Bring Your Worst Fears to Reality and be Free: Part One

The Reasons to Lie)

The addict is a curious creature, utterly appalled at his inexcusable behavior, yet also in complete denial about it. Before acting out he minimizes the severity of the deed, reassuring himself that just this once won’t make a difference and he can quit whenever he wants. Immediately afterwards he experiences terrible self-loathing, promising himself that he will never do it again.

Now and again, during those shameful after-effects where he most strongly wishes to be free of his vice, the thought might occur to him that he needs to tell someone what is going on. If he is married, he might feel that he needs to tell his wife. If he is religious, he might feel that he needs to confess to a leader. If he has broken laws, he might feel that he needs to turn himself in to the police. If none of the above, there is still confession to those that have been hurt, professional therapists, or close friends. There is always someone that the addict could turn to…if they had the courage.

And it is this matter of courage where the addict struggles. For no sooner does the thought to confess rise up then it is forced right back down. He might fight the urge down through minimizing:

“Oh I don’t need to do anything as drastic as that! I just need to really try my best and I’ll be able to take care of it.”

Or he might come up with some reason why he can’t:

“I would tell my wife the truth…but it would break her. I just can’t put her through that pain, she doesn’t deserve it.”

Or, if he’s being more honest, he just isn’t willing to face the fear:

“If I tell, I’ll lose everyone and everything. I can’t lose my marriage. I can’t lose my kids. I can’t lose my church. I can’t lose my job. I can’t and won’t do it.”

The Mind’s Fear, the Heart’s Hope)

This fear is the real reason why the addict doesn’t confess. If he could have solved it on his own, he would have done it by now, and he doesn’t protect anyone but himself by living under a false image. The only reason that stands up to scrutiny is that he isn’t willing to lose the things that he has.

Is that selfish? Yes, but it is also human nature. We are terrified of losing our surrounding structure and that’s not always a bad thing. A healthy dose of fear keeps us from doing things that jeopardize our lives and well-being. The problem is that the addict’s fear is keeping him in a behavior that is destroying all the things that he doesn’t want to lose anyway.

He isn’t present at work, he isn’t working on his faith, and he isn’t faithful in his marriage. The things he is afraid of losing he is slowly gutting of their original virtue until they become an unfulfilling career, a hollow faith, and a sham marriage. So, in his self-interest, he is ironically destroying his own self-interest.

Thus, when it comes to hiding one’s addiction, we can immediately comprehend its root. The desire to hide comes from within the addict. It comes from the fear of losing himself. But now contrast this with the recurring notion that keeps returning to the addict that he should confess. Where on earth does that thought come from?

If hiding is about self-preservation, exposing is suicidal! As we have shown, excessive self-preservation can erode what the addict already has, but exposing his secrets seems that it will surely blow it all away! What possible reason would an addict’s mind have to conjure up an idea that is so against himself?

And the answer is: none. Because it isn’t about intellectual reasons. Any addict who appraises the idea of confession will realize that it did not come with a reason, it came with a feeling. The idea did not come from their analyzing, rationalizing, efficiency-focused brain, it came from the heart. Might it destroy the addict? Yes, that is a distinct possibility. But it just feels right even so. It feels like it might be just the thing to save the aching soul. Why? The addict might not have any idea why, but it just feels true in their heart.

Thus, hiding is to preserve yourself, but confession is to save yourself.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 39:13-15

13 And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,

14 That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice:

15 And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.

Potiphar’s wife could see that Joseph would never commit adultery with her, and having been frustrated in her lust she now determined to ruin him. I am struck by her language saying “he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us.” She isn’t just casting stones at Joseph, she is disparaging his entire culture. “He brought in an Hebrew” feels to me like it is spoken with revulsion, as though her husband has let a dirty thing into the house like a rat. Hebrews are untrustworthy, Hebrews are dangerous, Hebrews aren’t principled like the rest of us.

And in truth, Joseph had done nothing wrong. But a false image of him had to be erected for Potiphar’s wife to conceal her own shameful behavior. In this tactic Potiphar’s wife shows a similar mentality to that of Joseph’s brothers, who could not stand to have his worthiness reveal to them their own guilty conscience. There is a tendency among the wicked to silence their shame by smothering whatever source of purity is stinging it. Vitriolic and abusive retaliation only reveals how guilty the conscience of the crier really is.

Disagreement and difference of opinion are inevitable in life, but attempted murder and assassination of character were not proportional responses from Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife! The magnitude of their reaction shows that they did not merely disagree with Joseph, they felt threatened in their guilty souls.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 34:25-26, 28-29

25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were sore, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males. 

26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went out.

28 They took their sheep, and their oxen, and their asses, and that which was in the city, and that which was in the field,

29 And all their wealth, and all their little ones, and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.

The men of the city had shown a complete lack of conscience in how they treated the rape of Dinah. Their blindness to their own offense ended up being their own undoing, though. For one who is blind to the fact that they have done anything wrong is also blind to the fact that their might be a vengeance brewing.

And so, in their haste to fulfill the requirement given by Jacob’s sons, all the men of the city were circumcised at the same time, meaning that all of them were compromised at the same time. There was no battalion of whole men kept as a reserve to protect them from sudden attacks. This was the moment of total weakness that Jacob’s sons had calculated for, and in their wrath Simeon and Levi descended upon the city and killed every male.

There is a powerful lesson here of what happens when an entire community collectively loses their conscience. Ecclesiastes 9:15 speaks of a city being saved by a single wise man. So long as their remains one who can see things as they truly are there remains hope. But what if there is no wise man? What if there is no one of conscience who can accurately predict consequences from actions? In that case the entire city is vulnerable. They will work their own destruction, and not even know they are doing so until it has consumed them.

The Doing Muscle- Luke 9:61-62, Matthew 7:21

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

COMMENTARY

I will follow thee; but let me first…
I can certainly relate to this idea of “I’ll follow, but let me first…” I want to improve, I want to do right things, I am convinced in my head of what those right things are, but I am not yet converted to them in my heart.
And I think it helps to recognize and differentiate between these two stages of becoming an active disciple. It is true that before anything else, we need to be convinced of the truth. Before we can worry about the problem of not following our conscience, we first need to become sensitive to what our conscience is even saying. Simply being able to identify what is right and giving a name to it is an essential first step.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God

But having that knowledge is not enough. Intending to do good simply is not the same as doing good. As we see from this verse, intending to do good alone does not make one fit for heaven.
And it is important to understand that there is no hateful retribution in Jesus’s proclamation of one being unfit for heaven. This isn’t about punitive punishments. The simple fact is that God is a doer, He is a being that has intentions and follows through on them. His kingdom, therefore, is one of doing, one of following through on intentions. If we haven’t developed within ourselves the same trait, then we simply will not fit in with that atmosphere. We wouldn’t feel that we belonged.
So if we want to join the society of the celestial, we must learn how to be doers.

For Our Own Good- Question

I can see why the commandments of God are often seen by the world as a burden. They do, many times, put restrictions on the things that we would otherwise do. I think it is fair to say that were it not for our conscience, we would all live a far more hedonistic and sensual life, catering to the carnal tastes that are in us all. Thankfully we do have our conscience, though, and as a result, overcome many passions for our own greater good.

But even with the help of our conscience, we inevitably come to another sticking point. Sooner or later we will encounter a commandment which we do not necessarily feel the importance of. Perhaps we totally get why it is wrong to steal and kill, and will gladly restrict ourselves from such behavior, but keeping the sabbath day holy? Living a chaste life? Paying our tithes? If we list out enough commandments, sooner or later each of us will likely find one that just doesn’t resonate in us as much as the others.

What is one to do in such a circumstance? Do we ignore the laws that we don’t understand? Is it possible to gain full benefit for following them in a state of “just going through motions,” where our hearts are not in it? I would like to consider these questions, as well as contemplate why we even come to this conundrum in the first place. In the meantime, I would be curious to hear how you have dealt with the laws that you did not fully understand the reasons for? Did understanding come eventually? If so, what did you have to do to gain it?

Personal Commitment: Month 3

July’s Review

Last month I examined my hesitancy to follow my own conscience. The nature of a conscience is that I’m not likely to be pricked by it, unless I am otherwise headed in an incorrect direction and need to be righted. But then, with any course correction, there is going to be friction. I have to overcome the resistance and pull into doing what I feel is right. Sometimes I succeed at that, sometimes I do not.

And something I have definitely noticed this month is that following one’s conscience is a spiritual muscle. Sporadic, occasional use is not enough to build strength. Regular, daily practice is the only way forward.

Overall I do feel that I improved. I followed my conscience far more this month, just by having that intention to do so. As I did so, I found a phrase that helped me a great deal in moments where I knew what I was feeling to do, but I didn’t know why doing it mattered.

“You don’t have to understand.”

Part of being guided by the spirit is acknowledging that most times you just aren’t going to know why it matters to do what you’re feeling to do. That’s why it’s called an act of faith. But doing it on faith is something one has to get used to. We’ve been trained our whole lives to think things through, to weigh pros and cons, and to be sure of what we do before we do it. And in general, that is a good practice to follow. But when it comes to the urgings of the spirit “you don’t have to understand.”

August’s Commitment)

This last month has been difficult, though, for maintaining healthy habits of self-care (exercise, meditation, getting enough rest, etc). My wife and I have been getting our home ready to sell and my team had a frantic deadline to meet at work. Thus far I’ve been able to keep pace with those new demands, but at the expense of a proper life balance.

At first I had this notion that it was alright to have things temporarily disrupted, but as that “temporary” period has grown longer and longer, I have come to realize that I need a way to find my balance even in the midst of everything else. I cannot just power through this, waiting for it to be convenient to be healthy again.

August is looking to be a very busy month as well, and so I want to come into it with a solid plan. It’s been a little tricky to come up with that. I don’t want to balance things out by trying to cram more stuff into already overflowing days. And I don’t feel that the solution is to give up on our efforts to move out of our house. We are stepping into a new phase of life that feels right, something that we should be doing.

What I’ve come up with for now is to be more deliberate with my time. When I am packing boxes I could be listening to scriptures on my phone. I could practice mindfulness, even in the act of tucking belongings into their corners. I could try to coordinate with my wife so that we do our work in the same room and are able to chat with each other.

I want to take my previous commitment for two-hour grounding exercises, and at the close of each exercise I want to state my intention for maintaining balance in the next two hours. That is my commitment for August. Come back on the first of September to see how it turned out.

Thank you.

The Captive Heart- 1 Samuel 15:24, Exodus 32:21-23

And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.

And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

COMMENTARY

I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, because I feared the people.
What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
Saul and Aaron were spiritual giants of their times. A king-prophet and a high priest intended for greatness. However each of them showed moments of weakness, times where they disrupted their streak of faithfulness by going contrary to their own conscience. In both cases, this sudden shift of spiritual trajectory was due to their fear of the people.
To fear the people is understandable. Being “swayed by the masses” or giving in “to peer pressure” are common foibles of humanity. When we are outnumbered we have a sense of possessing less mortal power. Our survival instincts recognize that the masses have the ability to shun us, brand us, or even kill us. When we succumb to that panic, we will do whatever we can to save ourselves. So yes, it is understandable, but losing oneself out of such fear it still as heart-rending as losing oneself for any other reason.
Indeed the guilt of wrongdoing is now coupled with the shame of weakness. It is a hard thing when each of us discovers that in spite of knowing what we ought to do, we do not have the strength to see it through.

Active Discipleship- Summary

This has been a very good study for me. I find it very easy to slip back into a state of idle complacency, and every time I catch myself in it, I need to find a source of inspiration to push back into intentional discipleship. At those times I find that motivational words and stories go a long way to building up my resolve. Perhaps this study will be another good resource for me to reflect on in those moments.
Indeed, the more I think about it, all scripture is meant to motivate us towards a life of active discipleship in one way or another. Reading them, I find myself compelled to do the things I am otherwise hesitant to do. Keeping the commandments, reaching out to others, finding productive ways to improve myself…each of these sound like a chore when I am not drinking from God’s words.
Here are some of the principles that stood out to me the most from this study.

God Does Not Call Us to Live Passively

The example everywhere in the scriptures is of active men and women who would go and do. David fought Goliath where others remained idle. Esther spoke up to the king where others were afraid. Jesus healed the lepers that others refused to approach. Testimony is built by those who go out and look for it, not by those who sit and wait for it.
Each one of us wants to live a meaningful life as well, but we want it to come to us easily. We want to live passively, but still feel like we are adventurous. I have watched myself go through all sorts of mental gymnastics to try and accomplish just that. I try to convince myself that my sedentary life is actually one of purpose, that my small trials are epic giants, that my passive hobbies are my great calling.
But no matter how I try to spin it, a hollow life is still hollow and I know it. I have called mediocrity significant, but the words always tasted a lie. I only can have the active, adventurous, and meaningful life that God meant for me to live when I do that which I find hard to do.
2 Nephi 1:21, 23- Arise from the dust, my sons, and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;
Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.

The Conscience Distresses the Idle

What is the part of me that tastes the lie when I claim I am content with an idle life? That sense of in-authenticity cannot be explained by chemistry or biology, it something in my soul that discerns the truth from the error. It is something given by God.
When I feel the push to overcome my laziness and act, I know that it is divinity that is inspiring me. And therefore I know that I ignore those urges at my own peril. One of the greatest gifts God gives is to distress us when we are slothful. It may not feel like love to be made so agitated, but if He did not stir our hearts then we would live in a world without any heroes.
This isn’t to suggest that we must all become generals of armies or leaders of congregations. Not all of us are called to revolutionize the entire world. But we are all called to live a life that is meaningful, a life that blesses the world around us, a life that unveils the worth within us. Not every life calling that God gives is famous, but all of them are epic in their own way.
Romans 2:15- Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;
John 14:12- Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

We Only Have Peace in Doing

Hard as it may seem to live the life of active discipleship, it is actually far harder to live that of idle discontent. Just as it is hard to bear one’s cross and live worthy of heaven, but far harder to spend an eternity in damnation. So God does not trouble us without cause. He does not ask us to do things that are not for our own good.
There is only one true peace, and that is from pushing further and further into the good. Any other philosophy is a lie, meant to seduce us into sleeping away our great potential. There is a reason why slothfulness is considered one of the deadly sins. It is not some silly misdemeanor that we can wink at. Yes, Satan tempts us to sin, but he also tempts us to just not do good. If he catches us on either point he has won.
Christ’s promise is that his burden is light, that his cross is easy to bear. It seems unfathomable , but that is the promise even so. We will never know the truth of it until we try it, and find the warmth of heart that makes all our burdens melt into joys.
Malachi 3:14- Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
John 14:27- Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Active Discipleship- Romans 2:15, John 8:9, 1 Timothy 4:2

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

COMMENTARY

Their conscience also bearing witness, their thoughts accusing or else excusing one another
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron

Yesterday I mentioned that all of us need to feel a motivation to follow God. We need something to convince us that life is better with Him as our companion than remaining on our own.
Well, it turns out that God has a way to accomplish this, and it is ingenious. He simply puts a little voice in us that urges us to do what is right, and “sears” us when we do wrong. We might try and say “I don’t need God, I can just live how I want.” We might try…but our conscience will not let us rest with that decision for long. We might settle into worldly comfort, but we will feel “convicted” in our soul.
The argument for complacency is that it is peaceful, but there can never be true peace when the conscience is distressed. If there is peace in the heart, though, then all is peace, no matter what tumult rages without. Thus no matter how we try to reason away our complacency, our conscience will always trouble us back to active discipleship.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Luke 11:5, 7-9, 13

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

COMMENTARY

Because of his importunity he will rise and give him
The parable of the friend at midnight is somewhat amusing. A neighbor comes, asking for food in the dead of the night. At first the homeowner refuses, but relents after some persistence from the neighbor. It is very similar to the story of the persistent widow in Luke 18, who nags an unjust ruler until he gives her what she wants, just to finally be rid of her.
Now the point of these parables is not to suggest that we should pester God into giving us things that He does not want to. You cannot nag Him into solving your every problem like a genie. Rather, Jesus is saying that even if flawed friends and rulers can be convinced to grant a correct desire, then certainly God will be even more willing to do so.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened
If ye know how to give good gifts: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

But even if God is willing, Jesus suggests that we still need to ask. I have found that God has had many spiritual blessings that He was ready to give me, but He wouldn’t do so until I asked for them. This is clever. For one thing, it fosters a relationship between He and I. To ask Him for something, I must be praying to Him, and thus I have a strong self-interest to talk to Him regularly, the very thing that He wants me to do.
Additionally, if I decide to ask Him for something, I often have a moment of checking in with myself. For example, if I am going to ask for a greater portion of the Holy Spirit, even before I get the words out I might realize that I am actively living in a way that offends it. Indeed, I have gone to God intending to ask why He was not manifesting Himself more in my life, but along the way changed it to asking forgiveness for shutting Him out myself.