If you don’t like being told what to do, you probably shouldn’t continue reading, because I’m about to do exactly that. But hopefully you’ll find comfort in the fact that as I tell you what to do, I’m really telling me what to do, because I need these reminders just as much as the next guy (if not a little more). Writing them out helps me internalize them. You’re just along for the ride.
And while I write to a Latter-day Saint audience, this stuff really does apply to everyone, Latter-day Saint or not. Ready? Of course you are, you’re a star. Here we go.
1. Love people.
Love God, love thy neighbor, and even love thy enemies. No strings attached. None of this, “I’ll only love you, if,” junk. If you treat love like a currency, you’re doing it wrong. Love is not a weapon of manipulation. It’s not a bargaining chip. It’s not something you should be holding ransom, especially towards those that need it most.
Christ’s perfect love overcomes temptations to harm, coerce, bully, or oppress.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Perfect Love Casteth Our Fear
2. Don’t be a punk.
If a man and his boyfriend sit next to you in sacrament meeting, treat them like people, not damaged goods. If someone opens up about their depression in Sunday School, don’t tell them they just need to pray more. If someone is struggling with their faith, don’t label them as an apostate. Don’t be a punk. The truth is that we’re all damaged goods, and we all need Christ. “Are we not all beggars?”
We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, The Merciful Obtain Mercy
Get better. Be better. A better friend, spouse, son/daughter, employee, tenant, whatever! Start making real steps to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. The person your Heavenly Father is just aching to help you to become. It’s not going to happen all on its own. Be purposeful about it. Plan it and practice it until it becomes who you are. I know nepotism is looked down upon in our culture, but come on, you’re a child of the Almighty God. That means something. Your Father in Heaven is excited to consecrate your efforts to change.
We become what we want to be by consistently being what we want to become each day.
Elder Richard G. Scott, The Transforming Power of Faith and Character
4. Forgive yourself.
When you do stumble and fall into those same old bad habits, rub some dirt in it, get up, and move forward. Refusing to forgive yourself is not a consequence of humble piety, it’s the result of pride. Talk to the bishop, talk to a friend, talk to your Father, do what you have to do to get past it and get on with life. If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to move forward, this is it.
That great morning of forgiveness may not come at once. Do not give up if at first you fail. Often the most difficult part of repentance is to forgive yourself. Discouragement is part of that test. Do not give up. That brilliant morning will come.
President Boyd K. Packer, The Brilliant Morning of Forgiveness
5. Get help.
If you need help, get help. If you’re going through a faith crisis, find other people who have been through the same thing and talk it out. If you have a prescription drug addiction, it’s time to swallow your pride and get the help you need. If you struggle financially, take advantage of the Church’s incredible resources to get you back on your feet again. That’s what they’re there for. If you’re struggling with mental illness, there are people trained to help you through it. Get medication if you feel like that’s the right thing to do. Life could be better.
If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Like a Broken Vessel
6. Teach your kids.
Talking about sex is extremely taboo. Can we possibly comprehend how elated Satan is about that? He LOVES substitute teaching for parents who are too uncomfortable with sensitive topics. Stop it. Talk about the Law of Chastity with your kids. Talk about sex, what it is, what is isn’t, when it’s not okay, and when it is. Talk about pornography; the many forms it takes, the dangers associated with it, and the lies it propagates. This is not the Church’s responsibility. Leaving it up to the public education system is a disaster waiting to happen. This is on you, and it’s life-alteringly serious.
As the world drowns in immorality, there is still hope for future generations. This hope centers on parents devoting their best efforts to teaching the rising generation to be virtuous and chaste.
Matthew O. Richardson, Teaching Chastity and Virtue
7. Grow a thick skin.
I’m not implying that you’re overly sensitive. I’m trying to say that there are some people out there that really fail to understand the third item on this list (ahem, “don’t be a jerk”). People are mean sometimes, and becoming offended is both natural and understandable. But being offended is relatively useless. you’ll be happier if you can grow a thicker skin. If someone criticizes you, learn how to find the truth in it and use it. If there’s no truth in the criticism, correct it or discard it. Harboring grudges is a great way to pour salt in your own open wounds. Brigham Young said it best (and probably offended a bunch of people at the same time):
It is reported that President Brigham Young once said that he who takes offense when no offense was intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense was intended is usually a fool. It was then explained that there are two courses of action to follow when one is bitten by a rattlesnake. One may, in anger, fear, or vengefulness, pursue the creature and kill it. Or he may make full haste to get the venom out of his system. If we pursue the latter course we will likely survive, but if we attempt to follow the former, we may not be around long enough to finish it.
Elder Marion D. Hanks, Forgiveness: The Ultimate Form of Love