Imagine you are trying to drive to a place that you have never been. Fortunately, you have modern technology and a trusty GPS to give you turn-by-turn instructions. You input the address and commence your journey with confidence. A pleasant and familiar voice says, “Turn right in one quarter mile.” Then unexpectedly, a different but also pleasant voice says, “That’s not right. Stay straight in one quarter mile.” As you get closer to the turn, the competing voices speak again. “Right turn in 500 feet,” says the familiar voice. The other voice speaks, “Don’t listen to her. She is running outdated software. You need to go straight. Besides, who is she to tell you what to do?”
If we got such conflicting messages from our navigation software, we’d probably take our devices in for inspection. Yet a similar experience happens frequently to all those striving to follow the Savior. We hear the familiar voice whisper, “Stay on the path. Keep the commandments. You are loved. Have faith.” Then, we hear that other familiar voice, slightly more aggressive in tone: “Don’t believe in outdated philosophies. Take a look at all your problems. Do you think God loves you if He permits this? He isn’t aware of you at all.”
We all have the desire to be happy, and there are clear directions from God on how to achieve this goal. As a complicating factor, Satan is permitted to try and influence us through his lies. While this is disconcerting at best, we know it is an essential part of our mortal journey. Lehi taught that the devil is miserable, and one of his primary goals is to make us feel miserable as well (see 2 Nephi 2:27). Let’s consider three lies the adversary uses to help us feel miserable, and how we can counteract those deceptions with the truth.
Lie #1: Your behavior and circumstance determine your worth.
I am a licensed psychologist and have been providing mental health services to people for over 20 years. People come to my office struggling with depression, anxiety, low self-concept, anger, addiction, and a host of other difficulties. At the heart of each problem is the same basic concept: these individuals do not feel that they are worthwhile. There was a time in their lives when they felt they were worthwhile and contributing, but something eventually caused that belief to change. Now they feel they are no longer worthy of the love and esteem of their Father in Heaven. Satan lies to them with such deceptions as:
“You used to be a good person, but you blew it, and now you are a waste of space.”
“Heavenly Father does not love you as much as others because of your sinful ways.”
“You are not as good as others because of the mistakes you’ve made; you are damaged goods.”
I’m certain we have all heard variations of these lies at some time in our lives. We believe because of our behavior, we somehow become less valuable to Heavenly Father. But the truth is that our value as children of God is permanently set and cannot change. Having value is different than being blessed. Potential blessings can be forfeited through disobedience, but our value is determined by being heirs to the Most High. Consider the return of the prodigal son and his subsequent warm welcome. Surely it was not his past behaviors that earned the love and acceptance of his father but the fact that his father never stopped caring for him—despite the circumstances. The prodigal son’s value was the same the day he left home as the day he returned. Isaiah records the words of the Savior to His covenant people:
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:15–16).
We have been graven upon the hands of the Redeemer. We are the reason for His work and glory (see Moses 1:39). Truth #1 is this: You are of infinite value to your Father in Heaven, and that value can never be altered or diminished. He loves you perfectly, now and always.
Lie #2: Good members of the Church don’t let others see their flaws.
We naturally desire to put our best foot forward. We wear our best clothes to church, comb our hair for family photos, and use a myriad of filters to achieve the most flattering selfies. There is nothing wrong with trying to look impressive to others. However, when we desire to impress others at all costs or when we intentionally try to hide every flaw, we end up working overtime for very little benefit. Often, Satan’s lies fuel our motivation to convince others that we are “just fine” with no struggles or flaws. These lies include:
“No one will accept you if they see your weakness.”
“You are supposed to be able to handle your challenges on your own; reaching out for help is an acknowledgment of defeat and failure.”
“You cannot be helpful and inspiring to others if they know you have serious struggles.”
These lies are damaging to our spiritual progress, yet they seem to be quite accepted by most. To borrow a social media construct, how often do we “crop” or “filter” our lives so that we appear flawless to others? I’m not suggesting that every Instagram post or Facebook status update show a messy home or a lackluster report card. However, there is danger in believing we cannot show our weakness. Sometimes the most inspiring examples are those who do show their weakness. In my profession, I once worked with a woman who had been using methamphetamine for about 15 years and lost custody of her son as a result. She had started making efforts in recovery and had been free of substance abuse for about nine months. Yet she was plagued with concerns about what a poor example she had set for her son. Her self-doubts were so strong at times that she could scarcely refrain from returning to her old ways. As we discussed her worries, the following counsel came to mind:
“Your son will likely have a time in his life when he struggles with significant issues. He will try his best to overcome his challenges but will fail from time to time. He will be disappointed. As he looks at his friends and colleagues, he will see their cropped and filtered lifestyles that seem to show no flaws, and he will feel even more depressed and discouraged. Your example, tarnished as it is, will be a beacon of hope for him. He will look to his mother as a person of strength and resolve, as one who had significant flaws and made many poor decisions but who rose above them to become a better person. Your example of endurance through trials will be of far greater worth to him than 100 other examples of those who have supposedly gone through life without stain or who have allegedly vanquished challenges on the first try.”
As we consider the scriptural examples of prophets and other spiritual leaders, we find many situations in which they struggled with challenges. Nephi struggled with self-confidence after his father’s death (see 2 Nephi 4:17–19). Jacob referred to himself as having significant anxiety on multiple occasions (see Jacob 1:5 and Jacob 4:18). Captain Moroni reacted in anger before having a full understanding of the circumstances (see Alma 59:13). We need to remember that our weakness is very often heaven sent—in an attempt to keep us humble and lead us to the Savior (see Ether 12:27). I’m not suggesting we air all our dirty laundry before the world, but perhaps we could be better about not presenting ourselves in a chronically favorable light. Truth #2: Weakness is a part of the plan and can be very inspiring to others; acknowledgment and acceptance of weakness is the beginning of lasting change.
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Lie #3: There are some things about your personality you simply can’t change; it’s just the way you are.
This may be the most insidious lie of the three. There was a time in our society when nobody talked about emotional challenges. Thankfully that has changed, and people have become more willing to seek for appropriate help. However, I have noticed a new disturbing trend. Lately, I hear people talk about negative personality traits as if they cannot be altered, creating little hope for personal change. I truly believe Lucifer fuels the lies behind these beliefs with such statements as:
“You have a genetic predisposition towards such a condition. That’s scientific evidence it can never be changed.”
“You have tried to change this particular aspect of your personality many times with no effect; that’s simply proof that change is not possible in this area.”
“Others should accept the fact that you are just this way, and their expectations that you try to do something about it are insensitive and wrong.”
I have often considered Satan’s efforts to derail the plan of salvation. He raised an insurrection in heaven to try to fight his way to the top, but he was cast out. He tried to damn Adam and Eve by enticing them to partake of the forbidden fruit, but a Savior was provided. When the Lord came to fulfill His mortal ministry, Satan tried to blemish His perfection by tempting Him to sin. Even though He was “in all points tempted” (Hebrews 4:15), Christ did not succumb and subsequently executed the great atoning sacrifice to save all mankind. Satan has since shifted his battle tactics.
Consider an individual who has anger management issues. He says to himself, “I’ve always been an angry person. My dad was an angry person; his dad was angry as well. My doctor told me I have anger management problems. I’ve tried to change, and it never worked. This is just the way I am, so people need to get used to it.” Even though the Atonement of Jesus Christ currently exists in all of its magnificent power, for this man in this frame of mind, it has become inert. How can the Atonement of Jesus Christ work for a person who refuses to acknowledge his potential for change? A perfectly functioning tool is useless if it is left on the shelf. The moment we say things like, “That’s just the way I am,” or, “This is something I just cannot change,” we have limited God’s power in our lives.
While Satan cannot prevent the power of the Savior in general, it seems he can prevent it individually—by convincing us to not reach out for help or strive to change. Our different characterological flaws can be great sources of distress and significant signs of weakness in our lives. If we accept them and believe we cannot change, our progress is halted. Instead of believing there are some things that can’t be changed, let’s accept the glorious truth that everything can be changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We are here to overcome our flaws and shortcomings, and all who seek to become like their Father in Heaven can do so through the mercies and power of our Savior. Truth #3: Nothing is beyond the Savior’s reach, and everything that makes us different from God can eventually be corrected and permanently changed through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
I testify these things are true. God bless you to overcome Satan’s deceptions and find true happiness through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Lead image from Shutterstock
In My God Hath Been My Support: Seven Keys to Understanding and Enduring Personal Trials, author David T. Morgan looks to the words of Nephi’s Psalm to offer an inspiring message of hope and a loving call to action. Featuring tools and ideas on how to overcome adversity, increase feelings of self-worth, and endure the ups and downs of mortality, this scripture-based roadmap to a more fulfilling life is a joyous invitation to learn from Nephi how to transform sorrow into joy.