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In the scriptures, the phrase “well pleased” occurs about 26 times. Often the phrase is that the Lord is “well pleased” with his beloved Son, or well pleased or not well pleased with the actions of others. It has been said that the Lord is easy to please but hard to satisfy. He is easy to please because he likes it when we, his children, make good choices and do good things. He is hard to satisfy because he wants us to keep making good choices and doing good things.
King Benjamin taught “And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) Service is one part of our lives where the Lord is well pleased, so much so, that when we “… do as he hath commanded … he doth immediately bless [us].” (vs. 24)
Does that mean we receive his approval, his acceptance, and his love? It sounds like we receive his acceptance and his love and we strive for his divine approval. From him, it comes immediately and perfectly. What a blessing that is! And yet, so many hunger and thirst for approval, acceptance, and love from men and women in their own lives. How often is that an imperfect quest, even though it might be a righteous desire if it is a quest for an emotional, loving connection, for the kind of love that God gives to his children. Sometimes it is a challenge to receive that perfect love from mere mortals, as imperfect as we are.
I met a guy once who was 28 years old. He sought acceptance by having girlfriends. By this time in his life, he had had 40 girlfriends. Some were very short term, some longer. When asked how many he was actually emotionally connected to, he said four. He married the last of the four and they had a little baby girl. Then he went to his wife and said “I need more.” For whatever reason, she said “Okay, just be home every night.”
Another man was looking for acceptance and approval. It turned out that he had felt abandoned and neglected as a child and could never overcome that feeling. In 1944, his mother sent him and his brother, ages 6 and 4, to be taken care of by another family while she went to Utah to work. He never knew his father. When WWII ended two years later, she came back with a new husband and picked up him and his brother. But it felt like she was paying more attention to the new husband than to them. He never felt fully loved. So throughout his life, he sought that approval, love and acceptance.
Approval, acceptance and love have different meanings.
To me, approval means that I endorse and support all that another person does. Acceptance means I accept the person totally just as they are, but it does not mean I agree with or condone all of their behavior. Love is unconditional. It is always there no matter what.
Therefore, if there is someone in my life that appears to be struggling, whether it is with drugs or alcohol or whether they have strayed spiritually or morally, or maybe we differ politically, I can be accepting of the person even if I don’t agree with them. And again, love is unconditional no matter what.
Back to the first story. He was challenged to change his perspective from “I need acceptance or I need love” to “I will accept and love others.” Otherwise, how much acceptance is enough? 40 girlfriends? 40,000 girlfriends. How about “I will accept and love others and myself”? Isn’t that one of the two great commandments, i.e. Matthew 22:37-40: “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
One of the hardest parts about self-acceptance for me is that I not only recognize some of my strengths, but I am humbly and painfully aware of my weaknesses. But until I accept myself as a total package, then how can I progress? It doesn’t mean that I am content with my weaknesses; I work on them. But I am more self-accepting when I view myself as a “work-in-progress,” like we all are, and I keep working on progressing.
That’s why it’s called eternal progression…line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little, until we become like Christ. Matthew 5:48, 3 Nephi 12:48: “ Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” So, in my journey toward perfection, maybe I can be more accepting and loving and compassionate and kind to myself and to others as we all experience this journey.
Now, what about the journey of the man during WWII? As a 6 year old, he felt abandoned, unloved. But what if circumstances were different than he understood? Maybe his biological father went off to war and never came back? What if his mom’s only way to care of them and provide for them was to get a job in Utah and send money for their care? After the war, when she came back, she got them and loved them the best she knew how. And she had a new husband that needed her time and her love as well. How would that change his perspective of her approval, acceptance, and love? What if he knew that she was doing the best she could under those particular circumstances? And just love her back.
In the eternities, we will have a more perfect understanding. For now, I strive to accept and love without judgment and without criticism. Just love unconditionally. That’s what makes it possible to love all our children, all our grandchildren, brothers and sisters in church or out of church – members of our faith or those of another faith, men in prison … all who are my neighbors. Just trying to follow the example of Jesus Christ. That’s why I will always love you!