Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Don't have to" or "Don't get to"?

At our recent Stake Conference, the Stake President gave a very good talk about fasting. He shared some scriptures about the blessings promised to those who fast and give a fast offering. He shared personal experiences about fasting. He was very thorough and positive. As he spoke, I thought about my own experiences with fasting.

To be completely honest, I have never been very good at it. I usually forget that it is Fast Sunday until after I have eaten breakfast. I remember faking it in high school. I was at church so I didn't have any food anyway. When my friends complained, I just smiled and kept my mouth shut.

As a freshman at BYU, I lived in the dorms and ate in the cafeteria. We joked that we had a "forced fast". The cafeteria didn't open until late afternoon on Fast Sunday so unless you had a stash somewhere, you were going without for a while.

In my adult years, I have been pregnant for approximately 45 months and nursing babies for another 40 months so I had plenty of valid excuses for not fasting. I had adopted the attitude of "I don't have to", as if it was a bad thing. I know it isn't but just thinking that phrase "I don't have to" has changed my perception.

The "I don't have to" attitude is prevalent in our society. We might hear variations like "Why should I?" or "It's not my problem". All of these can lead to destructive, selfish mindsets. "I don't have to" leads to "I don't want to" which leads to "I'm not going to". Soon we have a generation of people who are lazy and selfish. The better way to think is "I don't get to".

I first was impressed by this idea of changing your thinking when I was in college. I attended an extra credit lecture about anger management. The speaker gave an example of when she had a broken foot. A man stepped into the elevator and kicked her cast. She was furious until she realized that he was blind. Suddenly she wasn't angry any more. She explained that the circumstances had not changed but her way of looking at them had.

A few years later, I read a book called "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" by Robert Kiyosaki. Some of it was over my head or simply not something I wanted to do. One part of the book really stood out to me. He said to ask "How can I?"  instead of  saying "I can't"." He said that asking a question instead of making a statement opens your mind to possibilities.

In the years since I read that book, I noticed some interesting fallout. Sometimes I rely heavily on the concept of asking a question. "How can I teach this Sunday School lesson?"  "How can I get my kids to clean their rooms?". Other times I almost consciously avoid asking a question. "I don't have time to exercise." "I am too tired to read you a story."

As I have become more aware of this discrepancy, that little nagging voice in the back of my head starts making question for me. "Do you really not have time for exercise? I bet you do. Where could you fit it in? How could you do it?" I immediately change the subject. "Sorry! I can't talk now, I have to go watch TV!"

I get irritated sometimes when people use the "I don't have to" excuse. It can really get out of hand. I think it is contrary to what our Heavenly Father wants from his children. My own children complain when they are asked to help clean each others rooms. "I didn't make this mess, why do I have to clean it up?!" Well, that is part of life. It is service, going the extra mile, being the bigger person, whatever you want to call it. Doing something good, whatever it is, brings blessings. Not doing it brings nothing.

The Parable of the Talents teaches us that we must use our gifts, not bury them. I wonder if the Lord would still have been pleased with those who risked their talents if they had lost everything in the process. I think He would have been. I also think that would never happen. I think the Lord wants us to try things, to take chances. That is how we learn. That is how our testimonies grow.

So, do I have to fast or do I get to? The better question might be "Do I get the blessings of increased spirituality and unity with the Lord through keeping his commandments or do I not?" Is that even a question?


William said...

I really like this post. I have been feeling this way about things for a while now and this post just reaffirmed to me that I need to work even harder at changing my attitudes towards certain things!! Thanks Amy!!

Kim said...

Amy, you rock! You always say just what I need to hear! I was on my way to church just now to turn down a calling. I have never felt so overwhelmed with the thought of a calling, but this time I was convinced I just couldn't do it. You were the answer to my prayer! Thanks a gazillion! I totally love you!