He said to write in my journal?
He said it was a commandment!
I hate that! I don’t want to write in my journal! I don’t even HAVE a journal, anyway!
I’ve seen other people’s journals. I’ve listened to their stories about their journals and I am bored to death! What can possibly be so important about this dull activity that I should be instructed to write? AND be made to feel guilty if I do not?
My sense of rebellion was like a grain of sand in the oyster of my mind. I tried to protect my conscience from guilt’s sharp jabs by pearlizing it in alternating layers of “minimize,” “justify,” and “rationalize.”
Besides, nobody will benefit from my writing about the events of my day: when I went to the store, what I bought, who I saw and what they said. How stupid to write a travelogue or itemize petty activities! WHO CARES?!
But still… Hmm… This man threatened that I wouldn’t be approved in Heavenly Father’s sight if I didn’t journal… Well, I’m not going to spend MY time writing to a blank page, which no one will EVER read, about stuff that doesn’t make ANY difference to ANYONE.
So, if I’m going to write, I’m going to write to a REAL person about my FEELINGS! Yes, that’s it! I’ll do what I was told (threatened) to do, but I’m going to do it in a way that matters to ME!
It only makes sense that if you’re forced by fear to do something that makes no sense to you, at least you can retain a little dignity if you insist on doing it your OWN way!
When I think about leaving a written account of my life, I can’t tolerate thinking that nobody will care, or surely not remember, about a person who did THINGS. If anyone ever reads MY journal, I want them to gain an awareness about how I FELT about the things I did or the events that occurred. I want them to care that I lived! Maybe even wish they’d known me.
Yes! If I’m going to leave anything behind, it’s NOT going to be some boring scribble! It’s going to be FEELINGS! Impressions and reactions! It’s going to be about what I learned as a RESULT of what I experienced.
There! NOW I can obey this commandment!
So many feelings from so many years ago! Since then, I have written numerous emotion-filled letters to close friends and put copies of those letters into a 3-ring binder and labeled it “My Journal.” My undaunted spirit would be obedient in its own creative way. I would not be compartmentalized!
I’m not sure which ancestor that spunk came from, but I thank them for it every day — even when it gets me in a predicament! Those journal entries are sometimes days apart and sometimes years apart. I find I can’t write about an experience while I’m having it and some learning experiences span an enormous amount of time.
By expressing the learning process, I can sort it out and file it away in my mind. Writing is my way of mentally and emotionally washing my tear-stained face, blowing my nose, smoothing my rumpled ego, and preparing for the next lesson. A new lesson is always just around the bend, the nature of which I have absolutely no clue! I’m armed only with a determined desire to acquire all of life’s learning in the brightest possible colors and with big exclamation marks! I do not wish to depart this mortal game of chess having learned only the skill of playing checkers!
I recognize some people seem to be naturally obedient and are willing to follow the counsel of others. I also recognize there are many who prefer experiential learning. Having such a nature myself has caused me to conclude that many times the result of my resistance to counsel is that it tends to motivate my rebellious nature into discovering another way to accomplish it — which utilizes my God-given creativity — which is precisely what He wants me to do in the first place. I find I consistently resist lessons which are not presented in the way I learn. (And I’ve got the scars to prove it!)
As I have gained a keen awareness of the lessons, I understand we were not placed in this laboratory of learning to be threatened because our manner of learning may be different from another’s. We are promised sanctification through the Atonement of Jesus Christ for our willingness to discover how we learn. Heavenly Father sent us here to further develop our creative power through love — not to give Him someone to punish and condemn.
There may be those who recoil at the idea of self-discovery. There may be those are paralyzed by fear and are afraid to discover that they really are a magnificent being. I believe our essential self is good. I believe our natural state, free from the distortions of mortal experience, is purity and goodness.
Heavenly Father’s plan is to bring to pass your immortality and eternal life. The only way we grow is when, through love and the freedom from fear, we are allowed to discover our essential self. Heavenly Father already knows who we are. He has already declared our worth is great! He tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7:
“For God does not give the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
So, when I am feeling afraid, weak, hateful, and confused, I know whose voice I am listening to.
The reason we have lessons here on Earth is so that WE can learn who we are. We don’t learn that by being afraid to discover our essential self. How do you determine how to get to where you want to be as a person when you don’t know where you are? And if you keep trying to fashion yourself into being like someone else, who is going to be you?
So what does keeping a journal have to do with Heavenly Father? Writing in a journal, writing about how you feel and revealing how you think, can help you discover who you really are. You may discover some things about yourself that you really enjoy. You may discover some things you’d like to change. Most importantly, as you re-read the entries, you will gain a sense of the direction in which you are moving. Who knows — you may even gain a sense of unconditional love and acceptance… For yourself.
Self-Reflection and Journaling Exercise:
If you struggle with journal writing, try using any of these prompts to get you started.
Question to answer about myself:
1. What brings tears to my eyes?
2. Have I ever felt helpless?
3. Have I ever accepted defeat?
4. Is there something I finally forgave myself for?
5. Is there anything I haven’t forgiven myself for?
6. What would I do differently if I could do it again?
7. Who/what is my Oasis in the desert of mortality?
8. When did I want to just throw in the towel and then refused to?
9. Have I ever been able to allow myself to do nothing?
10. Am I patient with myself and others?
11. What words would I use to describe myself?
12. Is there anyone I just can’t forgive?
13. Who do I turn to for comfort?
14. Is there anything about which I can/will not be comforted?
15. Is there a defining moment when my perception of something completely did a 180 turn?
16. What are my “ah-ha” moments?
17. Other than my family, of who/what am I most grateful?
18. For What/whom do I grieve?
19. What do I like the most about myself?
Sonja lives with her husband, Dale, on Anderson Island, Washington. She and her husband are Church Service Missionaries serving in the Addiction Recovery Program, focusing on pornography and sex addiction. She is also a certified life coach and teaches "Life Skills for Emotional Self-Mastery" in her stake twice a month. She does not teach you only to process something traumatic done to you in the past; rather, she helps you learn to feel it, heal it, and LET GO of whatever you still do to yourself and to others in order to cope with what was done to you in the past.