Repetitive thoughts are like a broken record. When I was a kid, in the days before the internet, cds, mp3 files, and even cassette tapes (yes, I am that old), there were only a few ways to listen to music. Most kids listened to the radio, and then bought a vinyl record of the music they loved.
On a good stereo, vinyl records had great sound, but they could get scratched. If the scratch was deep enough, the needle would slide across the scratch instead of staying in the groove. Sometimes the scratch would take the needle back to a previous groove. This resulted in hearing the same thing over and over until you carefully lifted the arm and set the needle back down past the scratch.
Sometimes, like a scratched or broken record, we get stuck in a pattern of dark thoughts and feelings. Tension, conflict, stress, anxiety, shame or fear seem to take over our lives. Repetitive thoughts may get so loud and play for so long that we cannot hear the sweet music being played by loved ones and friends, and the beautiful themes coming from the Spirit and the Lord.
After awhile, we may be willing to do anything to silence the thoughts, even things that we know, deep inside, are not good for us. Giving in to addiction is one way some people try to stop repetitive thoughts. That is like pouring acid on the record. It gets even further damaged. Some have thoughts of suicide. That is like breaking the record player. In either case, this makes the situation worse, especially for friends and loved ones who love the music you make just by being yourself.
Having negative repetitive thoughts does not mean you are a failure, a loser, a nobody, or anything else Satan would have you believe. You didn’t ask for them. You don’t deserve them. They do not reflect how God sees you.
Find a way, possibly with the help of another, to gently move the needle past the bad spot. It might be a loved one, a friend, a counselor, a doctor, a trusted advisor, a priesthood blessing, or a prayer. The Lord will lead you to the help you need, if you are willing to receive it.
You have beautiful music to play. Please don’t deprive the world of your music.
Do dark or repetitive thoughts sometimes overwhelm you?
What have you done in the past to move the needle?
Describe what you would like to do in the future when it happens.
What are you willing to do today to make this better course possible?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
Sometimes we just need to take a good hard look at our past, learn from it and let it go. In the 12 Step program this usually takes place in Steps 4 and 5, when we write a searching and fearless moral inventory and share it with God, ourselves, and another person. We list the people, institutions, etc. towards whom we feel resentment, guilt or shame. We figuratively sweep out the root cellar of our hearts and minds, looking for stray items left behind to rot. To the best of our ability we clean house and let go of anything that is holding us back.
We list positive memories in the Step 4 inventory—those that are uplifting, enlightening or comforting—and the gifts, talents and skills we find. We examine and explore how we can use them to bless ourselves and others.
The rotten stuff we gather up and take to the emotional compost pile. As we write the inventory we let ourselves remember each incident: what happened, who was affected, how it affected us. We look for patterns of negative behavior to find the underlying causes and conditions leading to the choices we make today. Then, in Step 5 we turn it over to God and another person and let it go.
It takes humility and courage to overcome our fear of closely examining our pasts. Watered by our tears, the rotten fruit—the emotional debris—is changed into life-giving compost. We no longer need to agonize over the individual incidents in our inventory, or feelings of resentment, guilt or shame. Our memories and experiences can, with the help of the Lord, blend together and become fertile ground in which He plants the seeds of future accomplishment and contribution. In this way He consecrates our afflictions for our good. (See 2 Nephi 2:2)
One of my sponsees has had a very difficult life, starting with repeated childhood sexual abuse and neglect. To survive her life of continual trauma she developed several dysfunctional coping mechanisms including an eating disorder and other forms of self harm. After decades of these behaviors, with the help of the Lord she found abstinence from her eating disorder. She is now using the 12 Steps to overcome her other addictions. This woman is immersing herself in Steps 4 and 5 with great humility and commitment, even though it hurts to examine her very difficult past. She writes in her inventory every day and shares with me what she has written.
How has her “emotional compost” led to growth and joy? She is recognizing her need for boundaries and learning to set them. Every time she does so, it is a victory for her. She is learning to recognize anxiety when it starts. She is learning to deliberately choose alternative behaviors – healthy behaviors – to cope with it. She is learning to relate to her husband with a new, more spiritually mature love. She is teaching me how to help others with a background of complex post traumatic stress.
God is using her emotional debris to create a rich, nourishing medium for growth: hers, mine, and all the others we each work with through this inspired 12 Step program.
Write about how God can consecrate your affliction for good if you are willing to examine your past and turn it over to Him.
Are you willing to do a “searching and fearless moral inventory”?
What are you willing to do today to get started?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
During a 12 Step meeting I attended the group was discussing our hopes for learning to live in a state of humility. One man said that humility keeps getting crowded out by pride and resentment in his heart. There was a lively conversation about how to fight pride and resentment.
As I listened, I was reminded of the story of a wise Cherokee grandfather who told his grandson about the two wolves fighting inside his heart—inside every human heart. One was evil and the other good. When the boy asked which wolf would win the battle, his grandfather said, “the one you feed.”
Sometimes fighting the evil actually feeds it. When I work hard to overcome pride and resentment, I am focusing on pride and resentment. The attention I give them feeds them, even if it is negative attention. I judge myself lacking when I dwell on those feelings which can put me into a cycle of guilt and/or shame.
Nurturing something positive, instead, works better in my experience. As it grows, it will crowd out the resentment and pride, and fear as well.
What is that positive I can focus on? What can I nurture that will swell and grow and leave no room for negative attitudes and feelings? For me it is gratitude. When I fill my heart with gratitude and focus on how grateful I am for the innumerable blessings of my life, it crowds out the tendencies of the natural woman toward fear, pride and resentment. My heart sings with joy when I focus on gratitude, and it isn’t about what I am grateful for. Once I started looking, I saw blessings all around me. No, it is about the feeling itself—the attitude of gratitude!
When I cultivate gratitude I am feeding and watering love in my heart. Love for and from God fills my heart and crowds out all negatives. It is an awesome way to live!
Do you recognize negative feelings or attitudes in your life?
Are you willing to focus on gratitude to crowd those out?
List 10 things you are grateful for today. Are you willing to do that every day?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
Sometimes, even as early as childhood, we are given “gifts” that do us more harm than good. Sometimes they are given to us quite on purpose by loving but misguided people who think they are “doing it for our own good.” At other times these “gifts” are given to us by dysfunctional people who are, deliberately or unwittingly, trying to manipulate us so that they can get their own needs met. The unwelcome gifts I am talking about are things like fear, low self-esteem or self confidence, feelings of lack of worthiness, of never being “good enough” to please a parent or loved one.
If we continue to hold onto these unwelcome “gifts,” to believe these false ideas and act in harmony with them, we cannot reach our full God-given potential. Be assured that these feelings do not come from God.
Imagine that these feelings are like clothing. We open the box and try them on. We may wear them for a very long time, but we are capable of taking them off, putting them aside and choosing something else to wear.
At their most destructive this clothing is like a suit of body armor. It will protect us from being hurt. But it is very heavy and it saps our energy to wear it. We may not be vulnerable to the arrows or bullets that may come our way, but we also cannot run or jump or dance while we wear it. It severely limits our freedom to explore our world, find our talents, experience joy.
Imagine that we are living on the seashore. As we “go out into the world” we walk into the ocean. Free of the body armor, we can swim. We can hear loving voices calling to us and see the light of the lighthouse so that even if we venture out into deep water, we can find our way home. Wearing the body armor, we quickly find ourselves under water, feet firmly planted on the ocean floor. Our Rescuer sits in a rowboat over our heads, holding a tube down to us so that we can breathe. We gulp the air from the tube, feeling like the world is a very hard place to live. We cannot hear clearly. We cannot see clearly. We cannot move quickly or easily. We may be developing very strong muscles as we fight to live under the water in this way, wearing the armor that is weighing us down, but at what price?
Take off the armor! Let it go! Even if it was a gift from someone you love, it is causing you to drown! Will taking it off make you vulnerable? Possibly, but you will shoot to the surface, be able to breathe deeply and fully and freely. You will hear the voices of Love and Truth clearly calling to you. The Rescuer will help you into the boat and carry you safely to shore. He will protect you and heal you when you get hurt. You will be able to swim, to run, to laugh, to play, to experience joy and fulfillment. These are gifts that are far more valuable than the suffocating “protection” of the body armor. Let go of fear. Trust the Rescuer to protect you.
What feeling, thought or ideas are weighing you down that you can take off and let go of?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
“Principle 2: Come to believe that the power of God can restore you to complete spiritual health.”
“Hope” is the gospel principle assigned to Step 2 in the ARP manual, A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing. Hope for what? What do those working Step 2 of the 12 Steps hope for? We hope that as we have admitted our powerlessness to beat our addictions by sheer willpower in Step 1, Christ will, in fact, heal us personally. The question is not, “Will Christ help those who repent turn their lives around?” Nor is it, “Can people recover through the grace of Jesus Christ?” No, the question is, “Will Christ heal poor, rebellious, sinful, broken me? Me personally? Not all those other people out there, but will he actually heal me?”
You see, by the time we get to the 12 Steps, most of us have tried every other way we know to fix ourselves and we have failed. Our greatest fear is that the 12 Steps won’t work either, and we will, in fact, turn out to be permanently and hopelessly broken; too broken for even Christ to fix.
Boyd K. Packer shared this in October 1995 General Conference: “The gospel teaches us that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance… there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense exempted from the promise of complete forgiveness.” (Emphasis added.) Steps 4-10 are the repentance process. President Packer’s words tell me that when I have worked those steps with a sincere heart, to the best of my ability, I can receive forgiveness. Knowing this, and believing that these words cover all of my sins, I can dare to have hope that I can be healed.
If all the willpower in the world has been unable to fix me, then how am I going to make it through the repentance process?
“Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Alma 37:33 emphasis added).
Understanding Grace Gives Us Hope
In the Bible Dictionary, grace is defined as “divine means of help or strength” given through the “bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” (“Grace,” 697). This gift of divine strength enables you to do more than you would be able to do if left on your own. The Savior will do for you what you cannot do for yourself. His grace is the means by which you can repent and be changed. (A Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing, p. 9)
No one is more broken than Christ can fix. Thinking that I am so powerful and wonderful that my ability to be messed up is greater than Christ’s ability to fix is arrogant and prideful. It is a lie; a lie planted in my brain and carefully nurtured by Satan. By working Step 2 I receive hope that through grace the Lord will help me overcome what I cannot overcome by myself.
Do you believe that Christ can and will fix your brokenness, personally?
If you do believe it, what are you willing to do today to prepare yourself to receive that gift?
If you don’t believe it, what are you willing to do today to let go of the lie that tells you that you are either beyond Christ’s ability to fix, or that He has rejected you.
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
I float on my back down the river of life. My feet are downstream so that I see just a little bit of what lies ahead over the tips of my toes. The river moves slowly and the Lord walks by my side with his hand under me, supporting my back. He sees what is coming ahead. I trust Him to guide me and keep me safe on this relatively easy and effortless journey.
From time to time there are boulders and trees in the riverbed. When I come close enough to touch something with my feet, I need to be soft and flexible. My knees act like shock absorbers, bending as needed and then I straighten them to push myself off the obstruction. Sometimes I “tiptoe” around the object until I can resume my journey.
The water flows a little faster as the riverbed drops down on occasion. I feel a little fear, and look up at my Savior who continues to walk calmly by my side. He smiles reassuringly. I feel His hand gently supporting me. My circumstances do not threaten me. I am safe with Him.
Sometimes there are rapids. I may get bumped and a little bruised. But with the Lord to rescue me and keep me safe, I will not drown, unless I refuse His aid. He may lift me directly and carry me down river past the danger. Or He may have a raft manned by His servants pick me up and care for me temporarily. Sometimes He drafts me to care for others as my journey downstream continues.
There is only one way for me to be in danger: if I decide to manage the trip myself. Even when the river is slow, I barely see over the tips of my toes. Without His loving guidance I will get snagged by submerged limbs. If I try to go it alone in the white water, I will surely be smashed on the rocks or caught in a whirlpool. No. I cannot navigate the river alone. And why would I want to?
How fast is the river of your life flowing right now?
How flexible are you when you encounter obstacles? What does that look like in your life?
What will you do today to give more control to the Savior and allow Him to guide you?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
A waltz is danced to music that has three beats to the measure. Think of “My Cup Runneth Over (with Love)” or “Morning Has Broken.” Imagine Cinderella at the ball. It is beautiful, sweeping, romantic. When learning to dance the waltz, the instructor and the dancers can be heard counting to themselves, “One, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three,” in time to the music.
In the 12-Step program there is also a 1-2-3 waltz. It is not beautiful. It is not romantic. It happens when someone starts working the program, gets through the first 3 steps, gets stuck on the 4th Step inventory, relapses (or not) and returns to Step 1. Over. And over. And over again. I did the 1-2-3 waltz for the first 8 years I was in the program.
Why Do We Get Stuck on the Step 4 Inventory?
Step 4 is Hard
Step 4 is hard! The first three steps are hard, too, if we really work them. But many newcomers to the program, especially those who have a background that includes a faith tradition, think they already know they need God, are not afraid to admit it and, at least nominally, turn their will and their lives over to Him. When they get to Step 4, they have to sit down with a pen and paper and review their whole lives, trying to find everything bad (or good) they have ever done. That is hard! It is called a “searching and fearless moral inventory.” Many of us have spent much of our lives running away from our fears. Doing a searching and fearless moral inventory seems overwhelming. We are not sure we can honestly face all the things that we have done, all the people we have hurt, all the bad decisions we have made.
We May Not Be Ready
Each step prepares us for the next one. As a general rule, I have found that if I am stuck on any step, I probably need to go back to the previous step, dig a little deeper, and be a little more honest. Truly turning our will and our lives over to the Lord may be easier said than done. If we haven’t really dug deeply enough in Step 3, we aren’t really ready to access His power to do a searching and fearless moral inventory.
We Don’t Know How to Do It
Never having done such a thing before, we don’t even know where to start. There are some suggestions in the ARP Guide and other 12-Step books (see my Resources page), but there are so many different ways to do it! How do we know which one is right for us? And as we begin, we have questions. How do we know if we are doing it right? Who should we ask for advice?
We are Not Accountable to Anyone
One of the ways we get hard things done in our lives is to be accountable to someone else: a parent, a teacher, a team, a boss, a spouse, a friend. Many of us find it hard to implement changes in our lives or do new things if there is no one holding us accountable for following through on our goals.
How Do We Break the Cycle?
If You Don’t Have a Sponsor, Find One
It is hard to work the program effectively without an accountability partner. A sponsor is is an accountability partner, but much more than that. A sponsor is someone who has walked this path before us and is willing to share his/her journey with us. A sponsor will understand how hard it is to do an inventory and offer words of encouragement and suggestions to consider when we are struggling.
Dig Deeper on the First Three Steps
If we do feel a need to start over with steps 1, 2, and 3, it needs to be different this time. It needs to be deeper. We need to make outreach calls, and talk to others about their recovery. We need to follow the suggestions of a sponsor. We can try using the tool of writing more. There are additional 12-Step books that might be helpful (see my Resources page). Especially on Step 3, we need to spend some time on our knees and make sure that we have really done the work, that we are really willing to do the Lord’s will even if it is not what we want to do.
Become Willing to Receive the Lord’s Enabling Power
The Atonement is a power that works for redemption at the end of life, and it is also an enabling power that gives us the strength to do hard things now. Watch Brad Wilcox’ amazing talk, His Grace is Sufficient or read Elder Bednar’s wonderful article from the April 2012 Ensign: The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality for more insight on how grace (the power of the Atonement) can work in your life.
“And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33) When you rely on the Lord’s grace to do the things that are expedient unto Him, you will be able to do things you never thought you could do.
Just Do It
So what if you are afraid? You have done other things you were afraid to do and lived to tell about it. Program literature clarifies that “fearless” does not mean “without fear.” Rather, it means that we do the inventory to the best of our ability without allowing our fear to stop us.
So what if you don’t know the “best” way, or the “right” way to do your inventory? Just prayerfully pick an approach. No one is giving you a grade for this. No one is going to tell you you did it wrong. You get as many chances as you want to do it again and try another way. There is no right way, no wrong way. Just do it.
Are you stuck in the 1-2-3 Waltz?
If so, what do you think is keeping you from moving forward with Step 4?
What are you willing to do today to trust God, rely on His power, dig deeper, and receive the blessings and promises available to you?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
When I turn to my addiction (or any other behavior) rather than the Savior when I feel “worried, self-pitying, troubled, anxious, resentful, carnal minded, or fearful,” I voluntarily forfeit the peace the Lord can give me and settle instead for temporary numbness or distraction and subsequent remorse. He is willing and able to give me the peace I crave. The price for that peace is the willingness to recognize the pain, humble myself, turn to Him, and open my heart to receive it. So why don’t I just do it?
Recognize the Pain
The feelings listed in the quote above are uncomfortable. I don’t like to feel them. I don’t want to stay in this place. I have a natural tendency, a habit of many years, to look for comfort in distraction or in my “drug of choice.” When I feel these emotions, I need to train myself to recognize this moment as an opportunity to find peace, rather than turn to my old familiar “friends.” (see Changing Channels.)
I need to admit that I cannot obtain the relief and peace I seek by my own efforts. I have tried and failed at this repeatedly. I need to acknowledge that only with the Lord’s help will I find the peace I crave.
Turn to the Lord
I figuratively or literally get on my knees and acknowledge to the Lord that I am feeling things that have sent me to my addiction in the past. I tell Him that I don’t want to go there this time. I tell Him I am willing to let go of these feelings. I ask Him to take them, and replace them with peace. (See Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 1.)
Open My Heart to Receive His Peace
I make a decision to trust that He will do it, and wait for it to happen. Sometimes I wait right there on my knees. At other times I go about my business, and allow myself to feel the feelings for the moment. I remind myself that I will not die from these feelings. I choose to trust Him to walk by my side and help me to bear them, until He grants me peace, in His time.
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness…For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.”
I am not perfect yet. (See On Being a Perfect Rosebud.) I am a child of God, a human being on earth, and as such, I instinctively avoid pain. But I have learned that I can survive pain now, to get what I want. It is called delaying gratification. I save now so that I can buy what I want later without going into debt. I exercise now so that I enjoy good health and am happy with my body. I work the steps now so that I can live “happy, joyous and free” from my addiction.
I turn to the Lord now, instead of my addiction, so that I can have peace.
What uncomfortable feelings trigger you to seek relief in the wrong places?
What behaviors do you habitually turn to to escape the discomfort or pain?
What are you willing to do today to seek the peace of the Lord instead?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
When I do something good, am I motivated by fear, duty, or love? It makes a difference! Regardless of whether I am performing a service for someone else or for myself, the quality of the outcome is affected by my motivation.
Motivated by Fear
When fear is my motivation for doing good, it might be because I am afraid I will get in trouble or look bad to others if I don’t do it. For example, when someone is on probation, they may do all the right things because they are afraid of what will happen if they don’t. People who attend Church only to avoid giving the neighbors something to talk about are motivated by fear. Doing something good because I don’t want to disappoint someone I care about is another example. In any case, when I am motivated by fear, my heart is not in it. I most likely receive very little joy or blessing as a result of doing it.
Motivated by Duty
Being motivated by duty is a little bit higher on the motivation scale. When I am motivated by duty, I know it is the “right thing to do” and I am choosing to be obedient. Participating in a service project because “someone has to do it” is an example of this. It doesn’t contain quite as much of a negative undertone as being motivated by fear, but when I am motivated by duty I am still holding something back. Obedience is good. Doing the right thing is good. But again, I will not receive all the blessings of joy and satisfaction that are possible when I act out of duty.
Motivated by Love
The highest level of motivation is love or charity (“the pure love of Christ”). If I go serve at the nursing home because my heart goes out to the people there and I want to bring them joy and happiness, I am serving with love. If I go to Church and partake of the sacrament on Sunday because I love the Lord and want to renew my covenants with Him, I will look forward to it and be filled with the Spirit as I do it. If I put hours into my calling that no one will ever know about or see because I feel inspired to do so and it makes me happy, I am motivated by love.
Motivation in Working the Steps
When I work my 12 Step program, the same three levels of motivation apply. Which level I am on will determine how much I will get out of the work I am doing. If I attend meetings because I am mandated to do so by the court or study and write because I am afraid that if I stop I will relapse, that is better than nothing! If I do it because I know I am a child of God, I deserve to be free from my addictions, and I believe that if I work the program I will find sobriety, that is better. But if my 12 Step work is motivated by my love of the Lord, my gratitude for the Atonement He made for me, the joy I find in serving and a desire to become an instrument in His hands to help others find recovery, then I open myself up to receiving the full blessings He wants to bestow upon me.
Most people come to the 12-Steps because they have a habit or addiction that has not been permanently healed or relieved by other approaches. What is different among newcomers is the level of fear they feel about becoming free from their addiction, about how hard it might be to work the Steps and about failing.
Desperate to Be Free
A common thought in 12-Step circles and literature is that “when the pain of the problem becomes worse than the pain of the solution we will be ready to change.” Another way to say this is that when we are sufficiently desperate to be free from our addiction, we will be willing to do the work, even if we don’t want to do it. Desperation works in our favor in this area.
Fearful of the Process of Working the Steps
Often we get hung up looking ahead at the future steps that we are afraid of having to do. We obsess about things like:
If I turn my will and my life over to God, what if His plan for me or His timing is not what I want? (Step 3)
If I have already confessed and repented of a past transgression, do I have to include it in my 4th step inventory? (Step 4)
If my sponsor knew everything I have done s/he would judge me or reject me. (Step 5)
What will my life be like without a particular weakness or shortcoming that I see as an integral part of who I am? (Step 6)
What if I ask God to remove my character defect and He doesn’t? (Step 7)
I don’t think I can forgive the one who caused me such pain! (Step 8)
What if I try to make amends to someone and they reject me? (Step 9)
The purpose of working the program is to access the Atonement to relieve you of guilt, shame, and resentment and enable you to fulfill your potential with the help of the Lord.
“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men lineuponline, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)
We work the program one step at a time for a reason. That is the pattern the Lord has set up for us to learn truth and wisdom. We are not ready to work a step until we have completed the previous step. When we have really completed a step we want to move on to the next one. The fears listed above are gifts from the Adversary to stop our forward progress. There are specific answers for each one of them but the most important thing to keep in mind is this: if we stop thinking about the future steps and just focus on the step we are currently working on, we will make progress and find recovery.
Fear of Failure
The most debilitating fear is that even if we do the steps, we will not be freed from our addictions. If we come to the 12-Steps believing that we have tried every other approach to becoming free, and that this is our last chance and only hope, then the fear that even this will not work can be paralyzing. Sometimes people stop attending meetings and stop working the steps because they are afraid that if it doesn’t work they will be left without hope.
The most poignant answer to this fear comes directly from the Lord:
2 Timothy 1:7For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
If the spirit of fear does not come from God, then where does it come from? Refuse to accept that gift from the Adversary. Instead, gratefully receive the gifts of power, love, and a sound mind that the Lord is willing to give you.
What fears are holding back your progress?
Are you willing to receive the gifts of power, love and a sound mind that the Lord offers you?
Write about what you and your life would be like if you received those gifts.
What will you do today to take a step towards living without fear?
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
Among the 12 Steps, there are a few that can make us feel so fearful or overwhelmed that we may choose to stop our forward motion rather than have to work those steps. Step 4, in which we take a searching and fearless moral inventory is one of them. So is Step 5, when we share that inventory with another person. Step 9, in which we actually reach out to those we have harmed, ask for their forgiveness and make amends to them is so daunting that people often get “stuck” in step 8, afraid to move on.
The paradox is that each of these steps, once taken, produces feelings of growth, love, acceptance and peace far stronger than the fear felt while contemplating the step. As we work the steps, however, hearing that these feelings are waiting for us on the other side of the work doesn’t always motivate us sufficiently to face the fear.
Fear is one of the main reasons we don’t progress in the steps and that we get stuck in our addictions. Fear is, for many, the main reason we indulge in our addictions in the first place!
The scriptures clearly tell us that fear does not come from the Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:7 we find, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” If God does not give us the spirit of fear, then who does? Satan. And we willingly accept this gift from our Adversary, and embrace it. As a “natural man” (or woman) we are susceptible to fear.
What does this scripture tell us that the Lord gives us instead of fear? He gives us the spirit of power—the power of the Lord, the power of the Atonement—to use to do His will. We are given the spirit of love, which is the power by which the universe was created. And finally, we are given the spirit of a sound mind: peace, calmness and serenity.
For some reason we are much more hesitant to receive the gifts of power, love and a sound mind from the Lord than we are to receive the gift of fear from the Adversary. (See my post on Receiving Gifts.)
What do we need to do to be able to receive these good gifts? We must put off the “natural man” and become a “saint”—a child of God.
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Moroni 3:19)
Make a decision to put aside fear—to refuse to accept that gift from Satan—and to trust the Lord and receive His gifts. Plunge ahead in your program with the help of your sponsor and other support people. You can do this. The Steps will work for you. You do not need to walk in fear. You are a son or daughter of God, designed and created by Him. He will help you achieve the recovery you deserve so that you can become a more useful and valiant servant as you mend the fences you have broken, and share the gift of recovery with those around you.
What fears are preventing you from making progress in the steps or anything else?
What do you believe is the source of your fear?
Are you willing to set aside your fear and trust the Lord to lead you forward?
What action are you willing to take today to move forward, walking in faith rather than fear?
When I was in college I had to take a year of advanced math. The class met an hour a day, Monday through Friday. I did the best I could in class, paid attention, took detailed notes, and asked questions when I didn’t understand. But I quickly found that when I went home each night I could not do the homework. I spent hours trying to figure it out, reading the book, looking over my notes, to no avail. The next day the instructor moved on to something new — something that required an understanding of the previous day’s material. I was lost, and it was only the first week of class!
I discovered that there was a Math lab, where tutors were available to help, one-on-one. I found that if I went to the lab right after class every day and did the homework with the help of a tutor, I could learn the material and avoid getting behind. Sometimes the tutors had to find a different way of explaining the concepts to me. Other times we had to go over and over things in multiple ways in order for me to grasp the material. It was hard, and frustrating, but I knew that if I didn’t do whatever it took to learn it, it would just be that much more difficult the next day.
I have found the same pattern in my life since I graduated, but I didn’t recognize it right away. I have come to understand that when I need to learn new life skills the Lord will give me as many opportunities as I need to learn them. When I don’t learn from one experience, the Lord gives me another. Sometimes I don’t learn from an experience because, in my pride, I blame others for the circumstances or outcome. Other times I am unwilling to do the work I fear would be necessary to go through an experience so I either work around it or run away from it. There are times when I have needed multiple lessons before I finally have learned a new life skill. When I do master it, I can see how necessary it was for me to learn it! New opportunities open to me. I become a more useful servant to the Lord.
You have a personal tutor who plans your education — individualized and customized to your strengths and weaknesses — for the purpose of teaching you the life skills you will need to ascend to your eternal destiny. If you refuse or fail to learn the skill from one experience you will have as many opportunities as you need to learn it.
Are you tired of facing the same challenges over and over?
How have you reacted to these challenges in the past? Have you run away or blamed others?
How can you embrace the opportunities the Lord is giving you, search for insight regarding the life skills you need to learn from challenging experiences and do the work necessary to master them?
Are you willing to do this? What are you willing to do?
As we walk the mountain road of life (See Growth: Life is Like a Mountain Road), climbing towards the top, we sometimes encounter a cloud. When we are just starting our journey, still in the valley, the cloud is above us. During the last part of our climb, we break through the cloud and can see the summit clearly, and the surrounding scenery. But while we are climbing through the cloud, we may feel cold, damp, and confused, surrounded by dense fog.
We need to remember that while the cloud is temporary, the mountain is not; neither is the road. We can continue on the path, by putting one foot in front of the other and hugging the mountain so that we don’t accidentally fall off the edge. Another option is to stand still and wait for the cloud to lift. With the help of the Lord we can progress, even if we are scared. (See There is No Darkness in the Presence of the Lord.)
What goes on in your mind when something “goes wrong?” I started thinking about this not too long ago. Some people obsess about why it happened. I don’t. So what do I do?
Is It Something I Can Control?
I go through a kind of flowchart in my mind in these situations. It actually happens pretty quickly most of the time. The first thing I ask myself is, “Is this something I can control?” This is a key question because if it is not something I can control, no amount of anguish, effort or frustration is going to change anything.
If the Problem or Situation is Not Under My Control
If the problem is something that I cannot control I quickly do Steps 1, 2, and 3:
Step 1: Admit that I am powerless over the matter.
Step 2: Acknowledge that God can handle it.
Step 3: Make a decision to turn it over to Him and trust His timing.
I have written several other posts on how to let go and trust God. For example, “Learning to Let Go.” Once I have turned it over, I need to be willing to trust His timing. If I find myself obsessing about the matter again, it is probably related to His timing more than anything else. I want the problem solved immediately. He has a perfect sense of when the necessary lessons have been learned and will resolve these things in His own way and time. I need to remember that I turned it over and decide to let it go once more. ( See more on the “God Box” ).
If It is Something I Can Control
Sometimes a problem is something I could do something about, but should not. It might be outside of my area of stewardship – in other words, none of my business. Or it might be better for the other people involved if I let them figure out a solution for themselves. Even if it is my problem to solve, it is often the case that the immediate and obvious answer that pops into my head is not the best one. I have found that praying for guidance is always worth the time.
Praying for Guidance
“Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” This is the humble prayer the Guide to Addiction Recovery and Healing says to use in Step 7 on page 42. I usually write this type of prayer (see more here), and list out the options that I can think of, describing the pros and cons, trying to think ahead to what the outcomes (including possible unintended consequences) might be. I believe this is in harmony with the Lord’s direction to Oliver Cowdery in the 9th Section of the Doctrine & Covenants.
Doing the Footwork
Sometimes the footwork is to watch and wait and continue to pray. Other times it requires more action. If I need to take action I want to feel comfortable that the action I am going to take has the approval of the Lord. And sometimes I need to have the courage to take the action the Lord gives me to do. I may feel fear. When this happens I try to remember two of my favorite scriptures:
“And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” (Moroni 7:33)
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
Trust in the Lord’s Timing
In the end, whether it turns out to be something I have no control over or something I need to act upon, it all comes down to trusting the Lord and His timing.
Is there something going on in your life right now that should be put through this process?
Are you willing to let go of it and turn it over if it is something that is not in your area of stewardship, or if the Lord tells you just to be patient right now?
Are you willing to ask the Lord, with an open mind and heart, if there is any footwork that you need to do?
Are you willing to do the footwork He has given you?
How do you feel about accepting His timing in the resolution of this matter?
Picture yourself playing with a baby who is just learning to walk. Perhaps the baby is an excellent crawler and has learned to pull herself up to a standing position and “cruise” from one piece of furniture to the next. She has never, however, taken a “solo” step – without holding on. As you sit on the floor, separated from her by a few feet, you hold out your arms and encourage her to come to you. You tell her she can do it. You call to her. You encourage her in every way you know how.
She takes one step – maybe two. Then she abruptly sits down. Hard. Tears start to form in her eyes. Which of the following do you say?
“You are such a failure. You will never learn to walk.”
“I know, honey, walking is too hard. Don’t worry. I don’t mind carrying you.”
“Yay! You did it! You took 2 steps all by yourself! You can do it! You can do it again! Come on. Come to me!”
Number 3, of course. You want her to learn to walk. You know she doesn’t know how. But she is ready to learn and anxious to learn, and she doesn’t know that there is anything wrong with not being very good at it yet. She doesn’t cry if you don’t encourage her to feel sorry for herself. She smiles at your encouragement. Any tears that have started have dried up, and she crawls over to the couch, pulls herself up, and tries again.
We may not be learning to walk, but we are children of God figuring out how to do other things that we need to learn, only now we know what failure is, and we try to avoid it at any cost. We don’t want anyone to know if we cannot do something that we think is important. We certainly don’t want anyone to know that we tried and failed.
Do you think your Heavenly Father is standing by with judgmental statements like number one and number two above? Do you think He wants us to give up on things we haven’t mastered yet? Or even things that we haven’t even attempted yet at all? No! He is standing right by us saying, “You can do it! I have confidence in you!” If we, as mortal parents, want our children to succeed, how much more does God, our perfect and eternal Father, want us to succeed!
We need to let go of our fear of failure and recognize it as a stepping stone to a new skill. Failing means we aren’t perfect yet. Failing means we are trying to learn. Failing means we want to grow.
You can do it! I know you can! God knows you can! You know you can. You just need to keep trying and no matter what, DON’T…GIVE…UP!!!
What skill do you want to learn or habit do you want to change?
Regardless of how many times you have tried and failed, are you willing to try again?
Make a plan for learning this new skill. How can you take the Lord up on His promise to help you? (See Moroni 7:33)
Solicit the help of others who have been placed by God in your path to help you.
Mountain biking is a sport in which people ride special bikes designed to handle rough terrain—often in areas without roads. Sometimes they ride down steep hills littered with rocks and boulders.
I once heard a story about a man who wanted to learn to mountain bike. He had the good fortune to be invited to join a group of experienced bikers for a day. As he attempted to negotiate a steep field of boulders, he kept hitting the rocks—risking both his bike and his body—and creating a hazard for other riders. Finally the leader of the group took him aside and asked him what he was looking at as he rode down the hill.
“The boulders!” the man exclaimed. “What do you think?”
“Ah,” replied the leader. “That is your problem. You need to focus on the spaces between the rocks!”
What are the boulders in your life right now?
Are you focusing on the boulders or the spaces in your life?
Write about the spaces. What do they look like?
Are you willing to focus on the spaces?
What can you do to keep yourself focused on the spaces and not the rocks?
In Steps 6 and 7 we become entirely ready to have God remove our character weaknesses and then we ask Him, humbly, to do it. So then what? Do we just expect Him to wave a magic wand and, poof, our character weaknesses are gone? No. Part of becoming entirely ready is getting to the point where we are willing to do the footwork He gives us to develop the new positive habits and behaviors that will take the place of the negative ones. I become a co-creator with God as I create the new me, just like Jesus was a co-creator with God as He created the world.
I have observed that there is a process we go through to implement change in our lives. I call it the AADWAR process, which is an acronym for Awareness, Acceptance, Desire, Willingness, Action, Results.
Awareness: “Something needs to change.”
Awareness is the first step of the change process. Nothing will change in my life until I make a decision to change it. I am not going to make a decision to change something unless I know it is a problem! I can become aware of things that need to change as I read, study, and pray with a humble heart. If I listen with an open mind to others share in meetings and at Church the Spirit will tell me how to apply what I hear to my life. My loved ones will also bring opportunities for change to my attention if I am willing to listen to the message instead of reacting to the method of delivery.
Acceptance: “This really does apply to me now.”
I am sure each of us could make a list of habits or behaviors we “know” we need to change, but have not done anything about. I certainly have a few of those items. Acceptance is an important part of the change process. When I go from thinking “I should make this change” to thinking “I will make this change” I have found acceptance. Acceptance may be triggered by the pain caused by my dysfunctional old behavior or by a prompting or confirmation from the Holy Ghost. Often times pride is the reason I struggle with acceptance.
Desire: “I have a vision of what I want to be like.”
Just because I know what I need to change does not mean that I have a desire to do the work necessary to get there, especially if I don’t know what my new replacement habits or behavior will look like! When I can visualize what my life will be like having made this change, and develop a desire for that new lifestyle strong enough to motivate me to actually make it happen, I have taken a powerful step toward getting there. Once I have the desire I ask the Lord what I need to do. He gives me work to do, actions to take, a “roadmap” to get me from where I am to where I want to be.
Willingness: “I am willing to act.”
Sometimes, despite having a strong desire for the new life that a certain change will bring, I cannot overcome my fear or reluctance to take the necessary action. Until I become willing to do the footwork, nothing will change! Praying for willingness is very effective. There are times when I choose not to pray for willingness, because I know that if I do pray for it, the Lord will give it to me, and I don’t want to do it! There is a difference between having a desire for the new behavior to be a part of my life, and being willing to do the work necessary to get there. When I cannot make myself pray for willingness, I may be able to get myself to pray for the willingness to be willing. I know that sounds silly, but it really does work.
Action: “I do the footwork.”
Once I have become willing, I start to implement the plan the Lord gave me. I may be scared out of my wits, but I do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers says in Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway. I may feel uncertain about whether I am doing it “right” but I remind myself that I am after “progress, not perfection,” as the AA/Al-Anon slogan says. I don’t let perfectionism keep me in a state of procrastination. And most importantly, I focus on doing the footwork, not on what the results will look like, because I am not in control of the results.
Results: “Up to God”
Letting go of the results is one of the hardest parts about the change process. In the past I started with the results I wanted and worked backwards to figure out how and what to change. Unfortunately, I was frequently frustrated and disappointed because it rarely turned out the way I had envisioned it. Now I know that the results are up to God. The results are up to God! Actually, this is a relief, when you think about it. God knows what I need far better than I do. He is capable of bringing other resources to bear to help me achieve my full potential. If I can let go of what the results look like and trust Him, I am always amazed at what he can do with my cooperation, which is necessary, because the Lord will not take away my agency.
One trick I use to let go of the results is to make a decision to search for the blessings in the results the Lord has given me. When I see them, and embrace them, and write about them, and express gratitude for them, I begin to “own” them. Eventually they become a part of my life and I see that God’s vision of my life is even better than mine.
I have an old battery operated transistor radio I use sometimes when I go for a walk. When it is not quite tuned in to the correct frequency, I can hear some of what is being said, but it may fade in and out, there may be static and sometimes I can hear country music or preaching from another station in the background. I try to avoid changing the station at all because it is so hard to get it to exactly the right spot! Sometimes, in order to be sure I am tuned in to the right station, I take it over to another radio that I know is correct and turn them both on at the same time.
My heart is like a radio, but it receives the voice of my Savior instead of receiving a radio broadcast. The signal that carries the Savior’s voice is the Holy Ghost. This concept is clearly taught in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” (See also Moses 5:9 and Moroni 8:7-9). This spiritual signal is always broadcasting, just like a radio station, but sometimes I get busy and caught up in the world. At these times I cannot hear the Lord’s voice because I am either not listening at all or not tuned in very well.
Sometimes I can hardly hear because of the “background noise” in my life. This includes the stresses of my day-to-day life and Satan’s lies. I am especially susceptible to the ones that include “if only,” “someday,” “should,” and “I can eat just one – it will make me feel better.” I create static for myself when I compare myself to others. I have written in a previous post about the “committee in my head”. Those voices sometimes shout so loudly that they would drown out anything!
I want so much to be able to hear the voice of love, harmony and peace that speaks to me when I tune in to the right frequency and reduce or eliminate the background noise. I have had to learn this lesson through trial, error and practice. First, I have to notice when I am not in tune with the Spirit, and not hearing the Lord’s voice. Second, I have to reawaken my desire to hear it. Third, I have to do what is necessary to get tuned in.
I take an honest look at my life – an inventory. I ask myself if I have any self-limiting beliefs or habits that are creating static. Is there anything I need to change to be able to hear His voice?
I have discovered that listening to the right kind of music can help me tune in as much as listening to the wrong kind can interfere. For me, music with words is distracting but certain kinds of instrumental music – Native American flute for example – can help me hear the still small voice of the Spirit.
I have to be willing to believe that the Savior really loves me unconditionally and wants to communicate with me in order to hear His voice. If I don’t turn on my spiritual radio because I am afraid that nothing is being broadcast, I won’t hear the message no matter how good it is.
Just as I sometimes take my little transistor radio over to one that I know is on the right station, I have learned to recognize the Savior’s voice by reading His words in the scriptures and listening to the prophets when He speaks to me through them.
Tuning in is quite a bit of work, but well worth the effort. Staying tuned in is easier than getting tuned in. I try to avoid changing the station at all.
Are you in tune?
Do you need to eliminate static or fine tune your receiver?
What actions are you willing to take to help you get and stay in tune so you can better receive personal revelation through the Spirit?
Our economy works because people trade goods and services for pieces of paper that have numbers and pictures on them. We call these pieces of paper “money”. When an employer pays a worker, the dollar the worker receives passes through many hands. The worker buys food at the grocery store. The grocery store pays the wholesaler. The wholesaler pays their employee. That person makes their mortgage payment. You get the idea.
When people are afraid to spend their money, the economy begins to go into a recession. The worker spends less at the grocery store; the grocer buys less from the wholesaler. The wholesaler is selling less so he doesn’t pay as much out in wages, and so forth. If the fear and the cycle get bad enough, the economy comes to a screeching halt, and the recession becomes a depression.
God also has an economy, but the currency isn’t money; it is love, often expressed in service. When people in a community need help and allow others to serve them, God’s economy of love grows. People feel an abundance of love, both from serving and from being served, and they desire to serve others. Sarah’s lawn needs to be mowed, and her neighbor Alan does it while doing his own. Alan loses his job, and Beatrice tells him about an opportunity where she works. Beatrice has a wayward son, and Roger, who has walked that path before and knows where it leads extends a hand of friendship to him. Roger has health problems, and Sarah prays for him. Love “goes around and comes around.”
On the other hand, when fear causes people to refuse help, they don’t give anyone else an opportunity to serve. This can happen because they are embarrassed or they “don’t want to be beholden” to anyone, or they think that it is a sign of failure or weakness if they are not completely self-sufficient. This situation can bring the economy of God to a screeching halt. When no one is willing to receive service, no one can give it which leads to a different kind of depression.
What kinds of service are you able to give?
Do you take the opportunity to do so?
What kinds of service are you willing to receive?
Is there something you would like the Lord to help you with?
Most of the time he provides help through others, rather than directly. Are you willing to receive the help you need through the people around you?
One way to keep a dog in the yard without tying him up is to install an “invisible fence.” This consists of a wire which is buried around the perimeter of the yard and a collar that the dog wears. The collar has a radio receiver that picks up a signal if the dog gets too close to the wire. When this occurs a mild “correction” (shock) is triggered to let the dog know not to go any further. Most dogs can be trained to learn the boundaries and not to get too close to them. Why? They don’t like being “corrected!” In fact, after a while, you might even forget to turn on the fence, and the dog might never even realize it.
Supposing, however, that the dog has a boy, a boy he loves and would protect with his life. Suppose further that the boy is being attacked by the neighborhood bully just outside of the fence. Do you think there is a good chance that the dog would defend his boy even if it meant that he had to endure the “correction?” Why? Because his reason to cross the fence is more important and more urgent than his reason not to.
Most of us also have an invisible fence. We call it our “comfort zone.” One way or another we have learned that when we get too close to the limits of our comfort zone we get this nasty “sick” feeling. I may gaze longingly out past the limits, daydreaming about what I could achieve or accomplish or do … if only I wasn’t afraid to try. I may feel frustrated at the limitations I have imposed upon myself, but I am too afraid of the “correction” I might receive (such as rejection, criticism, failure or ridicule) if I were to get too close to the line.
Just like the dog, it takes a reason more important to me than my fear to get me to cross the line; something I want badly enough to risk getting hurt. Sometimes when I finally step out of my comfort zone I discover that someone forgot to turn on the fence, and, other than the butterflies in my stomach, I receive no “correction” at all! Then there are times when someone does criticize or reject me, or I do try something and “fail” the first time. But if I just keep working on it, what I come to find out is that the limits of my comfort zone have expanded and I have lived to tell about it. In fact, after a while I may discover that pushing on the limits of my comfort zone has become a game I play with myself, receiving enough joy and pleasure in setting goals and reaching them to outweigh the discomfort or pain of the growth process.
What is your reason – your dream? Is it big enough to help you overcome your fear? If it is a righteous desire of your heart, the Lord will help you achieve it. He may not just give it to you. It may come in the form of smaller experiences, perhaps even uncomfortable ones, which strengthen you and prepare you so that when the opportunity does present itself you are ready to act upon it. Do you need help in overcoming fear? Find your dream. Think it through. Write about it.
The Lord loves us. He doesn’t toy with us. In Moroni 7:33 we find this promise:
“And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”
Become willing to follow His guidance and counsel, walking in faith, so that he can give you the power to achieve the righteous desires of your heart.
What are you afraid to try?
What would help you to overcome your fear?
Will you pray for that help?
What will you do today to push out the limits of your comfort zone?
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