By Steve Dragon
I’ve never been one to embrace (no pun intended) relationships. I learned at an early age (third grade) that I had a rather abrasive personality: a little too bold at times; somewhat presumptuous; a too frequent attitude of entitlement. (I was told in my early twenties that I had a “caustic” sense of humor. I considered it a compliment.) It certainly didn’t do much to make me a well-liked person. I suppose there are things I could blame it on, or at least experiences and environment in my early childhood that might have contributed to such a personality. But in these later years of my life, there’s really no one to blame but me.
All through my school years, because I seemed so prone to offending others and embarrassing myself, I gradually became less and less social with people. While I would often hang out with a small group of “friends,” I’ve come to realize that I kept myself at such an emotional distance from everyone, I really allowed myself only acquaintances.
I didn’t date during high school. I didn’t go to ball games or dances. The only reason I participated in clubs was to increase my feeling of self-importance. It was definitely not for purposes of socializing.
I did finally start dating after high school graduation. The following spring, my first steady was a sophomore who was only fifteen when we met. Sometime in the first few months of our dating, I remember driving down the road by myself after a heated argument and, with great emotion, saying to myself, “I am DONE with relationships! This is too hard! I’m better off loving my car.” That decision, that attitude, subconsciously haunts to this day, close to fifty years later. Sadly, a bitter divorce fifteen years down the road only served to reinforce my relational inadequacies.
I shudder to think where I would be had I not chosen to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a few months before that fateful decision. (I considered myself an atheist through my high school years.) In fact, I met that first steady at church. Unfortunately, my bad attitudes and habits were very deeply ingrained by that time. While I spent the rest of my life learning about and thinking I was trying to emulate the Savior, it was usually a seemingly unattainable wish. Yes, there were times of improvement and increased understanding. In recent years, however, I have become more aware of the lingering effects of my early rebellion. I’ve started to recognize all the years of unhappiness and frustration and selfishness I’ve put myself through by not trusting more in the truth of the Lord’s admonition to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mark 12:30-31). I realized I didn’t love myself, and that kept me from loving my neighbor and from loving God. Sex, sugar, and spending addictions throughout my life caused self-loathing, making me unable to understand self-love. But with great effort and great blessing from God and the Savior, my experiences led me, little by little, to understand Their infinite and eternal love for me despite my great weakness and sin. Recognizing, acknowledging, and embracing that truly unconditional love helped me to forgive myself and begin forsaking those behaviors that kept me from loving myself and from loving others.
Gratefully, the recent process I have been through in Mindset Mastery and the Facilitator Track have brought to me other resources that have increased my understanding of my deep and habitual selfishness. Especially helpful has been the required reading for Mentor Training. I’m starting to look more deeply to discover the real needs of others, rather than seeking to supply those needs for my own satisfaction and self-aggrandizement. What a different world of joy, love, and peace I’m discovering!
This had been my personal journey. Your personal journey is surely different in most respects. But if your journey has included broken relationships and self-loathing, I would commend to you the words of Alma to his son Helaman in the Book of Mormon when he said, “look to God and live” (Alma 37:47). God sent His son Jesus Christ to suffer for us. We don’t have to suffer as much as we think we do. It’s not necessary to loath ourselves when we make those vile mistakes. The sooner we forgive ourselves and sincerely and humbly “look to God”—every single day—the sooner God can and will forgive us. That’s when we can press forward in our eternal progression, loving ourselves, loving God, and loving and serving others according to their needs.
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