Everywhere I go, I meet good people. They love the gospel and serve others. But I've also
observed a common theme. Without exception, they wish they were doing better, and they often
make statements like this:
I want to study the scriptures every day, but life gets so crazy! Sometimes I don't even
remember until late at night when I'm exhausted.
I know I'm too negative, but it's hard to break out of that mindset -- especially when things
are going wrong.
I'm worried about the state of the world and I want to get a year's supply. But I'm not
making much progress on this goal that frankly seems overwhelming.
When we don't do things we want to do or that we feel we should do, we might think our faith is
weak or that we just aren't motivated. But what if that isn't the problem at all? What if we just
need to change our approach? What if there's a way to make it more doable than it seems?
In a CES fireside, Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared an experience his mother had fighting
cancer. After surgery she was faced with painful radiation treatments.
She recalls that her mother taught her something during that time that has helped her ever
since: "I was so sick and weak, and I said to her one day, 'Oh, Mother, I can't stand
having 16 more of those treatments.' She said, 'Can you go today?' 'Yes.' 'Well, honey,
that's all you have to do today.' It has helped me many times when I remember to take
one day or one thing at a time." ("Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread")
The purpose of this column, "Just for a Day," is to offer ideas and support to all of us who want
to do better, and who can do better with a simple approach. Instead of requiring a lifelong
commitment to a major change, we'll suggest a simple goal and encourage you to meet it just for
a day (or perhaps for a regular interval, depending on the goal).
Making a goal finite and manageable makes success more likely. And when we experience
success, even for a short time, we replace guilt and inertia with positive change and increased
Another key to positive change is one we probably don't remember as often as we should. We
need to draw on the enabling power of the Lord as we meet our goals one day at a time. "I can do
all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." (Philppians 4:13.)
This enabling power goes far beyond positive thinking and habit to help us do things we couldn't
otherwise do. (See "In the Strength of the Lord," by David A. Bednar.)
So, let's get started. Our first goal is this: Just for a day, don't complain.
This idea was inspired by Catherine Marshall, a Christian writer who has influenced me
profoundly. Catherine's faith was a practical one, guided by her regular conversations with the
Lord and lived out in daily action. She describes how the Lord once told her to go on a "criticism
fast" for one day.
It wasn't easy. Barbed comments rose in her mind, but had to be checked. As the day went on,
she found she wasn't saying much at all.
Her first bemused observation was that the world got along quite well without her negative
comments. But a richer reward came later in the day. For some time she had been worried about
a young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. Now, on the criticism fast, she wondered if her
prayers for him had been too negative. As she let go of complaining, she was surprised to be
given a positive vision for this young man's life.
She wrote, "Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent
what the Lord wanted me to see [by going on a criticism fast]. My critical nature had not
corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to
stifle my own creativity -- in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing -- ideas that He
wanted to give me." (A Closer Walk, p. 102 ff.)
Complaining has become a daily ritual for many of us. We complain about the cold, the heat,
prices, traffic, long hours, insensitive people. Truth be told, often we complain about our
blessings and advantages.
In the words of Julia Cameron, we focus on the "leaden lining." We don't complain to find
solutions, but to prove how bad things are. And I suspect, like Catherine Marshall, we don't fully
realize the negative impact of our complaints on ourselves and others.
So try it. No complaining, just for a day. You don't have to be perfect: if you find yourself
slipping into a complaining mindset, learn from it and try again. And this goal isn't meant to
discourage honesty or effective problem solving. But it is meant to help us let go of habitual
negativity and the unbalanced view that is a part of it.
Send your experiences -- your observations, challenges, and successes. I'll share some of your experiences in future columns.
Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion
for usability and process
improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and
reward of building her family tree.
As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.
Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.
Kathryn serves as Primary music leader, her current favorite calling.