Pride is often referred to as the universal sin. From the perspective of LDS theology, this seems pretty accurate; pride caused Satan to rebel against heaven, pride led to the downfall of ancient civilizations, pride is the driving factor that has caused evil individuals throughout history to come to power, and anyone who has studied the Book of Mormon has probably heard of the pride cycle. However, for this discussion, I’d like to move away from the archetypal, “big picture” idea of pride to focus on the perspective of it as an individual characteristic, that is, of personal pride.
Several months ago, my 8 year-old-daughter noticed the difference between her body and my 46-year-old-mother-of-four body and was asking questions. Throughout her life, my husband and I have used anatomically correct terms when talking about the human body, invited questions about birth and breastfeeding, talked about how babies are born, and have even gotten into a few specifics. We had been having discussions long enough that we had almost exhausted her questions.
Except for one.
One of our core values as Latter-day Saints is honesty (the 13th article of faith begins, “We believe in being honest,” right?). We know that it’s dishonest to lie, steal, and cheat, but have you ever considered that it might also be dishonest to say “yes” when you really mean “no”? For example, if someone asks you if you’d be willing to do something and you say yes when truthfully you are not willing to do so, you are being dishonest. It’s so tricky—we want to please, and we want to help; we want to do our share, and we want to do what’s right.
I know that there have been times when I really wish I felt free to say “no” (and feel at peace about it), but I found myself saying “yes” yet again. Unsurprisingly, this pattern of repeatedly saying “yes” can cause problems in one’s emotional wellness, communication, and even in relationships. I do not intend to suggest that we stop going out of our way to serve others, or to always say “no,” but I think it’s important to examine why always saying “yes” can be harmful, and to look at why it’s okay, even honorable, to sometimes say “no.”
In online discussions about my article “30 Questions Nobody Has Asked My Husband” I noticed a theme in many of the comments: the phrase “you’re choosing to be offended” (or some variation of it) emerged over and over again in response to the article. I found this fascinating because I am not personally offended by the questions; I am, however, very curious about underlying gender assumptions, concerned about the impact of our unexamined perceptions, and I believe that we, as a culture, could greatly benefit from more self-reflection and thoughtful dialogue.
I grew up in contradictory worlds.
I was born and raised in Studio City, California in the heart of the entertainment business. Our neighbor was a makeup artist for movies like “Top Gun.” My extended family had a TV show, and my father, a professional musician, was the musical director on several national television shows when I was a young child. Witnessing this kind of creative expression and visible success, I believed that anything was possible for my life.
“All I’ve ever wanted in life is to be a mother,” she sobbed as she slumped over burying her hands in her face. Through her tears she muttered, “My whole life I’ve been taught that being a mother was the most important role. Now, I’m getting so old that I will never be able to have a child. What meaning is there to my life without the role of mother?”
I’ve heard sentiments like this over and over again in my twenty years of clinical psychotherapy work with LDS (Mormon) women. In our efforts to acknowledge and validate the crucial contribution of mothers are we unintentionally sending a message that women who aren’t able to bear or rear children in this life are somehow less valuable to the Church and to God? A deeper understanding of our doctrine reveals that this is not true; we know that “all are alike unto God” (2nd Nephi 26:33) and that an individual’s worth is not dependent on his/her accomplishments (is there not something strange about considering children an accomplishment?).
There have been a handful of moments in my life when I’ve realized that common words and phrases in LDS culture have become so familiar that they have lost their original meaning. For example, stake center, FHE, and “without a shadow of a doubt” are such common jargon that Latter-day Saints don’t even think twice about them, let alone consider their original context (ie: “Relief Society” isn’t just the hour of the church block where women meet–it’s a society or community that provides relief!).
Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing with Gina Colvin, host of A Thoughtful Faith Podcast. I share my life story growing up in the entertainment business with a professional musician as a father, my development as a performing songwriter, my life choices of marriage and motherhood, my experiences as a Mormon woman and as a therapist for Mormon women for twenty years, and my evolving view of creativity. We also talked about my hopes for cultural transformation in the Mormon church. Gina and I could have talked for hours, but we contained it to only 2 & 1/2 hours (consider yourself warned)! Thank you Gina for a delightful conversation and for helping me to articulate my thoughts, feelings,hopes and dreams.
Links mentioned in podcast:
My open-access journal article outlining my Partnership Model of Family Organization (PMFO): Bringing Partnership Home: A Model of Family Transformation
Music in the episode is from my CD Dive Deep (1999) also on iTunes
Article on Healing Aspirational Shame
Loved sitting down with Jennifer Stagg at the Mormon Channel recently to talk about how to make and keep goals.
We toss around questions like…
Why do we set and achieve goals in the first place?
How can they help us?
Why do people tend to fail at keeping their goals, even those that are vitally important to them?
What advice would you offer to some as they are starting out with a goal?
What spiritual resources can help people in achieving their goals?
How can friends and family get involved to help out?
My quick tip for successful goal setting is to set goals that you WANT to achieve, not that you SHOULD want to achieve. My 2015 New Year’s Resolutions were:
- Embrace my inner night owl by not scheduling commitments before 11am.
- Unsubscribe from all e-mail newsletter lists that I don’t open.
- Use people’s name more often in conversations.
So far I am rocking my resolutions 🙂
Listen to the interview…
What are your tips for making and achieving goals?
I sat down with Richie T for a lively and candid interview about moi! I usually do interviews on a particular topic like burnout, self-care, relationships, but no, the topic was my life story. My 21 year-old daughter said she actually learned some new things about me in this interview. Frankly, I was surprised that she actually listened to it! Enjoy.
For more information on The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women