Charity for Ourselves

Don’t you wish you had an instruction manual to tell you how to live your life?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you knew exactly what to do in every circumstance?

It seems like now-a-days, you can open up a book and it will tell you exactly what to do for just about any situation according to the expertise of the author of that book. From how to parent to how to be a friend, to how to communicate with people… you can find just about anything if you go to Amazon or search on-line.

I am an avid learner. I find it very interesting to see others’ perspectives on life and to absorb all the little pearls of wisdom that they have to share.

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought that I would, just for the fun of it look up How to Love on Amazon. The search returned 1 million, 738 thousand 593 results. That’s a lot of books with a lot of opinions.

Well, romantic love isn’t exactly what I had in mind so I thought I would look up charity.   That search resulted in 89 thousand 68 results. There’s even a book called Charity and Philanthropy for dummies.   Honestly, there are way too many options there. I don’t think there are enough hours and days left in my life to read even a small portion of those books and opinions and pearls of wisdom.

This was getting rather overwhelming so I thought I would further refine it to the phrase “Charity never Faileth.” This narrowed things down to 2 thousand 447 results. This is a little more manageable, but in looking at the titles that came up, I found that a lot of these books didn’t offer the kind of insight I was hoping for.

So, ever the fan of technology, I went to google and typed in Charity never faileth… This yielded 83 thousand results… Again an overwhelming number, but surely Google in all it’s technological algorithmic glory could bring the most important information on the web to me. The first few entries were talks given by our prophets, Thomas S Monson and Gordon B. Hinckley. They touched on the common definition of charity, but this wasn’t what I had felt inspired to share… Surely I was on the right path.. then there was another article on LDS.org . Then on the 4th line, I found it… the original source, the guidebook that would tell me exactly how to love…

The bible… the new testament to be precise… Wait a minute, could it be? Google actually led me to the original instruction manual… The book that is the guidebook to life, to love, to happiness, the Bible. Aahh… So there is an instruction manual, and the authors are expert teachers. It takes a little bit of wisdom, and definitely a lot of listening to learn the lessons that are taught in this manual, but almost every question I have about how to live life and return to live with my Heavenly Father have been addressed in this manual that we call the Scriptures.

My absolute favorite teacher from this collection of life lessons is the Savior. He told stories we call parables so that people could learn the basic principles of the lessons he came to teach, but sometimes he was more plain. There was a lot of controversy surrounding this man who came and professed to know His father so well, and many times they tried to catch him in his message. In Matthew 22: 37-40, an experience is shared where a lawyer was trying to trip Him up and asked which of the commandments was the greatest, He answered…”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind… This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Now, I think it’s pretty clear from that statement that it is expected that we will love our Heavenly Father, and His Son with all that we have… I think it’s also pretty clear that we need to have love for our neighbors. In 2 Nephi 26:30, this love is given a more specific name… “The Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing.”

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13, charity is defined: Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth… And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Everyone knows that we should have charity for one another… but, I would like to present a different point of view. I have realized that there is a very important component to this charity equation that many people forget. In Christ’s admonition, there were three components… First, God, our Heavenly Father, He who gave us breath, who guards us, guides us, loves us and wants more than anything for us to return to Him on high. Second, our neighbor. Christ was pretty clear on how we could define our neighbors. When I was in high school, I loved to listen to the Especially For Youth songs. My junior year, I loved to listen to the album Walk with Me, and one of my favorite songs from that album was called Do Likewise My friend by Brett Raymond. that song really helped me to understand who exactly were my neighbors.

A Certain man, walking the road to Jerusalem
Fell among thieves they were evil men,
They robbed and they beat him
And left him for dead.

Two walked past but the third helped the stranger,
Jesus asked, which one was neighbor?
They answered him and then said the savior,
Do likewise my friend.

These two laws, above all the others
Love your God and love one another
Lose your life, and you shall discover it
Live how he lived

A neighbor, I learned, is anyone I can help. In this month’s Ensign, there is a wonderful article on Charity. It does an amazing job of describing how we can have charity for one another. I highly suggest that you take the opportunity to read it.

As I mentioned, there are three components. The third component, I feel is the most often overlooked. Ourselves.

I think the ever-illusive quest for many members of the church is the quest to find true charity. Finding out what that “pure love of Christ” means for them as they walk the path to return to our Father in Heaven. Is it possible that the reason so many people have such a hard time having charity for others is that they forget to have it with themselves?

I would like to propose that there is a hierarchy for charity. First, we must love God, then ourselves and then others. Notice how the scripture says to Love our neighbors AS OURSELVES. There is a dichotomy here. How can we possibly love anyone if we don’t love ourselves? And how can we love ourselves if we don’t love others? Perhaps we need to have more charity for ourselves so that we can then spread that charity within our homes and then to the world. Perhaps, we can for a moment consider that charity is not just something to do, but something to be…

How, you might be wondering, can the laws of charity apply to loving ourselves? Perhaps it is time that we look at each of the characteristics of charity and for just this moment turn them inward for a little bit of self-reflection.

Charity suffereth long and is kind – How often do we get impatient with ourselves for making mistakes? How much patience do we have when that extra 5 pounds doesn’t come off by the date we had expected? How badly do we berate ourselves for losing patience with a child or client who has pushed our last button? If you were to confer with your best friend who was in that situation, would you have just a bit more kindness, patience, and support for them? Why not for yourself?

Charity envieth not – The dictionary describes envy as the desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else)… But, what about the envying of things that we used to have… back when we fit into those pants, back when we had more patience, back when we had or did… When we stay stuck in the past or focus on the lack of the attributes that we want to have within ourselves, we put ourselves in an unresourceful place. Rather than focusing on that lack, think about what was different about those times. What can you do now that perhaps you didn’t do then. How can you reignite those positive traits that feel as though they are laying dormant?

Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, – Christians in general place a lot of focus on humility. .. but what exactly does vaunt mean? I looked it up, because although I thought I could figure it out from the phrase “is not puffed up,’ I wasn’t sure what the official definition is. Apparently… vaunt means brag. So, what is the difference between acknowledging your talents as gifts from our Heavenly Father, giving the glory to him, and bragging or taking the credit for all the good that you do… Or in being humble – having a modest opinion or estimate of your own abilities … and self-deprecation which is undervaluing yourself and your contribution. I think there is a fine line between these attributes, and too many people tend to err on the side of self-deprecation, which I believe is denying the divinity within and the talents with which Heavenly Father has so graciously blessed each of us. There is also a fine line between giving the Glory to the Almighty who has blessed you with everything that you have and acknowledging your hand as his tool to make this world a better place.

Doth not behave itself unseemly – I admit, I had a little bit of a tough time figuring out how this could apply to loving myself… after quite a bit of pondering, and searching , I have come to the conclusion that one thing that often takes my love myself meter down is regret for actions that I have taken. If I live my life in such a way that I am taking upon myself the name of my Savior, I will be living in a way that I can look myself in the eye at the end of the day, knowing that I have behaved in a valiant way and exemplified My Savior. That’s a great way to boost morale.

Seeketh not her own – As with most things in this life, I believe here that pure intent is what is most important. Hebrews 4:12 states that the word of God… is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart… If our intent in taking care of ourselves so that there is more of us to be able to serve others, we are following the advice that the Savior gave to Joseph Smith in D&C 10:4 “Do not run Faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you… but be diligent unto the end.” In finding that balance between taking care of our own well-being and helping others, we can build up that charity that we have for ourself.

Is not easily provoked – Do you have that one trigger topic, that one thing that you do that you know you shouldn’t, but you just can’t seem to control yourself, and you get so angry with yourself when you do?   I know I do… Patience is something that I think is contrary to the nature of the carnal man. I tend to lack patience with myself often. This key to charity ties in so closely to long-suffering… but I think it needs a little bit of an explanation. Longsuffering is where we endure a situation, having patience and a positive attitude as we go through that trial… but being provoked is when that situation raises an unwanted emotion… Notice it says is not easily provoked. There is a natural trait called fight or flight. It’s part of the natural man to have a surge in emotions in a bad situation. Sometimes it’s that rise in emotion that actually gives us the stimulus to get out of that dangerous place. The key, I think is recognizing what is going on, and allowing that emotion to release once it’s served its purpose.

Thinketh no evil – It is so easy to get caught up in our mistakes, to allow the adversary to feed the little negative thoughts that can invade our minds. Sometimes they appear from nowhere. Sometimes they come as a result of something that is said, or overheard. Among the myriad of talks and resources that I read, there was a theme about judgment. Judgment on ourselves can be just as toxic as judgment on others. Rather than focusing on those things that we do wrong, let’s focus on the good that we do and spread that love throughout the world.

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;  How many of us get caught up in our soap operas or weeknight dramas or other media must haves… These shows often revolve around the chaotic life of the characters and the drama that ensues as they deal with the consequences of their actions. When I was on bed rest with Matthew, 16+ years ago, I got caught up in the soap operas the Bold & the Beautiful and the Young & the Restless. I found myself so caught up in the lives of these fictional characters that I would be happy when good things happened to them and depressed when something bad happened. I remember yelling at the characters for making the stupid choices they were making. The best thing I ever did was to turn off those shows… incidentally, I was speaking to someone a couple months ago, and the same people are having the same issues now, 16 years later, but they’re just older. Spend your time learning about your own divinity, reading the scriptures and uplifting books, watching videos sparingly but with the intention of uplifting and edifying the spirit. The spirit is love. When we invite the spirit through the media that we allow in our lives, it’s easier to love ourselves.

Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

I am not sure how many of you have had the opportunity to receive your patriarchal blessing, but to me, this is the quintessential personal scripture for each of us. It tells us how we can bear our burdens, gives specific promises and personal revelations that will, with our righteousness, follow us into the eternities. If you have your patriarchal blessing, take just a moment this week to bring it out and feel the love that your Heavenly Father has for you. In that moment, see how much he truly knows you individually, and as you start to feel that love within yourself, allow that charity from within to spill out into your home.

Please don’t misunderstand me… I am not suggesting that we excuse all of our mistakes, but instead that we approach the Lord in humility, repenting of those things that need to be taken care of, and allowing the pure love of Christ to envelop us.

There are many aspects of charity that I feel I have a better grasp on than others. Being extremely critical of myself, sometimes I find it harder to have charity for the mistakes of others. Especially when it is something that I really dislike about myself.

As we start to have this charity with ourselves, we will find it easier to do as President Monson suggests: “Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.” 13

I think that it is important that we have charity for our spouses, children, roommates… any who live within the walls of our home. Applying these same principles of love that we have applied for ourselves, it is imperative that we begin to allow this newfound love that we feel for ourselves to overflow into our homes. When we have love at home, we will be able to have love in the world.

Ultimately, Charity is about love. Loving our Neighbors as ourselves. Sister Allred (number three on the google search) states: in reviewing Paul’s previous description of charity, we learn that charity is not a single act or something we give away but a state of being, a state of the heart, kind feelings that engender loving actions.”

If we could only grasp the tiniest inkling of the love that our Heavenly Father has for us, that perfect, infinite love, and then incorporate it into our own imperfect, mortal hearts, the world we be such a better place.

Repent of those things you don’t like about yourself, pray for wisdom to know how to change those things, and then love yourself as every day you do better, allowing yourself to have charity… As President Monson put it…

The charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.

I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.

There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.”

I know with all my heart that our Savior lives. I know as sure as I know that the sun will rise that He walked upon this earth both in the Holy Land as well as in the Americas. I know that the Standard Works combined are THE definitive guidebook for life. We can find clarity through fasting, prayer and the words of our modern prophets. If it brings you to do good works, it is good. I testify that if you are feeling down, if you lose yourself in the service of your fellow man, the blessings that will be poured upon you go beyond anything that you can imagine. If you need to find love for yourself, try loving others… This is the best way to build charity.

May we all find that charity within us and make this world a better place is my prayer.