|Print | Back||February 28, 2014|
Pebbles, Potholes, and PerspectiveIdentifying Uniquely Human Qualities
by Sarah Hancock
Last week I had the opportunity to give a Relief Society lesson based on Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk, The Moral Force of Women. With the entire month to prepare, initially I felt confident that everything would be perfectly polished. Come late Saturday night, the evening before my big hurrah, I sat stumped.
I’d prayed. I’d read, reread and listened to the talk so many times I could practically recite it. Frustration set in. I stared long and hard at that highlighted, underlined, highly annotated and worn printed copy. Heavenly Father obviously had something in mind that I couldn’t wrap my head around at that point. I gave up, said my prayers and went to sleep.
I awoke at 2:30 a.m., with a start. I thought of all those inspired leaders who awoke with a start while preparing for their talks and lessons. Excited, I waited for the dews of heaven to inspire my mind. It wasn’t yet time. I went back to sleep.
I woke up early the next morning. Throughout getting ready and choir practice I felt troubled. Why on earth weren’t things coming together? It was an awesome talk about amazing women who inspired greatness in others. It led me to think on the many women both in the scriptures and in my personal life who have lifted me higher than I ever thought possible.
Yet my mind was barren. Blank. Sacrament meeting passed. I went to the library and collected as many pictures of righteous women as the librarian could find and made my way to Relief Society. During the opening song, everything clicked.
If there is one thing mental illness has taught me, it’s how to identify with a variety of people. Mental illness is really just a manifestation of the human condition. Granted, that condition is often in extremes that others cannot understand or imagine, but it’s still simply a human response to the world around them.
You don’t have to have an official diagnosis to experience, worry, elation, anxiety, euphoria, sadness, joy, loneliness, excitement, dullness, confusion, exhaustion, relief and so many more feelings all humans have in common. Granted, everyone has those feelings for different reasons.
Likewise, just because you don’t have a mental health diagnosis, doesn’t mean you can’t understand (to some degree) what it’s like to live with one. No one has to experience firsthand the negative stigma of mental illness, to understand what it’s like to be bullied. Perhaps a goal was crushed before you had the opportunity to achieve it.
Maybe you felt unsupported in something truly important to you? Like life’s circumstances felt completely out of your control? Walked out of a room and wondered if someone was talking about you? Thought you heard the phone ring or a sound you couldn’t identify? We are more similar than different.
As I stood in front of the women in Relief Society, I could see more commonalities than differences. Race, class, numbers of years or days as a member, hobbies, illnesses, marital status and all the other segregating boundaries we place on ourselves (and others) blurred into one.
When I think of the moral force of women, I think of all the characteristics that naturally motivate women in ways many men just scratch their head in wonder over — not because men don’t have moral force, but because they have naturally different strengths.
So after generating a list of qualities common to many strong women in the scriptures and in modern-day life, the Relief Society sisters and I decided that one of the innate strengths many women unconsciously cultivate is the ability to nurture and love. Although that’s not new to women who believe that “Charity Never Faileth,” sometimes the simplest of applications are left wanting.
When I asked, “What is it about our women role models which demonstrates love and how do they help others feel loved?” here are a couple of ideas from of our brainstorm:
Smiles — free and even easy to share with perfect strangers;
Calling people by their name — a little more difficult for those of us with nothing in the memory banks, but possible;
A genuine compliment — noticing something specific you appreciate and sharing that with the person builds others;
Hugs — free and often needed;
Cards and handwritten notes. (I cannot tell you how many times I read and reread the cards (even old birthday ones) and letters that people have sent me. It is one of the best ways to pull myself through when I’m at my absolute lowest or feeling less than loved or confident.
Not only was nothing on the list expensive, but most of it is also free.
Here’s the challenge. Pick one of the five ideas and put them into place over the next month on a regular basis. Look for ways to do it.
I felt my lesson just fall into place. I knew my prayers had been answered in more than one way. I could help the sisters recognize their own ability to do little things to help others feel loved. Who knows whose life you can improve simply by being the one person who cares enough to do something about it?
Build others. In doing so, maybe you’ll emulate the dear sister that Elder Christofferson described, who “took notice of [him] and often expressed her confidence in [his] abilities and potential, which inspired [him] to reach high — higher than [he] would have without her encouragement.”
May we be so encouraging!
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