[ 21 ] Comments

by MSKeller

When Am I Enough?

Photo Credit: Marsha Steed Keller

As a woman, a Mormon, a mother, a human – I am constantly coming up against myself as my own worst enemy.  It seems that no matter how many inspirational talks I hear and get all charged up about, no matter how many good habits I begin and successful events, talks, or experiences I have, I am still left with that nagging feeling that it isn’t enough, that I am still convicted by the edict that help comes “after all you can do.”  2 Nephi 25:23 promises me grace and hope, but those five words are my albatross.

I’ve heard the talks, I know intellectually that I can only do so much and that little all isn’t meant to be a bludgeon . . . and yet it is.  I find myself weeping in the silence of the night for my inadequacies, my fear that no matter how much I do, it will never be good enough to equal that looming all.

Those are my bad days.  Most of the time I know that my all is different every day.  When I’ve put in ten hours on different pursuits and still have more to do, I can easily shrug and feel good that I’ve done the best I could for the day.  So what does “the best I could” really mean?  Can it really be that fluid?  Can one day’s “all” be much less than the next day and still be acceptable?  I think it can.

I believe that life is as fluid as the river Jordan.  We are not stuck in some Dead Sea of instructions, practices, and degrees of worthiness.  Like the workers of the field who came late in the day as opposed to those who worked in the heat all day long, all receive their pay as promised.  I do believe this, and yet. . .

This isn’t just a scriptural or religious difficulty.  When do I spend enough time with my children or grandchildren?  When is my home clean enough or organized enough?  How much is enough in the bank, enough food stored, enough free time, and on and on.  The only conclusion I’ve been able to be at peace with is that for me, enough is when I can tell myself “well done.”  It doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen.  Does that mean that we are not only our worst judges, but our best as well?

“Sometimes the part of that scripture that rings in our ears is “after all we can do,” and we hurry along through life trying somehow to be good enough. What that scripture is telling us, however, is that our efforts will never be enough, and we are saved through a monumental act of love.” – Maurine Jensen Proctor

  • Do you think that perhaps knowing that nothing is ever enough is enough?
  • Is the important thing not the enough at all, but the willingness to keep trying, keep doing good, continue being aware and progressing and reaching from good to better, and now and again actually arriving at best?

About MSKeller

Marsha Steed Keller (Th'Muse) "When I get a little money, I buy books, if there is any left, I buy food and clothes." --Desiderius Erasmus. This defines a part of Marsha's psychology and intent fairly well. When she was a child she says that people asked what super-power she would desire. She replied, "To know what is true, always." It hasn't changed much since then. Marsha cares more about intent than result; more about understanding than agreement and more about good questions than finding all the answers. She defines her best blessings as people (Family and Friends), ideas and beauty. She is highly visual, teaches voice and piano and enjoys her Life/Relationship coaching immensely. She has a BA in Psychology and an AA in Ballroom Dance. Life is an adventure to be lived in the moment and shared with the world. She considers being asked to write with this amazing group a high honor.

21 Responses to Enough

  1. Rob says:

    Some of the commandments Heavenly Father has given us I label as “checklist” commandments–we can say we’ve done them and check them off and not worry about them anymore. Tithing is one example; we pay it, check it off and can say we’ve completed it–at least until the next paycheck comes. Being baptized, partaking of the sacrament, and serving a full time mission are other such examples.

    But there are other commandments we can never say we’ve completed, such as feeding the hungry; even if you spend all day volunteering at the Utah Food Bank, can you say you’ve finished fulfilling that commandment, even for that day? When can you ever check that off? I think Heavenly Father gave us such commandments by design. Did He do this to make us feel overwhelmed, or to keep us constantly engaged, always focused on Him?

    • Bonnie says:

      Yes, I agree, Rob. However the checklist commandments are often shadows of greater commandments that are never finished. We can pay our tithing and feel finished, but tithing is only a shadow of consecration, which is a daily process and is the caring for the poor that you mention never being completed (and which is also the greater commandment.) Once we move beyond the checklist commandments that are given to us to train us, we embrace a self-administered model of progress that the Lord has laid out for us. In that light, all commandments are really in the realm of your latter comment: that negotiating the tension between being overwhelmed and engaged with Him is the best work of our life.

      • Paul says:

        It is that difference between the “do” commandments and the “be” commandments. How do we know when we “are”?

        • Bonnie says:

          When our calling and election is made sure. But I think Marsha makes a wonderful point when she says that feeling “well done” at the end of the day is a good indication. In the 6th Lecture on Faith, JS indicates that we must know that our course is acceptable to God in order to meet the third requirement for faith. It’s a quest to have that knowledge, and we need to practice by seeking for it daily, just as she suggests. We are intended to sometimes have that confidence, even while having it too much of the time makes us lazy. Ah, divine tension!

        • Marsha Keller says:

          Bonnie, I loved this, “shadows of greater commandments that are never finished” – INdeed. Perhaps that is part of the problem, feeling like the shadow never gets the brightness of noonday.

          Painting the Golden Gate Bridge Principle. – Once it is done, because it takes so long, the workers simply go back to the beginning and start again, or it will rust.

          Perhaps Paul, we ‘are’ when we know we ‘do’ enough to ‘be’?

      • Rob says:

        You’re right about the checklist commandments being mere shadows of others that are never finished, Bonnie. And I think that’s one of the main reasons the Pharisees and Sadducees hated the Savior so much; they had the checklist commandments down, and didn’t want to extend any further than that. It’s actually easier to worry about how many steps you take on a Sunday and what to put in your window than it is to take care of the poor.

        • Marsha Keller says:

          Maybe that is when we get overwhelmed and grumpy too Rob, when we feel like we have ‘done enough’ but in our souls know that we could do more, and ought to. There is a difference between righteous exhaustion and a need to prioritize and lazy ignorance where we know we COULD extend our reach.

          Divine Tensions Bonnie, LOVE. . .

    • Marsha Keller says:

      “constantly engaged, always focused” – I love that Rob. So well put.

  2. Howard says:

    Following the Spirit rather than being motivation by church or parent induced guilt solves the how much is enough issue.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      I wish it did with me Howard. Too often I second-guess, feel I didn’t ‘hear right’ or just didn’t hear at all. Would that it was that simple for me, perhaps another post in my future will be ‘hearing the Spirit’. Something I’ve struggled with as well.

  3. Paul says:

    Marsha, I appreciate this post and the questions it raises. Howard, you’re right, of course, that the spirit can help us to find peace along our path of discipleship. That also requires our having sufficient faith in ourselves and our own ability to get that spiritual direction and confirmation that we’re moving along as we should.

    Bonnie commented on another post the other day that the Lord’s inpiration and instructions to us are typically kind and encouraging. I think that’s a great measure of the source of our inspiration.

    Further, I honestly believe as Latter-day Saints we rely too much on the “after all you can do” clause. The rest of that chapter of the Book of Mormon speaks about the FREE gift of salvation, and only once makes reference to “all we can do.” I don’t mean to dismiss the thought, but I believe we need to put it in perspective that the Lord has already atoned for our sins. It’s already done. His power is there to heal us today, right now, if we’ll reach out to him (and tear down those pavilions that President Eyring spoke about last weekend).

    • Marsha Keller says:

      Paul, I loved, and relished President Eyring’s talk! I can’t wait to read/ listen/ digest it again and again. It struck me deeply. I started a Gratitude journal long ago, but this conference I changed it a little. I’m taking my notes and daily picking something from them that I’m grateful for. Today was President Eyring’s comment that the Lord “Sees the goodness in me” loosely quoted (I don’t take very accurate notes, more a ‘jist of what I felt and heard’ sort of note-taking).

      Perhaps all we can do. . .IS to ‘reach out’.

  4. Missy says:

    I think its all a process, we are our own worst critics. Is it ever enough? I don’t think so because when we think it is we realize there is always more. There is always more to learn, new experiences teach us more, even experiences we are used to and do regularly can teach us something new. I think that is all part of the Lord’s process. And at the end of the day the atonement makes up for us where it wasn’t enough, where we fell short. I hope that makes sense. I think that we are our own worst critics though and we need to remember that as long as we try to do what we can it will be “enough” in the end. We just have to stick with things, go through the process…Great post thanks for sharing this!

    • jendoop says:

      This is where I am too Marsha and Missy. It’s never enough because there’s always more to be done (Didn’t Packer or Ballard say that in a GC talk?). While following the Spirit is always the mantra, he doesn’t command in all things. There are times that we have to walk by the light we’ve already received, and that can be uncertain. There is no true feeling of “done” until we lay our body down.

      This is where my evening prayer saves me by reminding me that when the day is done Christ takes over all the “never enough”. I tell him all I wish I had done, all I wish I hadn’t done, and he hands me back peace and a night of rest.

      • Marsha Keller says:

        You know, I’m not even very certain that when we lay our bodies down we will be ‘done’. When I was going through my divorce and the worst time in my life, I didn’t want to die. . . I just wanted to cease to exist, because I knew that after death I wouldn’t be out of my misery, or be in peace, I’d just have more to do, more to repent of (harder) and more time to think!

        “I tell him all I wish I had done, all I wish I hadn’t done, and he hands me back peace and a night of rest.” – I Love that Jen. Beautiful imagery. I think I’ll try that.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      Yes, yes, I know this intellectually. Still, I flounder at times. Perhaps it is simply time to take “ENOUGH” out of the equation. HE is the only one who did ‘enough’. The rest of us as Bonnie and others said above, need to just ‘keep doing’. It isn’t volume, but effort that counts. Thank you for your comments! I think this discussion is really helping me.

  5. Lisa says:

    We are hardest on ourselves. We want to be perfect…to do things perfectly, at least I do. It takes that epiphany of the spirit and realization to show us that we can NEVER be perfect, that’s why He came and atoned and died for us. So we could BE. I don’t even know if this makes sense, but it makes sens to me.

    • Marsha Keller says:

      “So we could BE.” That is wonderful to think about. Somedays all I can do IS just to ‘be’. Other days I’m a fire-ball and get the world tucked neatly in my ‘finished’ file. (not many of those!)

      We are hard on ourselves. In my experience females (starting at a very young age) much worse than males on average. I teach voice and piano, and I ask my students to make goals monthly. The girls always have a difficult time with ‘what are you successful at’, while the boys struggle more with ‘what would you most like to improve’.

      I remember once-upon-a-time, I was blessed with the analogy of the bank account. This deeply affected me. Perhaps I’ll have to write that up in a future post. Hummmmm. Thanks for the nudge.

  6. Thanks for your thoughts. They ring true for so many of us. I’ve often felt that the [in]famous quote in 2 Nephi 25:23 would do us all well to emphasize that we are saved by grace DESPITE all we can do. The process of perfecting the saints is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the grace on terms of repentance that does the heavy lifting here.

  7. […] Yet I don’t change.  I know intellectually that I need to be served.  I know that I can’t possibly do all that I have on my plate by myself, and yet I’m afraid to ask.  I’m afraid of being told no.  I’m afraid of letting someone be my benefactor.  I’m afraid of feeling obligated.  I’m afraid of not being thought of as capable and strong.  I’m afraid of not being enough. […]

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