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Have you ever noticed someone who seems to glide through life without fretting or worrying? Do you wish you could have that person’s same perspective?
I think I’ve hit upon the formula. First of all, we must realize that the unfazed person who has that inner calm isn’t just lucky enough to have a trouble-free life. We all know that adversity comes in many forms and lands in everybody’s camp. If you think they’re always happy because they lead a charmed life, you don’t know them well enough. Remember the phrase, “Pain in every pew”? Ask any bishop and he’ll tell you it’s true.
So if peace of mind isn’t controlled by circumstances (and we all know people who seem to have it easy, yet who are nevertheless knots of angst, don’t we?), then what brings that inner contentment?
It’s knowing what matters and what doesn’t. It’s being able to see the eternal perspective and let go of everything else. Life crowds us with a lot of stuff that simply isn’t worth stewing over. Believe me, I need to keep this list handy, myself. I’ve caught myself more times than I can count, worrying about something that not only won’t matter in the eternities, but won’t matter in a month!
Therefore, I’ve compiled a short list of things I’ve seen people worry about—and even get worked up about—yet which simply do not matter in the grand scheme of things. These are distractions that the adversary is happy to dish up, in hopes of obstructing your view of things that actually do matter. As you read this list, think of the things in your life that have beckoned for your attention, yet which have only wasted your time and caused you needless concern.
Then I’ve followed it with a list of what actually does matter. And feel free to expand each list in your own life, because these lists are not all-inclusive, and I’m sure they could easily be doubled or tripled:
Things That Don’t Matter:
- Who gets called to what. As President Holland said, “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with.” And in this church, no ward or stake calling is forever and before you know it, you’ll be in the hot seat hoping you can measure up, and counting on the Lord to make more of you than you can by yourself.
- A prophet’s mortal flaws I am 100% uninterested in picking apart our leaders, looking for trip-ups in their words, or other “evidence” that they have shortcomings. Every prophet in history has battled weaknesses, suffered tribulation, and yet has spoken for God and led his people beautifully. God has told us he will never allow the prophet to lead us astray, and His word is pretty good.
- Folklore This includes the hushed telling of embellished and completely undocumented stories meant to build faith, frighten members into obedience, or simply shock and amaze. Sometimes this includes “proof” that the millennium is definitely coming this week, sometimes it’s doom-and-gloom forecasting, sometimes it’s looking beyond the mark, but it always distracts us from simply living today as best we can.
- How many kids someone has First of all, it’s nobody’s business. Second of all, it’s nobody’s business. Third of all, it’s nobody’s business.
- Proof that the Book of Mormon is true Getting overly excited about evidence is a distraction from the best way to know of its truth, which is to earnestly pray and receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. Is there a ton of archaeological and cultural evidence? Yep. When all is said and done, does it matter? Nope. That’s not to say visiting these places isn’t exciting and worth doing, but it should only confirm an existing testimony, not become the basis of one.
- If a woman shows up to church in pants I’m aware of two women in my own ward who were “corrected” about this and now won’t come. Another one, very heavy and unable to walk, was asked if she should be there. Let’s stop worrying about appearances, “first do no harm,” and just welcome everybody.
- Choices made by adult children This one matters, but it’s one that’s out of our control, and we need to hand it over to the Lord. You can advise, you can fast and pray, you can love them. But you cannot circumvent their free agency, and determine the outcome of all they do. It’s hard to watch our children make sad choices, but wringing our hands and walking the floor won’t help. Making ourselves crazy with worry won’t help. This is one we have to stop anguishing over. It’s time to exercise faith, accept Christ’s atoning help so we can function, serve, and feel peace again.
These are some things that do deserve our attention:
- Sustaining ward members Showing up to events they plan, being willing to help out, participating when they teach, and doing what you can to help ensure the success of others is implied when you raised your hand to sustain the person to their calling. It’s disingenuous to say you’ll support someone and then refuse to do it, or even worse—to criticize them.
- Greeting newcomers It matters to feel welcome. We can have all the truth in the world—and we do—but if a newcomer doesn’t see a warm smile or a friendly face, they won’t stay long enough to find out. It’s an important element of missionary work.
- Everything said at General Conference. This is the counsel we’re to have right now, for our day, for our families, for us. We are foolish not to study it and learn from it.
- Family History and Temple Work This is how we rescue millions of those who never had the chance to grasp the gospel on earth. It should be one of our top priorities, and we are blessed that it’s easier now than ever, with technology to help us research, and more temples being built around the world than ever before.
- Taking the Sacrament This is the paramount reason for coming to church, to renew our baptismal covenants. This is why seeking some kind of spiritual experience in nature or elsewhere, falls short. And it’s why we should come regardless of anything else (such as offensive comments we may hear).
- Repenting This is something we should do on an ongoing basis, enacting Christ’s atonement in our lives. We should not postpone this critical step in our return to live with Him again. Under this same umbrella is the need to apologize when we hurt another person. Never be too small to be that big.
- Forgiving Just as our Savior has told us to repent, so must we forgive others. In fact, it’s a requirement if we wish forgiveness for ourselves. It also blesses us in the here and now, with freedom from scorekeeping, giving us the opportunity to progress.
- Listening to the Holy Ghost Learning to hear and heed his voice is essential to happy living. We can rest our minds about major decisions when we have felt a confirming witness that they are right. When we live worthy of the gift of His constant companionship, we avoid many of life’s pitfalls.
- Developing a Close Relationship with the Savior. This is really everything. A daily effort to do this blesses our lives immeasurably, and refines our spirits as we implement what he would do, what he would say.
As you think about the things you’ve found yourself worrying about, ask yourself which ones have eternal importance, and which ones honestly don’t make the cut. It might free your plate enough that people will see you smiling, and think you haven’t a care in the world. Of course, we all have genuine concerns over loved ones, health, finances—you know the list—but when we’ve cleared away the non-essentials and “set our house in order,” we find we can enlist the Lord’s help and manage our journey much better.
Just in time for Mother’s Day — order Hilton’s new LDS novel, Golden, available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as a Relief Society President.