Teach the Children

There’s a Christmas story popular among the general Christian public today about Santa Claus coming to a Father and giving him a number of objects, each a symbol, explaining to him what they mean and telling him to teach the children. The idea of the story is basically to inspire people to teach their children about the true meaning of Christmas and Christ’s birth. In my last post, I talked about some of the future relationships that I’ll have, including being a mother. There’s responsiblities given to parents to teach their children truths.

I’ve been reading some books of real topics lately and all of them touch my heart with every page. They’ve started a spark, a flame inside me that burns with pain and love for those in the world have been hurt. I was reading today about Columbine and was brought to the attention that two of my dear friends just older than me have no idea what Columbine was. I was in shock. Not to bash these friends at all, I just can’t understand how someone in our world today can’t know about tragic events that have happened in our lifetime and shaped the world into what it is today. Every time a school shooting occurs, I hear mentions and comparisons of Columbine. How could someone not know about this event?

After learning that they didn’t know about it, I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling that I must teach my children. When I have a family of my own, my kids need to know about what went on in my lifetime, before my lifetime, and what goes on in theirs. They need to know about the good and the bad and be informed so that they can be sensitive to others. I owe it to them, and I owe it to my Heavenly Father.

I’ve always beena  seeker of knowledge, wanting to know about people and pleaces and things and learning as much as I could from books and articles and school. I learn things everywhere and I pay attention. Current events always interested me and I shed countless tears over the lost lives of strangers whose stories became important to me. There’s been so many things I’ve learned that I was appalled to not have learned earlier (Key example: About the Lithuanians in World War II held captive in Russia—Go read Between Shades of Gray if you have no idea what I’m talking about). There’s been a lot about World War II that I wasn’t taught in school that has caused me to be distrusting of the education system whom it seems would rather keep me in the dark about distasteful things my country has done than tell me the truth. I was taught about Columbine in school as well as from my parents. They made it known to me that this was an important event and that I should care. In school we learned about Rachel’s Challenge, a challenge issued by the parents of the first Columbine victim.

I want my kids to be seekers of knowledge as well. I want them to be educated about the Wars that have plagued the world, about the leaders of our country and other world leaders. I want them to know about 9/11 and Columbine and Sandy Hook and the life of Christ. I want them to know all of these things and more. I want them to look for more. I don’t want someone to mention a large event that occurred int heir lifetime to them someday and them to not know what it was. This is my responsibility. I have to teach them. And for me to teach them, I have to know more.

So if you’re reading this, I hope you too will want to learn and will decide to teach your children. They need to know.

Why?

Remember all those Dystopian and Utopian novels that have been popular in the last several years? I would venture to say that those people either didn’t teach their children, or they weren’t brave enough to do anything with the knowledge they had.

Go out. Make a difference. Care about the world. The news may be dreary and depressing, but that’s what it is. We shouldn’t stop caring just because they only talk about sad things. We need to know about our world. If we don’t, how will we change it?

Learn a lot, Camelot.

❤ Annee

You Are Not Beautiful

In my last post, in addition to with everyone I’ve talked to lately, The Road to Character has been a popular subject in my mind. I can honestly say that this book changed my life, and the way I look at the world but not in the way other books have. This book was probably bad for me in a way, from the world’s perspective, in the way that it changed me. (Once again, quotes unless otherwise stated are from The Road to Character.)

This book taught me something about the way the world is now, compared to how it used to be.

It talks about how in the past, pre-World War 2, everyone had a different view on life than they do now. Basically, this pre-view was focused on morals and values, becoming more efficient in these things and therefore becoming a better version of yourself while staying humbled. The focus wasn’t on the self though, it was on gaining better mores. You didn’t matter. The idea was/is/should be that honesty was worth more than the clothes you were wearing. People were taught mannerisms and behaviors that made them thrive in society and morality was valued.

The shift between views occurred “in the 1950’s and 1960’s to a culture that put more emphasis on pride and self-esteem.” This wasn’t bad. It helped minorities gain notice and recieve basic rights that are important in our country today. Before that, minorities were taught to look down on themselves. They weren’t as important as say, an upper-middle class businessman. This shift made all the difference for hundreds of thousands people.

However, the book explains that the shift went too far. This new view went from teaching minorities that they were worth receiving the same rights as everyone else, to teaching everyone that they were worth more. They were worth receiving more. The book labels this shift as the shift from Little Me to Big Me. This Big Me idea contains the beliefs that you should trust yourself, listen to your gut instinct. It teaches that you are the best judge of yourself and know what’s best for you. “In this ethos, sin is not found in your individual self; it is found in the external structures of society—in racism, inequality, and oppression.” I think this shift of where sin is found is one of the most important parts of this whole idea. In the church, we are taught and warned of the sin in the world, of things to avoid. But very rarely do we discuss the natural man, the way sin is also in ourselves and is something to be overcome and wrestled with.

In the last post I talked a bit about how the book explains that the world is centered around YOU. This last chapter of the book talks more about that, and how some people blame technology for this shift. We can customize everything. Everything is based on our technology and how many “likes” we get. But when did this become worth something? How is a “like” or a “follower” worth more to us than the time we spend with our family, than the people we serve. It’s true that these materialistic social media things bring us more value, more worth in our society. But social media isn’t all the problem.

In the last year, I’ve begun to have a problem with many of the quotes I see on Pinterest, and many of the ones I myself am guilty of pinning. Just scrolling through my own board, I see “If you don’t build your dreams, someone will hire you to build theirs” and “We are stars wrapped in skin-the light you are seeking has always been within.” The church too brings in these quotes: “You are a treasured daughter of our Heavenly Father with infinite worth.” Now I’m not going all anti-church and anti these quotes, but I am saying that I see the problem this book points out. The world (including the church) is CONSTANTLY telling people how beautiful, wonderful, magnificent, talented, worthwhile, valued, and priceless they AND their dreams are. But the world didn’t used to do this. It’s a new development of this day and age and I honestly see it as a bad thing.

This shift went too far, with 1) Positive Psychology, 2) Self-branding ethos and 3) Competitive pressures.

This first idea, of Positive Psychology is one I see around me SO much, especially with the church and having depression. I spent a week in the Behavior Health Center in Idaho Falls this year and one of their biggest focuses was self worth. They taught us to recognize our worth and recognize our strengths and do what we could do and to not let the negative things in the world affect us negatively. The biggest fight that I see against self-harming, is recognizing self-worth.

Okay, so yes, it’s true, we have worth. We are children of God after all. But that doesn’t make us perfect. In fact, we are very, very imperfect. So why then, do we value ourselves so much instead of valuing honesty, humility and integrity?   Our worth, while always existing, does nothing if we don’t achieve the Character we strive to be, finished only by God’s grace.

“The things that lead us astray are short term—lust, fear, vanity, and gluttony. The things we call character endure over the long term—courage, honesty, humility.”

Our self worth does not make us a good person. Thinking you’re beautiful no matter your weight, scars, birthmarks, etc. does not make you have mores. Telling your child how special and loved they are won’t make them grow into a successful person. Reaching for your dreams doesn’t mean you’ll learn the skill of hard work. Keeping calm and carrying on won’t help you when you have anxiety and literally cannot stay calm. Making lots of money won’t necessarily make you happy. External challenges don’t complete our inside character. Success and worth are not the same.

We all struggle with things internally, but I think we’ve lost the ability to stop and think about those things, to battle our internal struggles. When I try to stop and think, I find myself focusing on the things around me, what happened that day or what someone else said. I don’t think about if I was honest with someone. We’re taught to shy away from the things we do wrong. To forgive, forget and move on. In our society, it’s not encouraged to reflect on how we’re doing  with values, how we’re working to overcome our weaknesses.

After Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah were visited by the angel, Alma was stuck in astonishment so strong that he wasn’t able to speak or move for two days. His internal struggle was so much bigger than himself. It took time for him to recover and sort through all of his problems and feelings. I think each one of us also has the potential for this kind of necessary repentance because although our sins are not the same, they are all bigger than us. We can’t handle them alone. The natural man within us is very real and in many ways, more important than the external struggles we face. “Sin and limitation are woven through our lives. We are all recognizing the stumbling and trying to become more graceful as the years go by….People do get better at living.”

This shift that has gone to far, forcing us into this self-focused world where all we do is try to make ourselves look better and be better and worth more than everyone else is pointless. We are all worthwhile to God and those things mean nothing. This book made me realize that and I’m sure I’m going to end up rebelling against this Positive Psychology now, fighting the system simply because You are not beautiful. You are not strong. You are not irresistible. You are not extraordinary. You’re just a person with a whole lot of faults and problems.

Get in line, porcupine!

❤ Annee

Quiet the Self

I read a quote somewhere for my religion homework today that said something along the lines of, “If you think you have humility, you don’t.” I’ve been reading about humility in this book, The Road to Character (which by the way is where 99% of the quotes in this post are from so just assume that’s it for citation purposes). I’ve found so many interesting things in this wonderful collection of words.

“They had to descend into the valley of humility to climb the heights of character.” A lot of times we see people and think what a character they are. But what does that mean? Take Jennifer Lawrence for example. She has a lot of character and many view her as humble, but I don’t think she’s a prime example. She’s certainly portrayed as more humble than other celebrities but she’s not like the people exemplified in this book. Dorothea Day, it says, wore donated clothes and slaved alongside others to serve people even more unfortunate than herself and still, she had to catch herself because she’d find herself looking forward to and seeking gratitude for what she was doing.

Dictionary.com defines humility as a “modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance.” That sums it up pretty well and by that standard, to the world, people probably seem more humble than they truly are. Still, I think the answer of what humility is lies deeper.

I was sitting with a friend the other day at a dance show and he commented on how he had a problem with prideful dancers. He said he tried his best not to be one and then pointed out examples in our friend group of people who were and were not. He told me I was not and that I was fun to dance with. His counter to being a prideful dancer was being a fun dancer. The thing is, I seem myself as a prideful dancer. I’m a Ballroom Snob who tells people no to dancing with them sometimes at dance nights purely for the selfish reason that I don’t want to have to suffer through an awkward tango or look stupid in front of my friends doing only the box basic in waltz. I’m a snob and I know it. I used to suck and my friends struggled through dances with me and now, I won’t always do the same for others (Most of the time I say yes—I do have some semblance of social courtesy). Many of my friends who are better dancers than me will also say no to less experienced dancers, which by my definition, makes them a snob as well. A couple of these “snobs” are included in the mental list of kindest people I know, yet they’re still snobs.

I find that there’s a fine line between pride and humility. One of the best dancers/kindest people I know exemplifies this to me. He is an amazing dancer and he knows he’s good. He will stand by that talent and his knowledge of it until the day he dies. He doesn’t put himself down. But he also recognizes that there are many better than him and he has room to improve. He’s humble enough to know he still has more to learn, but proud enough that he’s sure in his ability and will say no to dancing with people (But he will say yes to teaching or turn the teaching over to someone he knows, likes and trusts—like me—to help).

Still, another of my dance friends is so kind and patient. I have the utmost respect for him and his everlasting goodness. I’ve never see him raise his voice in frustration or anger, and he compliments everyone around him. He teaches so much of dance, but also teaches through his example. He is without a doubt one of the people I look to for an example of humility and although he’s an amazing dancer, he’d never say so, but rather thank you sincerely if you told him so.

This book has taught me so many things about being humble and the people make me want to better myself. The book explains that we are self-centered. Literally everything happens around YOU. You are with yourself literally all the time (something else I’ve been very conscious of lately). You are always in your mind. All of your experiences are yours, the way you see them. The book talks about how our world today is based so much on “finding yourself” and “being true to yourself” and “chasing your dreams. Maybe what this world needs though is simply to be. Simply to live in the conveyor belt of cheerful idiots. Because it we’re all trying to be craftsmen and chase our outlandish dreams and spend years finding ourselves, who’s going to keep the world running with all of it’s working parts? Maybe we need to stop focusing so much on changing things and maintain what is, changing little by little. It’s about us. It really is. We come to this earth with our agency, determined to determine our destiny. But so much of what happens relies on others. If we’re so busy finding ourselves, what happens to the person in front of us that just fell and scrapped their knee?

I’m reminded of a video of spoken word poetry where the message is simply to look up from your cellphone so that you don’t miss life passing you by. I think part of humility requires us to be in the moment and not so much in your own head.

Humility is freedom from the need to prove you are superior all the time…Humility is the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.” It’s not just being modest, it’s accepting yourself as a figure that won’t be perfect until after the resurrection. We’re here to make mistakes and that’s okay.

“Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in weak places.” Being humble encompasses standing strong. It encompasses making a difference and being courageous. It is standing firm in the faith.

“Self-respect is not the same as self-confidence or self-esteem.” Perhaps this explains my friend and why he can be seen as both proud and humble. He knows the difference between these and he knows where he stands, but he isn’t afraid to stop and help someone lesser in a particular skill than him. And he will recognize the better.

“We’re not bad. But we are morally inarticulate.”

Give a hug, ladybug!

❤ Annee