I used to pray for the courage to share the gospel. You may have prayed for this same trait. We all know that our Heavenly Father wants us to bring others to Christ’s restored gospel. Every member a missionary, right?  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said missionary work “is by definition the most important thing you can do in the world, in time or eternity.”

But it’s scary. We don’t want to be pushy, we don’t want to offend, we don’t want to lose friends over this. So, like many, I prayed to push through that fear and have more courage. Help me to be bolder. Give me courage.

Sometimes we worry that we aren’t scripture scholars who can answer every obscure question that may arise. Sometimes our very personality is to hang back and quietly observe—speaking out is intimidating. Sometimes we are so hungry for acceptance that we dare not risk rejection. Maybe we even sense that our own imperfect lives disqualify us from telling someone else how to live. There are dozens of reasons why we all feel we could use more courage.

For years I struggled to open up to strangers about my faith. And then a surprising thing happened.  Suddenly I was crazy about missionary work. I used every opportunity to bring up the gospel, to ask people about their faith, to share my own. I’ve written about many of those experiences in my articles here. I’ve had amazing encounters in airports, hospitals, hotels, supermarkets, restaurants, jury duty–pretty much everywhere. I’ve given away copies of the Book of Mormon, something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do.

And then it hit me: Courage has nothing to do with it. Can I just say that again?  Courage has nothing to do with it. All those years I thought I needed courage, but the secret key wasn’t bravery. It was love.

As I made the effort to truly look into the eyes—and the hearts—of strangers I suddenly saw them as my actual brothers and sisters. I forgot about myself. I focused upon seeing them as God sees them, with all their glorious potential, all their loveable characteristics, their immense worth, their eternal destiny. My love for them spilled over my fear and pushed it aside. 

As it turns out, when you truly love others, courage comes with it. When you genuinely care for someone else’s well-being, you don’t need to summon courage; it’s already linked. No parent needs to pray for the courage to get help for their child, to keep them safe, or to defend them against an enemy. Love leads. Parents just do what must be done because the courage is built in.

Maybe it’s because I’ve grown old enough to see the world through “mom eyes.”  I’ve sometimes said we need to view others with “God eyes.” It’s that same unconditional love you feel when you wish only the best for another. You deliberately look for the good in them. You have no ulterior or selfish motive. You only aspire for their happiness.

This is the turning point when missionary work becomes easy and joyful. When we project sincere love, it’s unmistakable. Though someone may not choose to get baptized, they will never forget the authentic love you showed. It will glow in their hearts because feeling that kind of acceptance and affection is rare. It could even be the seed that sprouts later.

And we feel peace, even bliss, as we glimpse the kind of love God has for His children. We don’t stress or stumble, we don’t worry that we aren’t smart enough or don’t have the perfect wording. We don’t fear that someone will no longer be our friend. We’re theirs. And that’s enough.

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls.” Clearly God has compassion on every one of His children. When we do the same, we are following His example.

When we worry about having courage, it’s almost like a red herring. We are doubting ourselves. We are making it about us, and how we are perceived. But that’s not what the Holy Ghost is waiting for. The real way to get someone to feel the whisperings of the Spirit is not to be eloquent or handsome or even knowledgeable. It’s to love them. That’s what sets the stage and invites the Spirit so the Holy Ghost can give them a witness of truth. The still, small voice can tell them, What you’re hearing is right.     

Sharing the gospel is not a performance. If we see it as such, then of course we feel nervous. We stand in the wings with stage fright, afraid the audience won’t respond well. That’s when we wish for courage.

Instead, we should simply learn to love more deeply, more broadly. We don’t judge or assume anything. And if they aren’t interested, we don’t take it personally because it was never about us. We simply thank God for giving us the chance to plant a seed, and then leave the rest to Him.

Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.