I was watching general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the first weekend in April. As always, I was filled with the love of the Lord. This particular General Conference was different from any we have seen in our lifetime. Because of a worldwide pandemic, the entire conference was held virtually, with no live audience. I wondered if I would still feel the peace my soul was craving. I was not disappointed. I will be writing about many of the things I learned from general conference, starting with the comparison between agency and micromanagement.
There was a moment during Elder Uchtdorf’s talk that I had an aha moment.
Our loving Heavenly Father has not given us every answer. He expects us to figure out many things for ourselves. He expects us to believe—even when it’s difficult to do so.
He expects us to straighten our shoulders and develop a little resolve—a little backbone—and take another step forward.
That is the way we learn and grow.
Would you honestly want everything spelled out in every detail? Would you honestly want every question answered? Every destination mapped out?
I believe most of us would tire very quickly of this sort of heavenly micromanagement. We learn the important lessons of life through experience. Through learning from our mistakes. Through repenting and realizing for ourselves that “wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10) (Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Come and Belong,” Apr. 2020 General Conference).
I had never thought about agency being the antithesis of micromanagement. It is such a simple comparison, yet I’d never seen it that way. Agency is key to the success of the plan of salvation. If we are to learn anything while we are here in mortality, we must be able to think and act for ourselves. Heavenly Father must want to take over our decision-making every single day—but He doesn’t. He loves us too much to micromanage our lives. He wants us to learn and grow. He knows we will make mistakes, but that we will learn and grow from them.
When I was raising my teenagers, there were many times that I wanted to take over their decision-making. A good portion of the bad decisions in our lives are made during those teen years, and parents cringe when they see their teenagers doing things that put them in harm’s way or on the wrong life path. We wouldn’t be good parents if we didn’t want the best for our children. We spend years protecting them. At a certain point in their teen years, we realize that they need to make mistakes. They need agency in order to grow up. So, we swallow hard and back off. We watch them make one mistake after another. All we can do as parents is help pick up the pieces and minimize the fallout. Heavenly Father must also cringe when we make bad choices. He loves us and wants the best for us. Our Heavenly Parents must cry tears of frustration often at the mistakes we make. Yet, our agency will never be taken away from us. Micromanagement from heaven will not solve our problems, and it will not help us to grow.
I read an article about parents who micromanage their children. As you read this quote, think about the devastation that would happen if there was heavenly micromanagement.
But however it presents itself, micromanaging can give children the impression that parents don’t have confidence in them, and this can lead to problems. “If they feel they can’t do things in the right way, they may defer to you, which interferes with their ability to develop self-belief,” [Carrie] Krawiec, [LMFT] says. “Conversely, they could grow to question your intensity and not seek your feedback even when it’s safe or healthy to do so. If they perceive you as being critical, they could look for encouragement in other (unhealthy) places, like delinquent peers.”
Kids who are micromanaged could also grow used to an unearned level of success, which may lead to a poor work ethic, entitled behavior, or difficulty dealing with setbacks and failures (Claire Gillespie, “No really, stop micromanaging your kids,” The Week (Jan. 28, 2020)).
Our Heavenly Parents love us enough to back off and let us make our own mistakes. They don’t want us perceiving Them as critical. They don’t want us looking for encouragement in unhealthy places. More importantly, our Heavenly Parents want us to be able to deal with our own failures. We must fail sometimes in order to grow. Remember, there is a plan in place to save us from our failures—the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Christ suffered and died for our failures. He went through agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as torture and mortal death on the cross, specifically to save us from our mistakes and failures.
I’m a retired legal secretary. In the many years I worked in law offices, I had the opportunity to work for many wonderful attorneys. When important deadlines for motions and briefs came up, some of them gave me their drafts and backed away to let me do my job. Others couldn’t help themselves from standing over my shoulder and micromanaging every paragraph—and oh, how I hated that! My best work was never done under that kind of pressure. I often wanted to tell them that if they were confident in their own work, they wouldn’t be standing over me doing last-minute rewrites as I typed. I wanted to scream, “Go away, or this will not get to the court on time!” There was one occasion that I actually prayed aloud, “God give me strength.” The particular attorney in question was a lovely man—who didn’t micromanage that often—but was having a great deal of difficulty on this particular day. He paused a moment and said, “I guess that’s a really good thing to pray for.” He did back away for about 30 minutes before he could no longer contain himself.
The more I think about agency and micromanagement, the more I understand and appreciate the love of our Heavenly Father, Heavenly Mother, and Older Brother Jesus Christ. I’m grateful to have agency to make my own decisions. I make mistakes every day. I’m 65 years old, and sometimes I still feel like a child making bad choices. Yet, each time I make the wrong move on this board game of life, I learn something new to help me win eternal life with my family. Agency gives the power to learn; micromanagement breeds havoc.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.