Have you ever squinted your eyes to see something more clearly? Sometimes it works. Other times, however, we squint too tight and end up blurring our vision even more.
In our efforts to see ourselves and our progress on the path toward attaining perfection, we often squint too hard. The result can be a skewed perception of who we actually are. Luckily for us, there is a cure, and it actually involves the eyes of someone else—our Heavenly Father. He has perfect vision and perspective, and if we learn to see ourselves through His eyes, we will see ourselves more clearly. We can find joy, peace, and confidence—even in our imperfections and faults.
Don’t Be Deceived by Criticisms
Let’s face it. We can be really hard on ourselves. Let me take you back to a time, not too long ago, that illustrates this truth.
One day I was waiting with a group of people to get on an elevator. As the doors opened, our group began to file inside. I was one of the last ones waiting to get on, and I could see it was pretty full. I stood back with one other woman and motioned for the group to go on without us, telling them we would catch the next elevator. After a little maneuvering and cajoling, the group convinced us there was enough room for us.
The other woman went on first, and then I followed, squeezing into a small opening between two very large men. Then the doors closed—but the elevator didn’t move.
We stared at each other while someone pressed the button again. Nothing.
Suddenly the doors opened up. A feminine voice blasted through the overhead speakers straight into my heart: “Weight overload. There is too much weight on this elevator. Weight overload.”
I could not believe it. My cheeks flushed, and I thought, “The elevator just called me fat.”
Red-faced, I made a lame joke about eating brownies for breakfast and sheepishly walked off the elevator and back into the lobby. I caught the next elevator and was greeted by the rest of the group when I reached the fifth floor. They were laughing. I wasn’t.
Maybe no elevator has ever called you fat, but my guess is that you’ve probably had days like that, where all your faults, weaknesses, disappointments, and misconceptions dog pile on you. It’s suffocating. You feel awful. You might be convinced that you are simply the worst person ever, and, if you’re like me, you can probably come up with a laundry list of reasons to back it up.
But let me tell you: You are not the worst person ever. You aren’t doing that poorly. In fact, you are probably doing just fine. If you don’t believe me, ask God. If you feel down and out, pray to Him. If you feel lonely, desperate, depressed, or just plain terrible, seek Him out. Have faith. He is there. He will help. He may not change your circumstances, but He has the power to help you change your perspective.
Get a Heavenly Perspective
My husband loves to hike. Me, not so much. There’s a lot of walking involved, not to mention the dirt, the absence of public restrooms, and the bears. But one day a few years ago, my husband talked me into going on a hike with him. The trail switch-backed and zig-zagged through dense trees and brush. My husband’s pace was fast and steady. I kept up just so the bears wouldn’t eat me. As we climbed higher up the mountain, my spirits were going the opposite way. I was tired and getting cranky. Yes, it was beautiful, but I can only pass so many trees before they all start looking the same.
After what seemed like days (which, in reality, was only a couple of hours), we reached the summit. I stepped out from under the canopy of trees onto the crest of the small mountain. Without the close trees to obscure my vision, I could see for miles and miles. Mountains stretched before my view, their sides carpeted with lush, green treetops. Far-off peaks glistened in the sun. From my new vantage point, I could see so much of what I couldn’t before, and yet, it had been around me all the time. In fact, I had been literally in the thick of it. But now as I stood above it all, I was able to see it, and I finally understood the meaning of “mountain majesties.”
Perspective brings understanding and meaning to the things we see every day. Whether it’s a problem, a person, a trial, or even ourselves, perspective—especially heavenly perspective—allows us to see things the way God does, in beautiful breadth and clarity.
One spring, I set off for my yearly swimsuit shopping spree, and true to tradition, the swimsuits fell to the floor, as did my spirits. Half an hour into my first dressing room battle, my cell phone rang. It was my husband.
He said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are to me.” He thanked me for bringing our children into the world, and he told me that he loved me just the way I am. I turned, looked at myself in the mirror, and saw myself differently. I didn’t compare my present self with my self of 20 years before. I saw myself now, as my husband saw me. For the first time in a long, long time, I stood in front of a mirror in a swimsuit and felt beautiful.
That is the power of perspective.
This is our great quest: to change our perspective, to try to see life and ourselves through God’s eyes. Only then can we begin to see our worth. Only then can we go on to build others and do His work.
That is the great power of perspective. It is the lens through which we view ourselves and those around us, the lens that shapes our values, creates our opinions, and determines the direction of our footsteps. When we use the lens that God uses—when we see things through His eyes—we can see beyond our weaknesses and faults to the divinity that lies within us.
Cherish the Trials and Tribulations
God’s perspective not only allows us to see ourselves in a truer—and kinder—light, but it also gives us the ability to see deeper significance and purpose in life. This can be especially meaningful when the tough times come, as they always do.
My daughter Paige works on a farm in exchange for leasing a horse. One day, she and I were grooming her horse together. She was quietly brushing one side of the horse, and I was brushing the other. We were listening to the music on the radio when suddenly she popped her head above the horse’s haunches and said, “You know, Mom, bonding with a horse isn’t in the victory—it’s in the grooming.”
Intrigued by her burst of inspiration, I asked to her explain.
“Well,” she said, brushing a horse hair off her cheek, “some people think that you bond with a horse after you cross the finish line, when everyone is yelling and patting her on the back and telling her she did a good job. That’s nice and all, but the real bonding is what happens here, in the barn. It’s the small things—the brushing, picking the hooves, the touching, and the talking. That’s when you bond with the horse—when you’re taking care of her.”
When we go through trials, sometimes we feel that God is far away. But in reality, He’s right by our side, grooming us into who He wants us to become. Our trials are opportunities not only to prove ourselves but also to bond with our Father as He cares for us. The bonding comes as He grooms and refines us. Some of that grooming takes place when life seems to be running smoothly, but much of it happens smack-dab in the middle of our trials. It happens as our Master brushes out the tangles in our lives and when He picks out our weaknesses and makes them strengths.
Although the Lord might not be physically present in our homes, at work, or standing next to us, He is there in spirit, in purpose, in reality. We simply need to look up to see Him. He knows what we are feeling. He knows our intentions. He knows our joys. He knows our talents. He knows our pains. Simply put, He knows us and loves us for all that we are—and for what we can become.
About a year ago, Paige’s horse fell ill. There wasn’t much hope for a recovery. Paige visited her every day, brushing her and even sleeping in the stall next to her. Miraculously, the horse survived. The owner said once that Paige “loved her back to health.” I had to agree. It was a miracle, one that happened because of the hours of bonding that had happened between them beforehand.
A heavenly perspective allows us to know that He is always near, grooming us and taking care of us. And, in those times when we feel so down, when hope seems lost, and our spirits are just sick, we can know that He is there, by our sides, loving us back to health. We can have confidence in Him.
Give Yourself a Pep Talk
Sometimes life throws us a curveball. We make mistakes, and things are just plain hard. And sometimes we just need a good old-fashioned pep talk to get us through.
So here you go:
You are all right, and everything will be okay.
Know this: You are doing better than you think you are. You are stronger than you realize. You will make it through. During difficult times, it might be tempting not only to question yourself but to question God.
But God is real. He does love you. He hears you. He will support and guide you. He has faith in you. He is the one who is ultimately in control. And as you exercise faith in Him, everything will be okay. I know that life can be challenging. Your faith might be wavering. Your heart might be breaking. You might be confused or tired. You might even be crying. But listen to me and believe what I say:
You are all right, and everything will be okay.
Because it’s true. You can have confidence in that.
This article comes from the January/February 2014 issue of LDS Living magazine.