Toss the Guilt and Catch the Joy

One of my favorite LDS Self-help authors is Merrilee Boyack. I have heard her speak twice and met her and she is a WONDERFUL woman with some humorous, profound insight. She just came out with a new book that I can't wait to get - I have ordered it- but I wanted to share an excerpt beecause it speaks so much to some of the posts I hear from myself and my fellow bloggers. Read on: From "Toss the Guilt, Catch the Joy"

If I were to ask you to describe the Perfect Woman, you'd have quick ­answers:
Clearly, she is a size six. No question about that. She has been married a long time to a really important man. He's the stake president. And she's the stake Relief Society president. And they have eight ­kids--­four boys and four ­girls--­evenly spaced. And she homeschools them all. Yeah, and they all play musical instruments--­beautifully. And she's a, a, . . . a neurosurgeon, and she works out of her home, only part-­time.
She has her family history done back to the Dark Ages (and is praying for help to find the rest). She sews matching clothes for the whole family. She has a huge garden and cans most of their food. She makes a loaf of ­whole-wheat bread from her food storage every day. Her scriptures are completely marked and ­color-­coded, and she studies them for an hour every morning and every night. She is taking a class in Mandarin in order to be able to serve a ­mission.
Her house is beautifully decorated and always immaculate. Her hair and nails are perfectly done. Her clothes are beautiful. She feeds the homeless every week, and she has created a foundation to help the entire country of Bolivia. She is making a quilt with 100 blockquotes for her grandmother, who is 100. And yes, all the corners of the quilt blockquotes match ­perfectly.
Shall we go ­on?
It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? And yet, somehow, we all believe that the Perfect Woman exists ­somewhere.
Now to be honest, those of you who don't know me may not realize that this description is very close to describing me. I was a size six when I was, well, twelve years old. I am married and have been for a long time, but my husband is not the stake president. He's a Scouter. Okay, so to most people that's not a hugely impressive job, but it is to me. While I don't have eight kids, I have thought about homeschooling, but decided that I wanted my sons to survive to ­adulthood.
I haven't done my family history, but I do think about it often. Is that close? I rarely sew anymore, but I do have a sewing machine. I also have a good supply of wheat, which I dust off regularly. I eat a lot of canned food. I try to study at least a verse a day in my ­scriptures.
My hair and nails are perfect for brief moments throughout the year, until I get in the car and mess them up. My clothes are functional. Also, I tried once to make a little quilt in Relief Society that only had nine corners but none of them matched. I sewed buttons over the corners instead. It looked pretty ­cute.
So except for a few hundred minor faults, I'm very near to perfection ­myself.

We all laugh about the Perfect Woman, but how many of us secretly compare ourselves constantly to this standard? It's like we carry around a huge backpack filled with rocks and wonder why we're tired! And every now and again, we sit down and pull out a rock to pound ourselves over the head: "I really should be canning my food. My grandma did. I only have six kids under eight. I should just get up at 4 AM and get this done!" On and on we go, heaping on the guilt!
The "Celestial Woman"
Let's pause for a moment in our ­guilt-­fest and ask this important question, "What is required to enter into the celestial kingdom?"
Do I have to be a size six to qualify? Don't think ­so.
Will the Lord ask if I had an "important" calling? Definitely ­not.
But what if I'm not married? Isn't that a deal breaker? Well, no, even the prophets have said it isn't.
Do I need to can, quilt, bake, sew, and organize to get in? Guess ­not.
So what's left? What is ­required?
Perhaps we can begin with this important goal: We should want to become a "Celestial Woman." If we have the desire, we will have the motivation to begin to seek out ways to strengthen our spirituality. As we focus on our desire to become a Celestial Woman and to live a more celestial life, we'll naturally increase our desire to have faith, repent, and try to be better every day. Our desire will draw us closer to the temple and to our family. We'll honor the covenants we have already made and strive to keep the commandments we may find challenging. We'll develop charity in our hearts and want to serve ­others.

The Lord will not rap you on the knuckles for your choices in selecting one good work over another. He will bless you for all your good works. He knows you have tons of problems and are doing the best you can. He is interested in your improvement and your progress. He does not condemn ­you.
We are condemning ourselves, and it is a total waste of time. We beat ourselves up for mistakes and choices that we've made and then we wallow in our guilt.
Do you honestly think an angel is standing at the pearly gates with a checklist?--"Hmm, let's see. A size eight, well that's acceptable . . . barely. Can you bake bread? No? Well . . . Do you know how to work with gluten? Good. Check! Okay, did you do graduate work in college? Good. Check! Now, did you learn how to quilt? No? Hmmmm. Were you a Relief Society president? Only a nursery leader? Oh, too bad. You know, I just don't think you made it. How about a nice terrestrial kingdom slot?"
Somehow I don't see that happening. And yet we run around our lives acting as if those are the requirements the Lord has asked of us!

At what point do we realize that we are not in a race! We are not competing! Whether you do something better or worse than someone else doesn't add brownie points to your scorecard nor remove them from hers.
Heavenly Father wants us to have joy in our lives. He does not want us to be miserable, drudging through the mud of trials, with no hope for happiness. The commandments and the gospel he has given us are like rocks in the river we can step on to return to him. This doesn't mean we're not going to get our feet wet, or that we won't fall in, but we have been given the path and the life preserver of repentance. And through it all, Heavenly Father has assured us that he is with us ­always.
He asks us to do one thing, "If you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7; emphasis added).
In other words, "Please hang in there and work on keeping the commandments and you will be blessed for it." It doesn't sound like he wants us to be miserable, as though he said that phrase with teeth clenched--"enduuuure to the end"--instead, it sounds like life should be a joyful pursuit of the greatest gift God can offer ­us.

I'll post more tomorrow......


Amanda said…
That sounds like a great book:) I don't know why I never have felt I have to live up to those perfect Mormon ideals? I am so glad I don't feel that pressure:) Of course I have other issues....LOL!
Danielle said…
this is something I definitly needed to hear! (well read) lol

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