I’ve always been a worrier, a ‘people pleaser’ and have suffered from many self-doubts.
It’s not uncommon for me to agonize over every major decision, whether I should have said something or not in conversations, or worry if I’ve done something to make someone else unhappy.
Truly, it stems from my desire to do the right thing, to teach my children good principles, to see everyone around me content, and for life to be peaceful.
The problem is, that over the past few years, life has heaped a number of unexpected difficulties upon us. No matter how hard I tried to set it right again, to bring back the peace and contentment in the form we once knew, I couldn’t. This caused a plague of worries and doubts to descend upon me-I think because I felt it was up to me to bring back the happiness that we knew single-handedly.
Once I realized that there were some lessons to be learned from the life changes we were going through, and that I was slowly sinking into a pattern of worry that was unhealthy, I began to research ways to heal and reverse this trend.
In pondering how to overcome worry and doubt, I was led to a wonderful article by Kevin W. Pearson.
It opened my eyes to the struggle I was having within. I thought I was firm in having faith- faith in God, faith in our future, faith that all would be well. At the same time, however, I was plagued by major fear, doubts and anxiety.
In my own mind, I thought if I could simply work out any possible future problems before they happened, I would be doing my part to work toward my goals.
Instead, I realize, a battle was raging within me: a battle between fear and doubt and FAITH.
When I read his words, “Faith and fear cannot coexist.” It struck a chord in me and I realized how true that really is. As he says in his talk, “One gives way to the other.” In my own heart, when I would realize that fear and doubt were winning, I’d strengthen my faith to even things out. This battle raged on and was wearing me out physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Another powerful truth was when he said, “We get what we focus on consistently”.
How many negative thoughts do we think in a day- even though we feel we’re pretty positive people?
My husband and I ran some errands in town the other day and I was letting him in on some of the things I had been internalizing and worrying over. He was giving me advice, diffusing some of the negative self talk and helping me look at the bigger picture. He asked me, “Do you even realize how many times you’ve said the word ‘worry’ in the past 20 minutes?”
He was right!
Trying to work out possible scenarios of the future is ridiculous when there is really nothing I can do to change anything now. I’m learning that I can’t help everyone, I can’t make people happy, I can let go of things I have no control over, things that are past and stop worrying about things that may never happen!
A favorite funny (and so true) quote by Mark Twain-
“I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
I had heard this quote before, but was reminded of it yet again when speaking to Mindy Heath, who is author of the blog Living the Joyful Life. She mentors people and I was the grateful recipient of a 30 minute free mentoring session. She helped me put my thoughts in perspective and gave me some great springboard articles to read- including Elder Pearson’s talk. I highly recommend reading articles on her blog- they are so inspiring!
As I heal myself from this plague of over-worrying, over-thinking everything and doubting myself, I know I’m learning valuable lessons that I can, in turn, teach to my own children and others who may need them.
Now for the true words of wisdom from Kevin Pearson’s talk.
Here are excerpts that really stood out to me. You can read it in its entirety HERE.
(Bold type added by me.)
“There is a quality of faith which develops as we focus all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. It is seen and felt in the eyes of a great missionary, a valiant and virtuous young woman, and righteous mothers, fathers, and grandparents. It can be seen in the lives of individuals young and old, in every land and culture, speaking every language, in every circumstance and station in life.”
He says this is the “eye of faith…, the ability to focus and be steadfast, continually holding fast to true principles, nothing wavering, even when the mist of darkness confronting us is exceedingly great. This quality of faith is exceedingly powerful.”
However, he reminds us that God gave us agency to act for ourselves even though there is opposition in all things. ” And so it is with faith. It can be enticing to choose doubt and disbelief over faith.”
“Faith and fear cannot coexist.
One gives way to the other. The simple fact is we all need to constantly build faith and overcome sources of destructive disbelief. The Savior’s teaching comparing faith to a grain of mustard seed recognizes this reality (see Mathew 13 31:32). Consider it this way: our net usable faith is what we have left to exercise after we subtract our sources of doubt and disbelief. You might ask yourself this question: “Is my own net faith positive or negative?” If your faith exceeds your doubt and disbelief, the answer is likely positive. If you allow doubt and disbelief to control you, the answer might be negative.”
“We do have a choice.
We get what we focus on consistently. Because there is an opposition in all things, there are forces that erode our faith. Some are the result of Satan’s direct influence. But for others, we have no one but ourselves to blame. These stem from personal tendencies, attitudes, and habits we can learn to change. I will refer to these influences as the “Six Destructive Ds.” As I do, consider their influence on you or your children.
First is doubt. Doubt is not a principle of the gospel. It does not come from the Light of Christ or the influence of the Holy Ghost. Doubt is a negative emotion related to fear. It comes from a lack of confidence in one’s self or abilities. It is inconsistent with our divine identity as children of God.
Doubt leads to discouragement. Discouragement comes from missed expectations. Chronic discouragement leads to lower expectations, decreased effort, weakened desire, and greater difficulty feeling and following the Spirit (see Preach My Gospel , 10). Discouragement and despair are the very antithesis of faith.
Discouragement leads to distraction, a lack of focus. Distraction eliminates the very focus the eye of faith requires. Discouragement and distraction are two of Satan’s most effective tools, but they are also bad habits.
Distraction leads to a lack of diligence, a reduced commitment to remain true and faithful and to carry on through despite hardship and disappointment. Disappointment is an inevitable part of life, but it need not lead to doubt, discouragement, distraction, or lack of diligence.
If not reversed, this path ultimately leads to disobedience, which undermines the very basis of faith. So often the result is disbelief, the conscious or unconscious refusal to believe.
The scriptures describe disbelief as the state of having chosen to harden one’s heart. It is to be past feeling.
These Six Destructive Ds—doubt, discouragement, distraction, lack of diligence, disobedience, and disbelief—all erode and destroy our faith. We can choose to avoid and overcome them….”