Of Bridles and Progress

horses-pulling-cart Last week, I wrote about the discoveries I have made about the impact of shame in my life. I promised that I would share the answers I received when I sincerely prayed to be relieved of the burden. While I now have hope where I was feeling discouragement and despair, I recognize that I still have a journey to make.

  1. The first step is committing to making the changes that I need to make.
  2. Next, I have to work hard to learn how to apply them.
  3. I then have to keep applying the changes until they are habitual.
  4. Finally, I will be able to trust the changes as a foundation for a “new me,” or a “mighty change of heart” as the scriptures put it.

I have learned through many experiences that sometimes the answers that seem logical to me are incorrect. For instance, torn hamstrings feel tight, so the instinct is to stretch them. However, the harder I stretch, the more I tear, and the worse my hamstrings can become.

That’s what I was doing about my inclinations to take offense when I felt unfairly judged as lacking some quality, bit of intelligence, or ability. I would catch myself feeling offended and thinking of how I would like to put the other person “in their place,” and I would be horrified that I had let myself go there. I would then examine each thought and feeling, trying to beat them back with logical replacements and self-talk about how I was better than all this and needed to just get my act together. Figuratively, I was grabbing the biggest shovel I had and digging away, trying to get it out by the roots, but I just couldn’t seem to dig deep enough.

Finally exhausted and a bit humbled, I turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer, as I described last week. It turns out that He had already given me the answer during a priesthood blessing I had received, but I had missed it. So, being ever gracious and loving, I was sent a message through the scriptures.

In Alma 38, Alma is giving his final counsel to his son, Shiblon. In verse 12, he makes a passing comment that struck home with me, “see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love.”

Somehow, I immediately knew that if I could just be filled with the love of Christ, I would not be troubled by taking offense any longer. I would not be miserable, either! Just as darkness cannot exist where there is light, negative thoughts and feelings fade before Christ’s pure love. I began a search to study about bridling passions.

Of course, my search began by filtering out a lot of material, because chastity is strongly linked to bridling passions. The more I pondered this, the more I became convinced that chastity, because it is mostly a behavior and can be easily measured, may be considered “Self-Mastery 101.” What works for overcoming sexual temptations will probably work for all of the other passions, which historically means all of the other strong feelings we experience as humans.

I then found some interesting points about real-life bridles:

  1. The bit is an important part of the bridle. While horses can be quite tame and trusting, there are some that are stubborn and unruly. In either case, that small piece of metal that is inserted between the teeth and that rests up again the soft area where the top and bottom lips meet allows a human to control and direct an animal that is much bigger and stronger. So, the first lesson in bridling passions is that even though they feel bigger and stronger than I am, it doesn’t take much to channel them exactly where I need them to go.
  2. Especially if a horse is going to be pulling a cart or carriage, blinders are added to the bridle. The blinders block out all surprises and keep the horse focused on the goal of the driver. So it is with my strong emotions — all I have to do is keep my heart focused on eternal goals, and I will get where I’m going.

Like the ancient Israelites who died from snakebites because looking at a brass serpent on a stick was too easy, I had nearly missed the healing I sought because it didn’t require enough effort from me! It has never been in my duty list to cure myself. I was trying to get rid of the sins and weaknesses that kept me from being perfect so that I could be filled with the love and compassion that only Christ can give. Instead, I need to seek to be filled with the Savior’s love and compassion, which will cleanse and heal me from the sins and weaknesses I possess.

(I suppose it would be inappropriate at this point to make a lame joke about putting the cart before the horse!)

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I still have a long way to go before this change becomes a natural part of me. I’m looking forward to the journey, though!