"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
July 24, 2014
A Little Kind of Grace
by Hannah Bird

It has always fascinated me that no matter how hard a struggle is, there is always some jerk who knows just what to say to make it worse. As a species, we seem to have a real gift for that. So there are lists of things to say and things not to say. Some of us actually have to be told.

But the sad truth is, the biggest jerk saying the jerkiest things during any of our struggles is us. If a stranger or well-meaning friend said any of the things we say to ourselves they would walk away short a couple of teeth and with a new enemy.

I am splendidly fat-fatabulous if you will. I wasn’t always. As a child and a young woman I was very thin. I was “that girl.”

I liked it.

I liked being thin. I liked that people were jealous. It isn’t that I looked down on fat people. It was more that I thought being skinny was important. I believed it meant something good about me. When I determined that being skinny meant I was valuable, I also set myself up for future pain. Because if skinny made me valuable, not-skinny meant not valuable.

Now, I am adiposedly gifted. There are a lot of reasons this is so. But the chorus in my head was written long before any of those pounds or reasons. Then I had no concept of reasons or mercy. Consequently the chorus that I listen to all day long is relentless and without mercy.

I have been amazed at the things that people will say to me about my fattitude problem. But their breathtaking rudeness pales in comparison to the noise in my head.

Your hard time is coming. Mine is too. You may not get fat enough to leave human clothing sizes and be measured in whale species. But there is always something hard coming.

When I was having my babies, I always watched mothers of preemies. I could not do that, I thought. I could not walk out of a hospital and leave my baby there. I could not bear to be away from them. It would be intolerable.

Some years later, I had to walk out of a hospital and leave my baby there. He was busy having his life saved and there wasn’t a bed for me in the NICU. But sure enough, those thoughts I had carefully cultivated came roaring up. I couldn’t handle this. It was intolerable. I could not stand to be apart.

The truth was, of course, that I could. I didn’t want to. And somehow by virtue of assuring myself that I could not do this thing, I had come to believe I would not have to. Like every other mom presented with that challenge, I was not given an opt-out clause.

A few years after my little guy was born, I was diagnosed with a life-changing illness. The reason for years of poor health became clear. Some days, it doesn’t seem to matter much. Some days, I feel like I fight this beast all day and lose. I am usually sanguine. When it hurts, I get scared. In other words — I am normal.

But still people say to me, “I could never do that.”

I am not sure how people imagine this exchange went. Do they think I said, “Hey, I am totally up for a chronic and potentially deadly disease. Where do I sign up?” Do they imagine there is some special breed of people who don’t mind pain or suffering or fear?

I couldn’t handle it either. But then it came and I am handling it. Mostly.

We would be better prepared for challenges if we minded what we said to ourselves and others before our own struggle comes.

If you don’t sniff about how so-and-so drank Diet Coke and that clearly brought on her cancer, you may beat yourself up a little less when you find a lump of your own. If you don’t tell yourself that Brother and Sister Whosit have a wayward child because they voted Democrat/ listened to music with a beat/ or allowed PG-13 movies, your pain might be less when your own kid starts to wander. If you wonder what people did to cause their own suffering, maybe you won’t torture yourself about your own blame.

The person who will deal with your problems tomorrow is the person you are being today. Be nice to that person. Being nice around that person assures your future self that hard times come and you can handle them.

We talk about grace. That’s a good thing. The Lord’s grace makes up the difference between what we have and what we need. It is grace that smooths the road and makes the way.

But we can also extend our own little kind of grace. As we judge, so shall we be judged. It is an invitation to spread a little grace to others and in the doing, ourselves.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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