Monday, August 22, 2011

Answers to Your Questions: Understanding

A child is naturally dependent on their parents for their care and guidance through life. Even as adults, we continue to need other people, and that need is a good thing! It means we are human beings, who need love and acceptance.

When a person relies on others for most of their basic needs, it is called dependence, and can be a problem in the long run, if you are an adult. It makes a person less able to take care of themselves and, in turn, more dependent on others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves. This is taxing for everyone involved. There may be certain experiences in life in which grown-ups may need to turn to others for an added measure of support, but that is an exception, rather than the rule.

For instance, when I have a new baby, I rely on my husband to give me extra emotional support more than usual, and I also rely on my mother or sisters or other loved ones to help me with meals or my older children. But, at a certain point where the needs are met, I am able to move on without that same level of support. There are lots of other examples, which are perfectly normal situations and hopefully not a source of guilty feelings for anyone. A helping hand in a time of need is appropriate.

Understanding: This is how I personally refer to the ability to make sense of the world around me and make decisions that benefit me and my family. To me, it begins with the desire to know and do what is right for us (right meaning a good fit, or what works). You might also think of this as building personal strength to do "hard things". Connie at Smockity Frocks addresses this so well, in her personable, Southern style.

Another way to define 'understanding' is the ability to do your own research and make your own decisions, or acting in wisdom.  For those reading this who are Christians, I want to be sure to explain that this means relying on the Lord to teach us the pattern for making wise decisions. Then, our understanding is clarified through the Lord's spirit.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not unto your own understanding."
Proverbs 3:5

Our choices affect us, sometimes immediately, but always eventually--I have experienced and seen how many people's lives are a direct effect of choices made. We make the mistake of not realizing how much power we have to make choices that will take us where we want to go, or conversely, where we do not wish to go. Many people are terrified of making a choice because they fear making a mistake--however, avoiding a choice is still actually making one and has consequences, too.

Now that may sound scary! But if you are able to understand your ability to make wise choices, you will discover power in your life, in your own hands! To feel better, to do better, and create good.

Since I am a Christian (Latter-day Saint in denomination), a scripture that helps me understand my role in making life choices is from the book of 2 Timothy in the Bible, chapter 1, verse 7:

"For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love and of power and of a sound mind."
'Understanding' is a skill I have developed over time, with the Lord's help, and that I wish to explain and offer here today, in the hope that it will touch someone's life for good and empower YOU to build the skills you need to care for yourself just a little bit better. We all deserve a happy, well-balanced life! 

Why make the effort to learn how to build your own ability to have 'understanding'?

The benefit of building your own skills in 'understanding' is that you are more self-reliant and better able to face life's situations. This makes it possible to have interdependent relationships with other people. Being interdependent is an emotionally healthier approach to life, as opposed to be being dependent, or co-dependent--relying on others in order to function. I should know because I consider myself a co-dependent person in-recovery! (It runs in my family on both of my parents' sides.)

These steps are not in order of importance, nor need you feel you should start with what I list first. Please consider how these ideas could benefit you and use your mind and heart in discerning how to apply them.

Be Curious!
Asking questions is a great way to get information we all need! However, especially for younger adults, I believe many tend to rely on others' wisdom and experience when looking for their own answers  instead of  seeking for ways to increase their own ability to have what I call 'understanding.'

It's that little 'instead of' that is the problem--because it keeps the person dependent and weak instead of building strength to live on their own and be a strength to others. Be assured that becoming interdependent in your relationships and strong in knowing yourself and making wise decisions is a process, one which takes time. Be patient with yourself and loved ones, be patient with those who are growing in this, too.

Release blame. I wasted so much time assigning blame to other people for my feelings, circumstances, or other things that felt bad to me. This is different than recognizing and acknowledging when we have been wronged by another. That is important, in order to keep ourselves safe from those who might repeatedly hurt us. We can recognize a true threat and avoid it.

Releasing blame also allows a person to recognize when it is needed to talk about a matter in order to work an issue out . It serves to help us be aware of ways in which we might be copying the harmful behavior of another, and to change our own behavior. Releasing blame can only happen when we purposefully allow ourselves to accept personal responsibility and accountability for our own actions, thoughts, and feelings.

If one chooses to continually blame others, it binds him or her. It makes a person always the victim. It is like continually telling ourselves at the same time that that person is "bad" that we are also weak and incapable of helping ourselves. This might make us feel safe for awhile or feel vindicated when we seek revenge ( or 'justice'). But it actually hurts us most because we close the door to seeing possibilities in our own choices. If we choose to forgive, and release that emotional hold on another person's actions, we allow ourselves to have power in our lives. We can then move forward and make choices that allow us to be happy and free and not holding onto burdens.

One last aspect of blame: Blame and guilt go hand -in- hand in many ways. Often when we are trying to release blame, we hold onto guilt. If that person isn't to blame, then I must be guilty. But that doesn't feel good, so it's back to blaming that person. Bounce, bounce, bounce.

When we realize, and begin to internalize, that there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, who has atoned for all sins ever committed or that ever will be committed, then we can let go of guilt and blame, knowing that for those people who need to be brought to justice for the wrongs they have done, that they will be taken care of at Judgment Day.  Our role is to forgive and to love others, even those who hurt us. If a person has broken a law, bringing them to legal justice is still important. It should go without saying that abuse is never okay and it is perfectly within reason to avoid those who are abusive.

Allowing myself to say what others have done that have hurt me, and not blaming them or myself for their mistakes or misdeed, has been so healing. I can mourn for myself, for the loss, whatever that may be, and allow healing to begin through the Atonement, or continue and move on with life.

Open your mind. "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."

This means letting go of pre-conceived notions about how things work. Be prepared to be surprised that what you thought was how things worked, might not be. If you open yourself to different viewpoints, you allow yourself to learn and grow. New and different can seem scary--it takes practice to make changes, but it is so worth it!

Many adults are terrified of seeming "stupid" to themselves or to others if they allow themselves to admit they don't know everything about everything. They see it as a weakness. But how many times have you called a company asking for information, only to be given wrong information by the worker, because they would rather have been perceived to "know the answer", rather than to put aside their pride and ask someone who really knew and then could convey the correct answer to you? It would certainly save everyone a lot of time and mistakes (and sometimes money)! Admitting to myself that I did not know everything took courage--I still remind myself from time to time!

If we don't know everything...then what DO we know? Letting go of that insecure bravado of "knowing it all" or "never making mistakes" allows us to examine our true strengths, which then empowers us to build them and to put them to work FOR us. Cool, huh!

Lastly, if I know I lack experience or knowledge in an area, I look for someone who is good at that to ask questions of so I can learn more. Knowledge is like pieces in a puzzle: each person holds a few pieces. No one person has all the pieces. To put together the pieces to form a more complete puzzle, gather from as many people as you see fit to piece your own puzzle together. Don't discount the pieces others have to share with you.

Imagine all the things you could learn if you tried some of these ideas out!

Study. Knowledge that you earn is your own. It is a freeing feeling, a secure feeling, that when you need to know something important for yourself or those you care for, you will be able to find what you need when you need it, rather than being dependent on someone or something else to provide it for you. I found that this was a skill that I needed to develop. Which leads me to the next area of 'understanding'.

Pray. Speaking of asking questions...I believe in the power of prayer and that God is a loving, compassionate being who cares about me and wants me to succeed in my life. He cares about all of us, just as a loving father cares about his children. Anytime I have needed direction, or courage, or peace, when I have prayed, believing He would hear and answer me, He has. Sometimes, it has come immediately, at other times it came over time, or in ways I did not expect. But He did and does answer my prayers, even if it is a 'no' or a 'wait'.

Feel inadequate in some way? Perhaps you feel you are a slow learner or not good at reading or not good at communicating with other people. Whatever you feel is holding you back from learning what you need to know, pray! Prayer can help in a couple of ways. It soothes your worries. It helps you to identify the things you want to improve upon. It increases your strength and courage to face the challenge of growing strong in something that is a weakness for you. It can even point you in a direction to go to discover what will help you improve! Prayer is a proactive approach to problem-solving!

A spiritual life means understanding yourself and seeking to understand how you fit into life. You seek to understand relationships.  Prayer allows us all the opportunity to access the divine and find answers to our life questions. Don't be afraid to pray! Prayer is a tool you can use night or day, in any circumstance. You don't need to be perfect to do it, or do it in a perfect way. It is a private, intimate experience, and can also be a way to build relationships with your loved ones, by offering sincere prayers together. HERE is a description of how to pray. It takes practice at first. The more often you pray, the better you will be able to discern answers or feelings that come to you as the answers to your prayers.

Hold onto true principles. You can compare new ideas or methods or information to what you know to be true when you are faced with a decision to make. This helps me particularly when my intuition or feeling is confused. There are some things that are always and will always be true!

For instance, I know that marriage is important. Let's say that I am feeling pressured to do something that I think would put a strain on my marriage. I can rely on the true principle of building my marriage and choose wisely in favor of preserving my marriage and not do that thing which would potentially weaken it. Sometimes it helps to have a few 'absolutes' that I can rely on--it simple relieves the burden of having to mentally weigh every. single. thing. to know it if it will lead me in the direction of where I want to go or not. I don't know about you, but I certainly like to conserve my energies whenever possible!

Keeping this step in mind has helped me avoid a myriad of wrong choices! This is why I am grateful for the faith I have and the church I belong to, which is a source of true principles, in addition to the ones I have understood in my heart. (My basic knowledge of 'right' and 'wrong') If you feel that you need to understand true principles more, please ask someone who you feel might know. I welcome questions via e-mail and I can help you connect to some people who also can help explain true principles to you. True principles are real facts that remain true, no matter the time, circumstance, or other fluctuating things.

Do it. Try it out! As Miss Frizzle from the children's t.v. show "The Magic School Bus" says, "Take chances, get messy, make mistakes!" We all know how people say, you learn from your mistakes. It's true! Getting something right the first time is fun, but most of the learning we'll experience in this life is from NOT getting it all right the first go-round. Don't stay discouraged--dust yourself off and try again, or try it another way.
Thomas Edison, inventor, said:

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success 
when they gave up."

"Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." 

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

James E. Faust said:

"Success is usually earned by persevering and not becoming discouraged when one encounters challenges."

Accept the unexpected! 

Thomas Edison also has said:

"Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless."

Don't throw away an opportunity because it turned out differently from what you planned. God can turn all things for our good, if we let Him. Even the junk. Disappointment is a normal part of our human experience. It can be one of life's hardest struggles: dealing with disappointment when things turn out differently than we want. But if we hold on to what we know is true and try our best, somehow things do work out in time. If we hold on, we increase the chances that things will improve! Accept the unexpected.

Forgiveness and strength. Jesus Christ is the source of the forgiveness we all need for the mistakes we make, even the choices we made on purpose that we knew / felt at the time was wrong (or realized later was a wrong choice). All people everywhere can be clean from their sins as they turn to Christ and do what he asks: repent and follow him. When a person accepts Christ's atonement, they allow His strength and love to flow into their heart, soul and life.

This power of Christ is what has helped me in EVERY difficult circumstance I have had to walk through. It is because if HIM, not me, that I have been able to overcome any negative influence or difficulty in my life. I continue to need him and rely on him for this kind of healing and strength. This is a healthy kind of interdependence. It is described in the scriptures as being "yoked" with Christ--meaning that He carries the burdens so that we can function better. We still must be accountable for our decisions and actions, but He is there to lean on when we are weak or afraid. He is there to ask when we are confused, to offer healing when we are hurt. He is our everything, even when we have to move forward to do hard things and feel a little (or a lot) alone. He is always cheering for us! Let's allow that kind of strength into our lives!

Help others.  Return what you have received from others and pay it forward. Service is the rent we each pay for our space on earth. None of us would be here, physically, without the choices others (our ancestors) made to bring us here. None of us operate in a vacuum currently. We all affect each other. There are others all around us in our families and communities who can benefit from what we have to offer right now.

When you are called upon to offer help or support, maintain healthy boundaries and examine your motivations. To maintain healthy boundaries, I check to ensure I haven't neglected my own 'jurisdiction', the things I am responsible for, in favor of 'helping'. For instance, if a friend calls up and wants me to lend a hand with something that interferes with, say, a project my husband has asked my help on, I either decline my friend or talk to her to see if there is another way I can help her. This way I remain true to my husband, my first priority. This means that you need to examine what, or who, your priorities are and make the decision about what you are willing to do or not do to protect that in your life. Sometimes it is possible to do this before your decision will be tested--sometimes you learn 'the hard way' about your priorities by realizing afterward that you should or shouldn't have done something. I know I have had to establish my boundaries in both of those ways, and now I know which way I prefer to learn that lesson!

Some of us are motivated out of fear: "If I don't help this person something really bad is going to happen!" or "I will feel badly about myself if I say 'no'." or "Someone else will not like me if I say 'no.'" I have found when I make decisions to serve out of fear, that is usually when negative things happen. I try to honor myself first, and then extend to the other person what I have to offer. This helps me to remain in charge of myself and my emotions and also frees the other person to be interdependent, instead of creating a relationship where they might rely too heavily on me.

Lastly, if what we do, either by our example or by our suggestions, points a person to Christ, then we are better able to keep the relationship where it needs to be for all parties. WE don't save people, Christ saves people. We can act as a representative of him when we love others, share what we have to give with those in need (physical or spiritual or otherwise), and tell the people we serve ABOUT him and his mercy. That leads to others to feel of Christ's love for them. Each person must take the steps to draw closer to Christ themselves--it is a personal journey, but one oh-so-sweet in rewards and worth the time and effort, and sometimes changes, it takes.

Avoid judging others.  In my quest to understand and make sense of others and understand why other do what they do, I have many times made the mistake of midjudging others. I do not have a magic bullet answer for this one, only that I try to keep in mind that:
  • I am not perfect. (Thank goodness!)
  • Others are not perfect. (Thank goodness!)
  • Other people generally do the best with what they have at the time.
  • When we make mistakes, we can learn from them and do better when we know better.
  • Even though situations and people are not perfect, things can still work out.

I do not have all the information about another person, so I cannot really judge them, as in whether they are a "good" or "bad" person. Besides, who is really "all good" or "all bad"? Most of us have the seeds of both--some have more than others and make choices which cultivate more bad or good in their lives. As far as I am concerned, I judge others in order to keep myself and my children safe, and to know if what another person does is something worthy of doing myself. I leave all other judgments up to the Lord!

Romans 14 : 10-13:
But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

There are books and experts and courses of study on these topics I have shared about today. I am sure you could spend a lifetime learning about these things; I know I am! I admit quite readily that I am not a guru, nor do I possess all the answers. I am still trying to figure things out myself! Please use what you feel it useful from what I offer genuinely here, leave what you are not interested in, and feel free to share this with anyone you choose to.

May you be blessed and be a blessing to others!

To read a speech that was very empowering to me at a time when I doubted myself most,
click HERE to read Sheri L. Dew's "God Wants a Powerful People."


If you find that you are really struggling with some of these things, consider talking with a counselor, a trusted friend, or church leader. A counselor is someone who is trained to listen to you and offer insights or suggestions for you to consider, in a non-judgmental way. They do not fix or solve all problems, or have all the answers, but he or she can be a help along the way toward you finding solutions--or at least a friendly listening-ear as you process and experience your life.

It is not weak to ask someone with more experience and insight for support in understanding yourself, your relationships, or what is troubling you. It can take courage to take that first step, but it may surprise you how helpful it can be! It can relieve you from feeling responsible to not make any mistakes or worry about things that you have been carrying by yourself for too long. It can free you to see things the way you need to see them in order to make important, if sometimes small, changes to improve your life and enjoy life more.


  1. Beautifully written!!

  2. Thank you, Jamie :-)

  3. This post must be meant for some very special person, because the topics I outlined kept returning to my mind again and again--I knew it needed to be written and shared, though I don't know why. I am grateful for the ability given to me to express what was in my heart, and the courage it took to post it came from somewhere beyond me, because it really is not easy for me to share such things.


Thanks for your comment today! I love reading your thoughts, too. :-)