Monday, August 10, 2015

Be Yourself or Be miserable: A Back to School Message

All around the country kids are heading back to school. I remember those days well. It was a new start, a fresh start. This year was going to be different. I was not going to procrastinate, yea right :) I was going to get really good grades, I was going to work harder at everything I did. I loved the clean slate feeling of the beginning of the school year.

I also know that as some kids go back to school they are hoping that this year will be different. Last year was not what they hoped it would be. Some may have felt like they were invisible and unnoticed, they were lonely. I want all of the youth I know to know that you are not invisible to your Heavenly Father, or to your Savior, or to those who love you most. God has a special plan for you. Sometimes Junior High and High School can make you feel like that is not the case but it is. With that being said I know that the pressures to fit in and to be recognized are real. I felt them. Sometimes when you feel this pressure you resort to trying to change yourself in order to fit into a certain crowd. This may be OK in some cases but I wanted to give three cautions to all the youth that I know and love as you head back to school:

Caution #1 

If you try to be someone you are not you will be miserable

Sister Patricia Holland, wife of Jeffrey R. Holland wrote the following. Please take time to read the whole thing it is magnificent:

“Our Father in Heaven needs us as we are, as we are growing to become. He has intentionally made us different from one another so that even with our imperfections we can fulfill his purposes. My greatest misery comes when I feel I have to fit what others are doing, or what I think others expect of me. I am most happy when I am comfortable being me and trying to do what my Father in Heaven and I expect me to be.

For many years I tried to measure the oft times quiet, reflective, thoughtful Pat Holland against the robust, bubbly, talkative, and energetic Jeff Holland and others with like qualities. I have learned through several fatiguing failures that you can’t have joy in being bubbly if you are not a bubbly person. It is a contradiction in terms. I have given up seeing myself as a flawed person because my energy level is lower than Jeff’s, and I don’t talk as much as he does, nor as fast. Giving this up has freed me to embrace and rejoice in my own manner and personality in the measure of my creation. Ironically, that has allowed me to admire and enjoy Jeff’s ebullience even more.

Somewhere, somehow the Lord “blipped the message onto my screen” that my personality was created to fit precisely the mission and talents he gave me. For example, the quieter, calmer talent of playing the piano reveals much about the real Pat Holland. I would never have learned to play the piano if I hadn’t enjoyed the long hours of solitude required for its development. This same principle applies to my love of writing, reading, meditation, and especially teaching and talking with my children. Miraculously, I have found that I have untold abundant sources of energy to be myself. But the moment I indulge in imitation of my neighbor, I feel fractured and fatigued and find myself forever swimming upstream. When we frustrate God’s plan for us, we deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions and a serious schism settles in our soul. God never gave us any task beyond our ability to accomplish it. We just have to be willing to do it our own way. We will always have enough resources for being who we are and what we can become.” (Portraits of Eve: God’s Promises of Personal Identity, Patricia T. Holland, LDS Women’s treasury: Insights and Inspiration for Today’s Woman {Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997}, 97-98

Caution #2   

Be yourself...but be your best self

I love that quote from Sister Holland. I think there is another principle imbedded in what Sister Holland taught. We also deprive this world and God’s kingdom of our unique contributions if we do not try to be our best self. Sometimes people use the "I am just being myself" line as an excuse to be less than God intended them to be. Don't fall into that trap either. Be yourself but be your best self.

Teenagers can't stand hypocrites. When someone acts like they are good when they really are not it seems to drive them crazy. "Realness" is definitely a valued commodity among the youth. With that being said, the more common but less talked about form of hypocrisy is acting like we are less than we are. We dumb ourselves down spiritually, or we try to act like we are not as talented as we are, or we don't give our best efforts to things that we could really excel at.  Hiding your brilliance is not humility it is a form of hypocrisy. Not developing your God given gifts is a form of ingratitude.  Don't do this. You be you, but be your best you. That is what will make you happy.   

Caution #3  

If you focus too much on yourself you will not be happy

The Lord Jesus Christ taught, “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9:24). “I believe,” said President Thomas S. Monson, “the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. Those who live only for themselves eventually shrivel up and figuratively lose their lives, while those who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives.”

I was touched by something Sister Susan Tanner, former General Young Women's President, taught. She said the following:

I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

What an incredible concept. The way to feel good about yourself is to help others feel good about themselves. If there was one thing I could teach my daughter, who enters junior high this year, it would be that the way to feel and be truly beautiful is to spend your days trying to help others feel beautiful. If you go to school trying to make others think you are beautiful, talented, usually backfires.  

I hope that all of you have a wonderful school year. I want you to know that everything that will truly make you happy is on the straight and narrow road and that when you make mistakes your Savior is there to help you get back on the road. May you have a fun, successful, fulfilling, and blessed year!


  1. Bro. Martin,

    Thanks for sharing. I'll do my best to apply this as I start a new school and new year.

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