I’m a recovering “approval addict.” For years, my subconscious life’s mission was to gain and maintain the approval of my fellow Mormons. Surely, their acceptance of me was indicative of God’s acceptance. (Have you felt this way too….just a little?) My bout with depression served as my wake-up call. Thus, for the sake of my emotional health, I turned to God (and Zoloft). His response to me: “I love you.” And I didn’t believe Him—not really. (After all, a Heavenly Father is supposed to love His children.) Undeterred, God kept at me—gradually erasing my negative, dogmatic assumptions regarding His character and disposition: I didn’t have to earn Heavenly Father’s love. He loved me. Period. (Gee, who would’ve thought?!)
I no longer vacillate between the love of my Heavenly Father and the love and/or acceptance of fellow Latter-Day Saints. And I no longer suffer from depression. With the help of the Spirit, I reorganized my emotional “house” derived from D&C 109:
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing, and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God. And that they [me] may grow up in thee, and receive a fullness of the Holy Ghost, and be organized according to thy laws, and be prepared to obtain every needful thing.
In other words, the Spirit advised me to:
- Stop wearing my self-condemnation as a badge of honor. Forever flailing myself is not indicative of my devotion to the Savior nor to Mormonism.
- Stop using fellow Mormons’ personal standards of “righteousness” as a measuring tool for my own worthiness. Ultimately, we all live gospel doctrine through our individual perceptions and interpretive lens. (I’ve often wondered if the summation of all these endless variations of rules and expectations surrounding LDS doctrine would demoralize the Prophet himself?!)
- Stop assuming that Heavenly Father is disappointed and/or annoyed at my inability to be perfect.
- Stop assuming that Heavenly Father’s love is as limited and conditional as our humanistic love for each other.
- Stop trying to avoid the judgment of others. They’ll judge. We all do.
- Stop taking endless inventory of my imperfections. Focus and utilize my strengths in serving Jesus Christ as a productive counterweight.
- Most importantly, learn to live for the audience of one: Jesus Christ.
That last one is surprisingly difficult. My knee-jerk response will always be to “win the crowd.” (Think Sally Field and her academy award acceptance speech: “You like me! You REALLY like me!!”) Surely, we all (on some level) desire the acceptance of others. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of years (and negative energy) “dutifully” abiding by the “expectations” of fellow church members. With Christ as my tutor, my spiritual and emotional autonomy knows no bounds. And, I’m no longer held hostage by what others may or may not think of me.
Jesus Christ has taught me the difference between examining myself and judging myself. Too often, self-judgment equates with self-condemnation. Speaker Joyce Meyer advises us to make peace with our imperfections with this reminder: “I may not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
Here’s to the audience for “The One,”