The problem with pondering a thought for a long time is that I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about it before. I also can’t remember who I’ve shared the idea with or if I’ve only just tossed it around in my head. I chalk it up to a curse that comes with creativity.
As much as a month or more ago, I came across a meme on Facebook. The idea was that a father had passed out a treat, and a child was complaining that the other siblings had received more and it wasn’t fair. Having three children, I immediately identified.
The story went on, however, with the dad expressing to the child that life isn’t fair, and that now is the perfect time to learn so. He stated that what he really wanted his child to learn is that the only time that it’s ok to look in someone else’s bowl is when you are making sure that they have enough.
Application 1: Blessings
This was the most obvious point of the story for me. I have suffered from what I call “red-headed step child syndrome” for most of my life. (Please forgive me if your hair fits the description. It’s an old “southernism”!) I can play the victim with the best. I can twist and turn circumstances to show how I have been cheated, left out, overlooked, cast aside, or whatever I need to construe to show that I am the one doing without while everyone else is living on easy street.
Sadly, it has only been within the last year or so that I’ve really begun to understand how much my attitude drives my life. When I am busy noticing how much I want the family or the house or the friends that someone else has, I miss all the good things sitting in my own “bowl.” I miss the opportunity to take joy in the day that I have, the people I spend time around, and the activities that I occupy myself with. I cheat myself.
Once I started focusing on my bowl (I even bought a clicker and started counting all the good things in my life as I drift off to sleep), my life immediately improved.
Application 2: Being a woman and LDS
The latest “Mormon news” has been the excommunication from our church of a woman who formed an organization that has been trying to push our leadership to ordain women to the priesthood. I have no intentions of explaining excommunication and how far a person has to push to be severed from my church. (LDS.org can explain it better than I.) I also have no intentions of trying to explain the priesthood. All that anyone needs to understand is that, in the LDS church, men are ordained to the priesthood and women are not. This also means that men hold leadership roles that women cannot. It has become a source of discomfort for many people within and without the LDS faith.
After reading the meme on Facebook, my thinking changed. Going back to the analogy of comparing my bowl to the bowl of someone else, it all started to make sense. In the LDS church, we believe that this earth was created specifically to give men and women the opportunity to learn to control free will, to grow, and to meet the requirements set by God to return and live with him.
We also believe that men and women are different, but inherently complementary. If that is true, then it follows that the contents of the bowls given to women would look different than the content of the bowls given to men. Granted, imperfections cause misuses of the contents of the bowls — more often than we like — but that doesn’t change the soundness of the plan. The principle in the LDS church is to teach and live by the revealed doctrine and principle and then to deal with the exceptions — the point at which someone is checking bowls to make sure each person has enough.
In real language, this means that I have the repsonsibilities, blessings, challenges, and opportunities I need to learn and grow and eventually return to Heavenly Father. I can whine and complain about what I haven’t been given because I’m too busy worrying about what everyone else has, or I can choose to focus on all the goodness that I’ve been given, and trust that all will be sorted out and explained in due time.
For me, I see men leaving churches where women are allowed to take over the responsibilities and men are no longer needed in specialized areas. There is something inherent in most men that leaves them content to let others do while they go relax. If men need the burdens and responsibilities of the priesthood (and knowing that, as a man, each must step up to the plate because women can’t take them over) in order to learn, grow, and return to God, then I’m ok with that.
Application 3: Easing Wounds
This is a new perspective on the theme of looking into my own bowl that came quite unexpectedly. I recently had a week where I felt that I was badly treated by three different individuals who should have known better and done better. Two of the individuals have led me to believe that they are good friends of mine. I spent a lot of time struggling with the hurt, rejection, and judgement that I felt. I felt resentment and anger swirling inside me, and I was starting to worry that I was going to slip back into old patterns of thinking and behaving that I would prefer to leave behind me.
I was out running (surprise!) when I felt the inspiration creep in that the answer I was seeking, the release from the anger and resentment, was tied up in the idea of focusing on what’s actually in my bowl. I was puzzled, because I wasn’t feeling jealousy, and I wasn’t focused on what I lacked.
Slowly over time, I have come to a deeper understanding. The more I ponder, the more I realize that gratitude heals. It doesn’t change the fact that someone behaved badly toward me, it doesn’t rewrite history: it changes my perspective.
As I focus on the countless times that others have forgiven me for being rude, impetuous, angry, and thoughtless, it becomes easier to accept that imperfect people have imperfect moments. That’s usually enough for me to let go of the hurt. Then, I can focus on the good that has come from having those individuals in my life, for the influence they’ve shared, and for the ways they’ve helped me grow.
Sometimes, as I am healing, I forget, and I look around and put myself right back in the anger, hurt, and resentment. The most beautiful part is that my “bowl” is still there, waiting for me to enjoy what I have.