Your Life is So Easy

[ 11 ] Comments

by Bonnie

Some years ago I was Young Women President shepherding a group of very individualistic souls. One was a gregarious young woman, whose parents were divorced and mother was earning barely above minimum wage, whose life was filled with economic distress but whose character responded by stepping forward and grabbing life and people aggressively and shaking an opportunity out of them. The other was a quieter young woman whose parents both worked and whose financial life was secure, but who had had multiple surgeries on her legs, rendering her unable to play soccer or run (to her profound but quiet sadness) and whose circle of friends was small as she kept often to herself, eating alone in the cafeteria, walking alone in the halls at school. The former had a less settled family, and the latter a more spiritually-based focus.

One Sunday we were talking about trials and what we do to overcome them, and the second girl, who responded often out of duty rather than trust in class interactions, offered a comment. Suddenly the first girl burst out, “Your life is so EASY!”

The conversation that followed is unimportant for now. I’ve thought often how tempting it is to look at others and think exactly that.

  • What life circumstances seem easy to you?
  • What do you do when the human urge to compare comes up?
  • How do you avoid dismissing the difficulty of others’ experiences?

About Bonnie

Living life determined to skid sideways into the grave and say, "MAN, what a ride!"

11 Responses to Your Life is So Easy

  1. Ann says:

    I had a conversation once with a fellow sister from my ward. We got on the subject of trials and such and she made a comment in passing that stuck with me. She said something to the extent that she and her family didn’t have trials or at the least very hard things to go through because they lived the gospel. I remember being so taken aback by that comment and thought to myself, “Wow! Where does that leave me?!” I try to live the gospel to the best of my ability as well as my family and we seem to have trial after trial after trial.

    After pondering over time on her comment, I know she didn’t mean it to sound the way it came out but rather was pointing out that the gospel helped them in their lives to ease the burden of trials. But still. . . .

    I find that I personally tend to think those who make substantial incomes and are financially secure are “better” off than myself. My husband is gainfully employed, we have no debt, but must live frugally to make ends meet. I tend to be more judgemental of economic and financial conditions and find myself wishing we had more at times. That’s the main one I struggle with. I’m working on it. I like the thoughts of stewardship and using what we’ve been given and making the most of it, and that train of thought helps me to refocus on my family, what we DO have and not what others around us SEEM to have.

    For me, it’s easier to be sympathetic to those who have obvious difficulties, the ones I can outwardly see. It’s easier to be compassionate and understanding to them. I think I have more difficulty when I think so and so has no problems or so and so doesn’t have to deal with this just because I don’t outwardly see it. I just always try to remember that we all have trials, whatever they may be, and that my Father in Heaven is allowing me to experience what I need to experience and not what John Doe down the street needs to experience in order for me to become the best me. It’s the refocus on the gospel message, my love and testimony of the Savior, and doing the best I can with myself and my family that makes all the other “stuff” fall away.

  2. Paul says:

    My second turn as bishop (and even in my first, I guess — though that was outside the US, so it was a little surreal) I had some huge challenges with some of my kids. I constantly wondered why I was the bishop given the challenges we faced. I wondered how I could possibly be worthy to serve given what was going on in my own family.

    What I learned later is that there were certain members who felt they could come to me for counsel and support precisely because of my experience with my family; they felt we could speak a common language.

    Now I believe a bishop can receive inspiration beyond his experience, but clearly for these members (and there were more than several) there was comfort in knowing my life was not easier than theirs, and I believe that was one of the reasons I served when I did.

    I grew up in a family that was outstanding in many ways, but also quite normal. Because we all attended church together each week, people assumed we were awesome. We joked from time to time as a family about what people would think if they knew the “real” us. I think that helped me to realize that every family, every person, has a unique set of experiences / trials / challenges. (Even though I learned that lesson in my youth, it didn’t keep me from wondering why the family I parented could be like so-and-so’s family…)

    I am learning to take people where they are. Each of us is on a journey, and the best each of us can do is move forward from where we are today. I have to tell myself consciously that it doesn’t matter where someone else is on the path, unless he or she is close enough for me to give a hand up.

    • Angie says:

      My dad was bishop when I was wrapping up high school and heading off to college. It also began a series of years in which my parents suffered employment set backs and business failures. My aunt knew some of the members of our ward and made a comment in passing that maybe my dad should be released so he could deal with his trials. The ward member got very defensive, saying, “We are taking care of him. He will be fine. He is our bishop.” I was so touched by the outpouring of love and ownership they felt for him in our times of family trial. I know of other circumstances during that time, shared by ward members, where they were struggling to become full tithe payers but they wrote the check and received the blessings because they knew how tight things were for my family and if their bishop–my dad–could sit there and talk about blessings, it must really be so.

      Now my husband is the bishop and the entire ward can see that life is not all roses for us. We are gainfully employed, but chaos reigns and Bishop Daddy can rarely be home to help. One of his counselors has suffered major health problems and been the subject of more than one ward fast. Again, I am touched by the ownership our ward seems to take over our trials and our gift of service. They seem to see that life is not easy for any of us and are willing to serve in their own difficulties.

      I have seen the burden of carrying falsified perfection around and I know enough to see that things are rarely as easy on the other side of the fence as they seem. Judging our warts by other people’s ‘Sunday faces’ is damaging. I choose to let people see (at least some of) my warts (and some I just can’t hide anyway) because while it is painful and embarrassing, it is consecrating to feel that even my trials and my imperfections are being offered up to the Lord for the blessing of the many.

      During my parents’ years of economic difficulty, many of our family friends were suffering through major physical and mental health setbacks. Children and grandchildren were suffering and dying from cancer, family members were losing battles with acute symptoms of mental illness and substance abuse and, while poor and struggling, our family was all healthy. My mom took note, finally realizing that we all have our burdens to carry and their burden at that time was economic and she was finally okay with it. It didn’t make it any easier, but it was hers and no one else’s is really any easier.

      I take counsel and comfort in a quote I have seen floating about attributed to a variety of sources, one of them being Marjorie Pay Hinckley–to be gentle with those around us for we are all carrying heavy burdens. I have found that to be universally true and reminding myself of it is always a healthy reality check.

      • I suspect that the Lord calls some individuals to bishoprics so that He can bless them and their families for their great sacrifice in ways that will help them overcome impending trials.

  3. Ja says:

    I think it can go both ways. The prophets have taught as we follow the gospel, we will be able to go through trials better (and may have fewer trials like addiction) as we trust the lord. However, we carry the burdens we are meant to bear. Satan knows our individual weak points. God knows where to strengthen us and how to do so, but that frequently means a trial of that principle. People do not understand your struggle until they share or have experience with that burden. Much like having children, babysitting will never be like having your own 24-7. We need to support people as they struggle and sometimes that is prayer, others it is more. My challenge is knowing when it is time to pray vs giving more and again. We cannot give more than we have and need to remember a sinking boat is not the best tugboat. For what it’s worth, my 2 cents boils down to don’t judge and be cautious of codependency.

  4. jendoop says:

    We talk about walking a mile in a person’s shoes to find out what their life is like but really we’d have to walk a mile in their skin, in their brain, and in their heart to truly know. (Sounds gross though.) Something that is a huge trial for one person may be nothing to the person living next door in a seemingly similar situation.

    The fact is that each of us comes to earth with weaknesses and flaws which make some trials easy and some difficult. In addition to that the things we learn growing up teach us how to approach life and challenges. If we are born with flaws, and taught imperfectly because all parents are imperfect, we are starting adulthood (where trials and challenges truly are our own to deal with) without the necessary abilities to handle our trials well. But this is why we have trials! To learn, to grow, to become! The scriptures tell us that who the Lord loves he chastizes, so instead of seeing someone else’s easy life as proof that God loves them more maybe we should secretly smile that our life is so difficult because God must be working overtime to chastize us with such great love. ;)

    When Ann’s friend said that her life is easier because she lives the gospel I wonder if it’s similar to the comment that when someone dies LDS people are able to cope better because they know God’s plan. Although trials are still difficult, I see purpose in them because of my beliefs and faith. I am not meanlessly suffering, all of these things are giving me experience, bettering me and going toward my ultimate goal of becoming like Heavenly Father. And knowing that ultimate goal that God has for me is to become like Him, gives me hope and strength that I have the capacity to deal with the trials in my life. It is a perspective which truly understood and internalized can change the way we approach trials, we start to see them as opportunities for growth and potential happiness instead of pain and heartache. I’m still working to see my trials in that way.

  5. Ramona Gordy says:

    Before my husband and I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS; (him re-activation and me baptized), we had been married for about eight years and we loved each other, and we thought we knew each other well. We weren’t attending a church, but we believed in God, and in prayer and we felt in our hearts that God loved us. We made a decision to “expand our boundaries”, by looking for a church, buying a house, building up our family. We experienced some over the top blessings that even now we still marvel and wonder how we ever qualified for them.

    But then we also experienced some of the most earth shaking trials (at least to us), and core rattling experiences that we had ever known. My elderly mother came to live with us, and we really wanted her to live with us. Her health problems (mental and physical) deteriorated to a point that left my husband and I questioning our marriage bond, loyalty bonds. We had to make hard decision concerning my mom. During that episode which was 10 long years, we had health issues that drained our finances, we almost lost our home, we almost lost each other. We were at a point where we didn’t ask “why me”, but we asked for help. So we prayed and asked for help.

    We got help in the form of missionaries knocking at our door, recognizing that my husband had been a member of the Church and invited him to come back. As for me, I was invited to consider baptism, which I did. After some euphoria, having the best days of our life, they were back. Those episodes which we later learned were trials, and all of God’s children would experience them at some point in their lives. These trials seemed to be directed at our marriage, and our health,even to the point of life and death.
    I remember feeling at one point, my husband and I that we were so exhausted, and we felt that maybe we should throw in the white towel and yell “uncle”. We really felt alone at that point. I would like to say that even in that epiphany the Lone Ranger came in on a white horse and scooped us up and we all lived happily ever after. He didn’t, but what came to us and what still comes to us even now, is a renewed sense of survival and hope. We prayed a lot, and the answer to us was “Get up”, keep moving, stick and move just like a prize fighter. I realize that like Paul, we should “count it all joy” when we are beset by trials” and endeavor to reach for the goal of the high calling. For all of us who live the gospel the best we can, we are worthy to endure those trials, and those trials are tailor made for us, to shape us and mold us.
    I remember watching a movie about Christ as he dragged that heavy cross to Calvary, and in a scene where the actor portraying him fell with the cross on top of him, the actor portraying Jesus held on to that cross tenderly and lovingly and even kissed it. I thought for a moment that the Savior may done just that because he knew that we had to pick up our own cross and drag it around, and we would be tempted to “throw it off” for a seemingly lighter load. I take to heart that invitation to come unto me, all who are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Sometimes that rest doesn’t come with a pillow, sometimes it comes with a hand up.

  6. I wrote a post about King Benjamin that touched on this issue here:
    http://scriptoriumblogorium.blogspot.com/2011/10/king-benjamins-battles.html

    When the human urge to compare comes up, I usually try to remind myself that I do not know the whole story. If I see someone I think has it easy, I may be seeing them at a time of their special strength. I do not know what battles they had to fight to get there. Neither do I know what battles they currently fight.

    Avoiding dismissing others’ difficulties also is a matter of reminding myself of my ignorance. I don’t know the full story. So very often I don’t know what it feels like. But even if I’ve experienced the same difficulty, my background and previous experience may lead me naturally to solve a problem, while someone else may not have that background knowledge and experience. I don’t know what skills they have or don’t have unless I probe them about it. The times when I’ve probed, I usually ask questions like , “Is it hard for you to _____? In what way? I want to understand.” (These questions can sound rude if they aren’t done with enough gentleness, concern, and sincere interest.)

  7. Bonnie says:

    My favorite quote: The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have resource to deal with your pain……Carlfred Broderick

  8. Liz C says:

    Every time I have a real conversation with someone who is also struggling, I’m grateful for my own burdens. Mine, I can work with. Mine, I’ve been prepared to undertake. Theirs leave me breathless. I’ll stick with mine, and pray for them, too.

    We do fall so often into comparing with each other, and it wastes so much time!

    I remember feeling very frustrated with a Visiting Teaching calling to a sister who liked to spend our time together complaining at the heavy expenses their daughter’s dance instruction brought along. It was very, very hard to refrain telling her “You have it so easy!” as I realized they were spending nearly twice our household’s monthly income on hobby lessons for a girl who didn’t intend to be a professional dancer. Finding compassion and trying to put a halt to my own jealousy was really, really hard right then. But, I also have no way of knowing if her brag-plaining about the dance expenses masked much deeper pain or trials that she wasn’t able to express, and I’m sorry to say, I didn’t try very hard to find out if there were ways I could support or minister to her, either, so I never did find out. The experience has made me more aware of my own flaws and assumptions, though.

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