We’ve all had those moments where it feels like our words are hitting a wall and bouncing right back to us. People will ask us for help and our opinion. We offer to the best of our knowledge an answer and solution and then those people go and do exactly the opposite of what we just discussed. Multiple times this week I have had this experience, and I am so thankful for the lessons it has taught me.
It humbles me to realize that often when I pray and communicate with God, He is left with that same feeling. God, being perfect, probably avoids any feelings of frustration or anger, but I do imagine His disappointment and sadness. “Have we not discussed this my child? Why are you still acting this way?”
That is the question that I have been pondering since I thought of it. “Why are you still acting this way?” As I have thought back on two experiences of friends, and one of my own, I think I gained a little bit of insight into that ‘why’. To help identify this principle I share three examples of less than perfect behavior.
First I begin with me. A while ago I was praying to know if I should continue to see a young man that I was dating. I felt strongly that the Lord would leave that decision up to me, but that I should really consider the matter fully and decide what I wanted to do. I confirmed my decision with the Lord and felt good, and at peace about my choice. After making a decision to stop moving forward I yearned to still be friends with this person. (Side note: it is very difficult to be just friends with someone there is interest with.) We continued to communicate off and on for several weeks. Then the flirting began again.
Knowing my answer, I stopped communication all together. But then I felt extremely guilty because I hadn’t given a reason for why. I began communicating yet again. This time I changed my mind. Clearly I enjoyed talking this person. So why not go out again? We planned a date. As it got closer I had a very bad feeling about it. It wasn’t until the third time that I finally successfully quit trying to pursue a relationship that I had already decided and confirmed was not right, at least not at the time.
Why did I act the way I did?
Reason One: We act the way we do because we do not trust ourselves, or we do not trust the Lord.
Reason Two: When we have made a correct decision we act the way we do because we give way to temptation.
Next, a friend of mine was broken up with on Valentine’s Day this year. After hours and hours of discussing it the answer seemed too obvious to everyone except for her. The conclusion: He’s just not that into you, so pick up the pieces and move on. After she heard many varying opinions she began to rationalize his behavior and defend the very things that she was upset about. When prodded further it became clear that she felt him her last and only option at marriage. She didn’t want to give up her last hope.
Reason three: We act the way we do because we lack hope in the future.
A different friend had a similar experience. The girl he liked a tremendous amount broke his heart by not continuing to pursue a relationship. His response was to quit dating, and never try again. After all, he’d been hurt too many times. Clearly he wasn’t loveable. Clearly women were just mean and hurtful. Why should he continue to put himself in vulnerable situations just to be let down. All women must be the same.
Reason Four: We act the way we do because we have been hurt multiple times, and we no longer trust other people.
All four reasons we still act the way we do, even when we know better, can be complicated and associated with a great deal of emotional baggage. However, on our quest for happiness in this life we somehow need to learn to trust ourselves and our God, recognize and conquer temptation, have hope in the future, and trust that other people can be good and decent.
This life is one of learning and growth. I don’t believe that God expects us to get everything right the first time, but I believe He trusts us. I believe that God sees our ability to conquer temptation. I believe that God has hope in our futures. I believe that God can lead us to find and become good and decent people to associate with. If God believes in us, why can we not believe in ourselves and change the way we act?
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.