gift of self-forgiveness.

Repentance isn't prison, It's freedom.  It's not hateful. It's loving. It's not selfish. It's selfless. It's not punishment. It's a gift.

So, when you mess up, and you totally will, remember this: Repentance isn't  about tearing yourself down. It's about lifting yourself up.  Learn from your mistakes. Be just a little better next time. And move forward with joy.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Opinion Does Not Change Truth

You may have seen the picture that took the internet by storm a few weeks ago:

There is this dress, one dress, people cannot agree on. What color is it??  White and gold? Blue and black?  For a brief moment in the cyberworld, everyone had an opinion and no one could agree. Two people sitting next to each other could look at the same picture and see different colors. How could that be? How could people looking at the same thing have two opposing opinions? 

I wanted to know, too. And I found this really smart answer:

"Our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting condition. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the the ambient  light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? Different people may pick up on different visual cues in the image, which can change how (their minds) interpret and name the colors."

 So, we can all be looking at the same thing, but as we interpret the surroundings, it can change the way we see it. That's how so many of us had so many different opinions. Fascinating! But, our interpretation doesn't change the actual color of the dress. (For inquiring minds, the dress was actually blue and black)  Our opinions can't change truth.

I want to switch gears for a moment and talk about God. We live in a world with as many opinions as people: He exists. He doesn't exist. There is no God. His is force and power. He is in everything. He is no where. He is angry and vengeful. He is kind and loving. 

But, just as our differing interpretations and opinions of the color of the dress had no effect on the actual dress, our opinions cannot change reality-- the truth.

God lives. That's not an opinion. That is truth. THE truth. God does not change. He "is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness, nether shadow of changing" (Mormon 9:9).

We can fight over principles and principalities, but our opinions will never change the truth. 

God is real. He is a loving Heavenly Father with a plan and a purpose for us.

He is the author of what is right and what is wrong. We can have our opinions of what should be acceptable, what we want to be able to choose and do without negative consequences, but our opinions don't change truth.

Just as we can't change the nature of a tree because we decide it's just a large bush, we can't change the nature to God because we decide our image of Him is right.

There are millions of opinons, but only one truth: God's. How much happier would we be if we put as much energy into finding His truth in all things as we do in trying to prove our opinons are right?

Opinions cannot and will not change truth. But truth can change opinions, and can change us.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Change, Forgiveness, and Freedom - a Very Personal Post

Every single one of us have said or done something in our lives that we are not proud of, something we would take back if we could.

(This post was hard to write. Yes it's long, and very personal, but the message is close to my heart and too important to share. I hope you bear with me and read on.)

People change. I have changed.

None of us are the same as we were yesterday, five years ago, twenty years ago. Every day we change. Sometimes it is imperceptible, other times the change is drastic. But we all change. That will never change.

When I was in my late teens early twenties in many ways I was different than I am now. I was still fun-loving and outgoing, but different. I made different mistakes. Many of my choices were driven by insecurity, immaturity, and selfishness. Perhaps that is pretty typical of one that age. My intents were good for the most part, but there were times when I said or did things then that I would never do now. There are things I wish I could take back.  I wasn't a terrible person, by any means, just different. I've grown a lot. I've repented. I've learned. I've changed.

In my first book, "Does This Insecurity Make Me Look Fat?" I am quite open about some of my struggles of those years and their ramifications. It was a scary book to write. I still have struggles today, which I am equally as open about. That was even scarier to write. But I am able to be honest about all of my struggles due to the very fact that I have changed. I was and am imperfect, but I know Who makes me perfect. I have been forgiven. I have been changed. I know who I am now, and I like me very much.

I am who I am because of my Savior. Through Him I've had the opportunity to change. My Father in Heaven has forgiven me, the Spirit has touched me, and I have changed. That's the beautiful thing about Their perfect forgiveness--I learn, I grow, I change, and when I honestly repent, They remember my sins no more. They forgive and move on. They don't hold my past mistakes over my head. They see me as I am now, love who I am now, and glory in who They know I can be.  When I seek forgiveness, I am free to be me now, and not be held hostage by who I was or what I've done before. Their forgiveness frees me now and allows me the chance to keep on changing for good. It is such an empowering and liberating principal!

Most of us want that deep inside: to be forgiven, to be seen for who we really are and who we can become. Heavenly Father is always ready and willing to offer His forgiveness. The Savior, through His Atonement, has already paid the price for our mistakes. They are just waiting for us.

If only we understood what power forgiveness really holds! Their forgiveness frees us, and yet, do we offer our forgiveness so freely to others? Can we see past who they were to who they are today? Do we withhold forgiveness because we don't feel they deserve it? Can we forgive to free ourselves of grudges or pain, even if the other person isn't sorry? Can we let go of our misgivings and allow those that have hurt us to be forgiven, to move on, to learn, and to change?

Sometimes it takes great courage to forgive people, to let people change, to see them for who they are now rather than who they were before. But, we should try. First of all, it's pretty much a commandment (Matthew 18:22) but also because it frees not only them, but it frees us.

Let me share two very different, very personal, examples of what I mean. 

A few weeks after my book came out I received a call from an old friend of more than twenty years. We used to be very close, and I felt we still were. She was the kind of friend who, though we spoke every few years, I had felt a sisterhood connection with and a love that time hadn't diminished.

When I saw her name flash on the caller ID I excitedly picked up the phone and greeted her.  This was her response: "I am fine thank you. I am reading your book and I am not enjoying it at all." Then she proceeded to tell me I was a terrible person. She said I needed counseling, that I was messed up. She told me that there was no way I could write something like this when after what I had done to her. How could I, in good conscience, write a book about loving God, yourself, and others?

I was dumbfounded. We had emailed back and for just a couple months prior and ne'er a word was said about any issues or events. So, I inquired as to what I could have done to cause her such anger and grief.

There were three things: First, I had said something years ago that wasn't very positive about her to her husband, a then mutual friend, when they had first begun dating. Second, she was upset that she hadn't receive an invitation to my wedding twenty years ago. And third, she was upset that in 2010 she called to tell me she was pregnant. We were about to have family prayer, so I asked if I could call her back and I never did.

Still shocked, I tried to explain myself, firstly, about what I had said years ago. Whether or not it was true, and though my intentions were good at the time I had said it, it was something that should not have been said. I reminded her that this was something we had talked about at length in the past, something I had apologized for twenty years ago, and something she had forgiven me for twenty years ago. Still, I apologized again. I then apologized for her not getting an invitation. My mother had made the list and sent them out. I didn't play a part in that, nor did I pay attention to who was on the list. I simply didn't know she hadn't received one. As for the last one--I didn't ever remember that call. I am sure she did call, I'm sure I was happy for her, I'm sure I told her I'd call her back, and I'm sure I forgot. I'm also sure there was no ill intent. 

My explanations and apologies meant nothing. She was still mad, and had her mind set that I was simply a terrible person. She told her I had tried to ruin her marriage by my comment years ago (which was not true). She also told me she was sure I didn't call her back because I was jealous that she was pregnant again, and I couldn't have any children (I'd had a medically-necessary hysterectomy in 2001.). She said I had always been jealous of her, that I wanted to have her life and to be her, and that's why I didn't call. That last one particularly hurt, and proved that she really didn't know me very well now, or twenty years ago.

What she didn't know was that call came during the time we had just adopted our youngest child. The night-time routine then was long and hard. The transition was difficult for our daughter and for me. I spent many nights crying, wondering if I had the strength to be the kind of mother I needed to be to parent this beautiful, broken child. I wasn't jealous of my friend. I would have been happy for her. I was just struggling, exhausted, and focused on my own family at that time.

But she didn't want to hear that. She did want to hear about my twenty year old apology and her then-forgiveness, or that I had no idea she didn't receive an invitation twenty years ago, or that five years ago I was just keeping my head above water as I was trying to know how to parent my little girl. All she could see was who she thought I was in the past, and was convinced I was the same, that I hadn't changed. 

I spoke softly and calmly while my heart ached. She said she could never be friends with someone who could have done those things to her. She said I was a terrible person who didn't even know who she was now. I posed the idea that perhaps she didn't know me as well as she though she did now, either. I suggested we start anew, that the 'her-now' and the 'me-now' become friends. I told her that I loved her, and I didn't want to lose the friendship I had always valued. She said, "Your cute words sound nice but they don't mean anything, just like the nice words in your book. No thank you. I don't want a person like you in my life. You're toxic. I am going to finish your book however, even though I am not going to enjoy it." I told her I was sorry that she was not open to our friendship. She said she was even going to unfriend me on Facebook, so I shouldn't be surprised. Then she hung up.

It was a call I had no idea was coming. For years she had harbored these feelings. They had festered, tainting her ability to know me now. She was stuck in the past, and in a reality she had created herself. She was held hostage by her unwillingness to understand, to forgive, and let go. She was unwilling to believe I could change and grow after twenty years, and felt that I was undeserving of forgiveness. 

She is wrong.  

Still, I was shocked and hurt. No, I was devastated.  What brought me more sorrow was the fact that she was in more pain than I. She couldn't leave behind her negative feelings, and they festered until she was filled with bitterness and anger. She was in her own prison, and that made me so sad.

Contrast that with this next experience with two other people in my life, a friend and a roommate.

I had made a mistake once and was confronted by a friend in front of other people about it. Feeling ashamed, insecure, and embarrassed, I denied it. Not only did I lie, but I led her to believe that it wasn't me who had done it, that it might have been my roommate. I know, awful, right? That's exactly how I felt at the time. Insecure and awful. After the conversation nothing was ever said about it again by anyone. It just kind of melted away. We went about our lives and, as what happens to many over time, we fell out of touch.

I know it wasn't the right thing to do. I knew then. Though I never talked about it, it was still there, a heavy spot on my heart. So, years ago I spoke with the person I lied to and sought their forgiveness. They were so good and understanding and kind, They forgave me, understood me, and let it go. I felt so grateful, so good. They told me I need to apologize to my old roommate. I told them I would.  Then, as it happens, we lost touch again, and the promise faded into the background of my busy life.

One day, years later, my old roommate popped up in my Facebook news feed when a mutual FB friend commented on a post of hers. Like a rush of heat I remembered my promise. I knew I needed to apologize still, even after all this time. I was surprised and embarrassed I had forgotten the promise, and knew what I had to do. It took a few days to muster up the courage, but late one Sunday afternoon I reached out to her. 

I was so nervous. What if she was still upset? What if she hated me? What if she couldn't forgive me?

After our initial long-time-no-talk pleasantries, I dove into my apology. I told her what happened that day, how I apologized to our friend, and how sorry I was that I purposefully redirected possible blame her way so long ago. Then came silence....followed by laughter from her end; not unkind heckles, but a soft chuckle. She was never aware of what I had done. But that wasn't what made her laugh. She laughed because I still cared enough to apologize after all these years. Not that she thought it was funny, but she couldn't believe how sweet it was that I had still cared enough about it, about her, to apologize now. 

In a loving tone she forgave me, even though she said there was no need for forgiveness. That was a long time ago. We are both different people now. We had both changed. And nothing else needed to be remembered or spoken of again.

We talked for another hour about our lives now, our families, our accomplishments, our testimonies, and our interests. She told me multiple times how it was such a joyful surprise that we had connected again and I agreed. At the end of the call I expressed my gratitude for her understanding, forgiveness, and love. She laughed again and said, "I don't even know what you're talking about. You are wonderful, Michelle."

Do you see the difference? Both incidents were of friends that I had offended long ago. One wasn't willing to see that I had changed. She was unwilling to forgive and see me for who I am now. She was weighed down by anger and pain.

The other freely offered forgiveness and let go. She rejoiced in the fact that I had changed, that we both had changed, and that brought us closer together again. 

One was held hostage. The other offered freedom.

I know, it can be hard to let people change, to forgive. It's hard to acknowledge that someone who hurt you in the past could change and grow. Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to let the past stay in the past, and to live in the now. I know it does.

I had a friend who hurt me a long time ago in a way that could be easily considered unforgivable. I have heard through a mutual friend that he is a loving father and husband now, active in his church, and is happy. He has changed. I could be mad, feel that he doesn't deserve happiness, that he was and always will be a terrible person. But that simply isn't true. I am so glad he has changed. I am grateful he has learned and grown. I am free of ill feelings towards him, and, through the power of my Savior's atonement and a lot of prayer, I see that he is a good man now and I am happy for him. He has changed, but I am free.

When I say we 'let' people change, what I really mean is that we acknowledge they can and have changed;  we 'let' ourselves see them as changed. It's hard to do when we want to hold onto our grudges, when the pain they cause runs deep. But, forgiveness isn't ours to keep to ourselves. The moment we ask God for forgiveness we give up the right (if it ever was one) to keep forgiveness to ourselves. When we ask God to help us learn and grow and change, we acknowledge that that is a gift He gives to all His children who sincerely seeks Him. 

Every single one of us have said or done something in our lives that we are not proud of, something we would take back if we could. Most of us are trying to become better people each day, to improve, learn, grow--to change. If only we could see each other as we really are now, untainted by our past mistakes, what would we see? Who would we see? How would we feel?

Yes, it's hard to let go of our perception of who people used to be, but when we do we free ourselves, and them, to love who they are now and to keep changing (hopefully) for good. It takes courage in some cases, but it is worth it. I am heartbroken by my good friend that refused to believe I could change. I am filled with relief and joy by my sweet friend who offered forgiveness and love for who I am today.

People change. I have changed. And I will strive to continue to change the rest of my life, for that is why I am here--to become better, to become more like my Savior.  I know what it feels like when forgiveness is withheld. I know what it feels like to withhold it. It is painful. I also know what it feels like to be forgiven and to forgive. It is liberating. And that, I think, is something that will never change.

As I was about to publish this post, a thought occurred to me. I've talked about letting others change, accepting who they are now and letting go of the past, but what of ourselves? I'll admit, when I remembered what I had done to my roommate so long ago I felt terrible. How could I have forgotten to reach out and apologize to her? Thoughts began to creep into my mind and the adversary, seeing a crack in my armor, fueled the flames of self-doubt. Questions about my integrity and worthiness whirled in my head, but only for a brief moment. I shared my concern with my good husband, who said, "Michelle, you made a mistake a long time ago. That doesn't mean you were a bad person then, and you are not a bad person now. Go and apologize. Let it out and let it go. Then be the person you know you are now." He was right. For a brief moment I let the past taint my own view of who I am today. Seeking forgiveness and letting go helped me to, once again, accept that I have changed for the better, and fed my desire to continue to do so.

I love the quote by Donald L. Hallstrom, "Who we are is not who we can become." We are meant to change, to progress, to improve. We are meant to be more than we are now. That doesn't mean we aren't good enough now. It's not a matter of being good or worthy of being loved. It's a matter of becoming like our Savior. Regardless of mistakes past and present, we have infinite value and worth. But, through Jesus Christ we have the privilege to progress. He gave His all--literally--so we could. Let's not get in His way, in other's way, in our way, of change.

Sometimes it takes even greater courage to see ourselves and others for who we are now, not a collection of mistakes we've all made in the past (because we have all made mistakes). It can be hard to forgive ourselves and others, to love ourselves and others. But, we must try. We need to try so we can be free. Free to love ourselves fully, free to forgive others--free to be all that we can be. Free to change. Free to forgive and be forgiven. Free to be free.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pornography: Fighting the Real Enemy

Yesterday I wrote a post on Facebook about pornography. (See below). I was fascinated by the responses, not because they didn't all agree with one another, but because the conversation became fixated on the book and movie mentioned in my post. I feel, in a sense, the heart of the post got lost. I am not fighting against one book or one movie. 

I am fighting for the women and men who have been (or might be) damaged by pornography, and against an insidious industry that does thwarts the reality of what love really is.

Pornography has been called the modern plague. It has also been called the new drug.  It is dangerously addictive and destructive. I have seen it damage relationships, lifestyles, and people's sense of worth. It is tragic.

One of the most harmful effects on one who struggles with pornography is shame. Shame kills hope and love. They feel ashamed, dirty. Broken. It is a shame that settle so deeply into their soul that they take it for truth.It changes their ability to see themselves as they really are--as God sees them. It is heartbreaking. 

So much has been spoken about the danger of pornography, how we must fight against it, how awful it is. And I wholeheartedly agree! But, in our quest to fight pornography, let's not cause more casualties. Sensitivity and compassion are key. Shame is something we should help free people of, not hit them with.

It is a harmful addiction, but there is hope. There is a way to get through it, to overcome it. As we fight this good fight, let us do all we can to to place the shame where it belongs: on the people at the heart of this industry, not those who suffer from it.

One of the things I love about the gospel of Jesus Christ. It illuminates the hope in the world. All things can be overcome. In it is healing and strength, purpose and direction.

We have the power to choose light. Shame makes people feel as though they don't deserve light. But that is not true. They do.

As we fight this modern plague and strive to protect our families and loved ones, let is not be bashers of people, but beacons of hope. Every person matters. You matter.

Yes, I fight against pornography. But I also fight for hope, healing, compassion, and the escape from the prison of addiction. Addiction isn't a life sentence. It can be overcome. And it starts with one step away from the darkness towards the light. And I don't want to be in their way.

As we stand together to fight pornography, lets us also stand together to help the victims of it. Pornography kills love. Let's not do the same. Show compassion. Don't judge. Extend hope. Illuminate love.  And let's fight the good fight together.


"Pornography comes in many forms, but the damage is the same. It numbs the spirit. It thwarts the realness and power of love. It creates a need and desire for more of itself.
It is dangerous and debilitating. And it is wrong.
It is also widely accepted as accepted as cool or ok. It is neither.
The porn industry is a billion dollar market that, behind the camera, produces victims of hundreds of young girls, many of which have no idea what they are going to go through in film. On the other side, it sells the message that is demeaning and demoralizing. It produces addiction, shame, selfishness, and so many other unhealthy, damaging, and perhaps even debilitating effects.
It also creates victimizers. Ted Bundy said in an interview once that he tracked the genesis of his twisted and murderous ways to pornography. It left him wanting more and more. That was the greatest commonality he shared with the other murderous inmates in his block. They were all addicted to porn.
I once watched an interview of a famous actress on the Tonight Show a few years ago who said her favorite thing to do on the road was watch late night porn in her hotel room. She giggled and the audience applauded her for her brave confession. And yet, when a friend of mine, Tara, writes an article about the the damage caused by books and movies like 50 Shades of Grey and she receives hate messages.
Courage isn't redefining what is right. Courage is fighting for what is right.
And I choose to fight for what is right.
Pornography is wrong. It is harmful. It is dangerous.
If you are a proponent for pornography, I invite you to reconsider. If you are victim or addict of pornography, I invite you to find help. If you fight against pornography, I invite to you to stand with me and my friends like Kirsten and Tara.
Let's fight for real love, the dignity of women, true strength, and for our rising generation of boys and girls who look to us to teach them how to be happy, healthy adults, how to have healthy relationships and strong families, and what love truly is.
Let's stand for what is good. Let's fight for what is right. Together."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Evolution

I love goal setting. I'm amazing at it. Give me a pen and paper and I can have a color-coded list of goals and resolutions that could make the coldest man weep. Now, keeping them.......that's another story.

I love making New Year's resolutions. I think it's the idea of a fresh start. To me, that's what life--what the Atonement of Jesus Christ-- is all about: fresh starts. We all mess up. Every single one of us. But, hope is found in the principle that we can start anew, try again, that we can be better tomorrow than we were today. It is liberating, leaving and breathing optimism. I love it!

This isn't a debate on whether or not everyone should make New Year's resolutions. I think if we were living right we'd be making new resolutions far more often than once a year. But, since Thursday does mark the beginning of the new year, why not start now?

My friend Joanne shared with me something at church she'd read in an article about New Year's resolutions. Something like this question was asked, "How can I stick to my New Year's goals and not fail?" His answer was an interesting one. He noted that many of our resolutions or goals tend to be huge changes. He advised that rather than focusing on resolutions, that we focus on evolutions. Those would be small, almost imperceptible changes in our routine that, over time, will change us for the better. Rather than focusing on an overhaul of who we are, we focus on evolving who we are. I love that concept! I love the idea of growth and progression, especially when it is pursued in small, manageable steps.

As I've thought about my New Year's resolution list over the past weeks, it was becoming quite long and a bit daunting.  I planned to lose 25 pounds, read the scriptures all the way through in Spanish (no, I don't speak Spanish, but my son is serving a full-time mission for our church and is teaching in the Spanish language. I thought it would make me feel closer to him.) I also wanted to finish and get published the 4 books I'm working on, plus homeschool my youngest, get a part-time job, read my English scriptures an hour a day, exercise an hour a day,and not eat ice cream in 2015 (my most insane goal EVER). And that wasn't the end of my list.

I can tell you right now that I am a comfort eater, and if homeschooling is in my future, ice cream needs to be as well, so there is one failure right off the bat. I can see me failing reaching these goals in so many ways, but I was determined to try.

But now I'm not going to.

I'm not going to make New Year's resolutions this year.  I want to make New Year's Evolutions. I want make those small changes that, in a week or a year, will reap big benefits and changes. When I focus on who I want to be (evolution) rather than the things I want to do (resolutions), I found that my goals had changed.

This is now my New Year's Evolution list:

I want to be more patient, so I will take  two deep breaths when I feel the pang of impatience hit.
I want to have greater self-discipline and be healthier, so I will work on exercising every day and eating smaller portions.
I want to be closer to my Heavenly Father, so I will focus on saying more sincere prayers and finding His truths in the scriptures on a daily basis.
I want to have more gratitude, so I will focus less on the things I don't have and more on the things I do.

My focus isn't on doing what I think I should do, but being who I think I should be. And the magic of that kind of evolution is that by striving to be who I should be, I will, by default, do what I should be doing. It's change from the inside out, not outside in.

That's my goal for 2015, my New Year's Evolution evolution: To be a better me. To be more like Him.