Apples to apples, Souls to souls



Women compare themselves, especially mothers.
I know that’s a broad statement, but I think it’s accurate. Even if we happen to be kind of confident about the way we do things, when we see someone else doing something well, we make a mental note on our list of Things Others Do Better.  My own list looks something like this:

hosting playdates
staying on top of laundy
fixing children’s hair and making sure they have on socks
cooking
sewing
gardening and canning
wearing make up
immaculate homes
time management
punctuality
self-discipline
and a million etceteras …..

… which I would like to point out is ridiculous. I could make a list of things I do well, too, but I won’t, because for some twisted reason it’s a lot easier to list our faults than it is our strengths.  I just realized that there is an illogical jump from “others do it better” to “I do it poorly.”  How silly is it to let another person’s strength define our “weakness”?

The universe testifies to us that God’s creations are supposed to be different.  Consider the following, all cases where despite a quantity of billions and billions, each one is unique and beautiful:

photo credits:  eyefetch.com, hickerphoto.com, pixagogo.com, nouvellesimages.com, dailymail.co.uk, seacreaturespictures.com, scientificamerican.com, hubblesite.org, nanopedia.case.edu

And when God created each thing, despite the fact that they were not all identical, He still “saw that it was good.”  It was just the way He wanted it.  Bear with me as I try to give words to some inspiration I received recently.  It came as I thought about three seemingly unrelated doctrines and realized that they had a deep and personal connection.

1. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ created a world and populated it to bring about the Plan of Salvation:  “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)”

2.  The Proclamation declares, “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

3.  All men and women are given different spiritual gifts.  “Deny not the gifts of God, for they are many; and they come from the same God. And there are different ways that these gifts are administered; but it is the same God who worketh all in all; and they are given by the manifestations of the Spirit of God unto men, to profit them. (Moroni 10:8)”  “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby. (D&C 46:11-12)”

Okay.  Is it possible that our Heavenly Father has given us individually exactly the gifts/strengths that we need to bless the family that we have?  That He provided us with the specific tools that will help them to reach their eternal potential?  The more I thought about it, the more it felt right.  Some mothers do things that amaze me, things that I feel like I can’t really do … at least not well.  But maybe her gifts are tailored to meet the needs of her particular family.  Her gifts bless them, teach them, nurture them in just the ways that they need for their proper spiritual development.  I, on the other hand, have different children, different circumstances, and completely different gifts that are custom-made by a perfect Father who knows what my family needs.  He equipped me to help my family achieve its eternal destiny, and I’m feeling pretty sure He did that for all of us.

This is why comparing ourselves to each other is fruitless (despite all those apples and oranges references).  Yep, you may do lots of things better than I do, and I’m so glad for your family that you do.  There are things I do differently, and I know they bless my family.  I teach them, love them, lead them in the ways God made me able.  There’s so much we have in common, all the mothers in the world and me:  we are daughters of God, we love and care for His children, and we have His help.  And yet, we all do it so differently because we have different gifts.  This is why President Monson’s recent counsel to stop judging each other and comparing ourselves is so important. (Remember that the process of “judging” always places us either above or below others.)

My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. … Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?

Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” The Savior has admonished, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” I ask: Can we love one another, as the Savior has commanded, if we judge each other? And I answer—with Mother Teresa—“No; we cannot.”

I believe our Heavenly Father would rather that we honor one another’s gifts and draw strength from them.  I believe He wants us to ask about, discover, and develop our own gifts so that we can reach our potential and bless others to our fullest capacity, especially our families.  I believe He already knows we do some things “worse” than others do and still sees the beauty in our individuality. I believe He loves us and wants us to do a better job of loving ourselves and loving each other.

“God, who oversees the interlacings of galaxies, stars, and worlds, asks us to confess His hand in our personal lives, too. Have we not been reassured about the fall of one sparrow and that the very hairs of our heads are numbered?  God is in the details! Just as the Lord knows all of His vast creations, He also knows and loves each in any crowd—indeed, He knows and loves each and all of mankind!”  ~ Elder Neal A. Maxwell

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21 thoughts on “Apples to apples, Souls to souls

  1. Wise words! Thanks for sharing that bit of inspiration with us. It is comforting and is actually a much less self-centered way of looking at ourselves. We are given talents to bless our families…specific, tailored sets of talents. I like that.

  2. So true.You should make a list of what you do well. It is great therapy and only vain if you brag about it. Apples and Oranges make a great Fruit Salad. The world would be boring and lobsided if we were all exactly alike.Pot pouri would not be pleasant if it were made of only bay leaves or only pine Cones etc..The mixture and interaction of the different textures,colors and scents is was makes it so pleasing…

  3. There’s judging and then there’s judging. And knowing what type we are doing and why is so important. Pres. Monson’s counsel is to not judge or “compare” ourselves to others but does that mean we are never to judge? No.

    JST Matt. 7: 1-2 Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged: but judge righteous judgment.

    Satan doesn’t want us to judge – for if there is no good there is no evil. But at the same time, because we are not God and cannot see the intent or thoughts of a person we cannot “judge righteously” in the same way He does. In our mortal realm we view things skewed to our mortal perspective and so that’s the type of judging (skewed) we do when we compare ourselves to others. And that is when it is wrong.

  4. thank you for this. i have been grappling with a few of these issues myself, with the idea that somehow what i do every day is just not enough. i’m certainly using some other barometer other than my family, which currently consists of me, my husband, and the baby on the way, because we’re all healthy and happy and growing. but still…i think i am not doing enough, not being enough, not tackling enough.

    i think were we to see, through the eyes of our Father in Heaven, our lives, we would totally reshift our priorities and feel so much better about the good things we do. we would suddenly recognize all of the true divinity that manifests itself in the loving service we give without another thought and we would be horrified by how often we tear ourselves (and, unfortunately, each other) down. it’s so unnecessary, and it’s a key to Satan’s plan.

    as i prepare, over the coming months, to be a mom, i will try to remember these wise words–that who i am is exactly who my family needs. the sum total of my gifts, talents, and even my weaknesses are the things that make it possible for me to lift, teach, bless, and strengthen.

    that’s an amazingly powerful idea. thank you for sharing it.

  5. This is something I have pondered about a lot lately as well. I have a sister in law who is CONSTANTLY down on herself and believes the everyone is always judging her. It’s really sad because the things she sees as bad in herself are things I myself struggle with too. Yet, I am confident in knowing who I am and why I am here. I don’t believe ANYONE judges me (although I’m sure some do…) and therefore act accordingly. I wish I could get her to see herself the way I see her.

  6. Such excellent thoughts, Steph. I so enjoy reading what you write. I might quote you (or paraphrase you in a talk) sometime and shamelessly take credit. Just kidding. Sort of. 😉

    Thanks so much for writing this. I just might print it out and ponder it some more.

  7. I believe your insight into these doctrines is spot on. I loved the talk that President Monson gave this last Saturday – in fact I think it is my favorite talk by him. The quote he shared from Mother Teresa also left a lasting impression on me.

  8. This seems to be a theme around Blogland lately, and I am so glad. I know all of this, and yet I still continue to compare my weakness to the strength of others.

    And for the record, I’m sitting next to you on not being able to keep up with the laundry, keep socks on my children and doing their hair nicely consistently.

  9. I’ll tell you one thing that you are most excellent at, and that is finding applicable wisdom in the words of the prophets and the scriptures. I am positive that that will erase almost all of the items on your “other’s do better” list. Thanks for sharing your insights with those of us that don’t have that profound gift!!

  10. I love love love this post!!! I have a hard time not comparing myself to other people… maybe it’s normal, but I know it isn’t healthy.

    I must be a visual learner to some point… I loved what you said, but when I saw all of those beautiful pictures of God’s creations… it really hit home for me 🙂

    A silly kids book “Tacky the Penguin” is one of my all-time favorites about how wonderful it is to be yourself.

  11. My brother gave me a book a few years ago titled Now, Discover Your Strengths. The idea of the book came from the same thing you are talking about…our training to look at our weaknesses and try to overcome them. The book suggests we should instead look at our strengths and learn how to use them more effectively. It goes through several attributes to try to help people see them in themselves and see how each one can benefit you, your family, the people you work with. It’s a good book. Definitely go back and make a list of your strengths-it’s always good to look at the postive-in ourselves and others.

  12. Hoooo Boy! What a great post! I think that as Mormon women that is something we all struggle with. How to juggle so much that we feel is totally nessesary and not be overwhelmed!

    Thank you for some more food for thought. This really was a great thinking piece for me. Heavenly Father truly does give us some wonderful reminders in so many little ways that WE are pretty wonderful as well.

  13. I loved President Monson’s words…and it’s so easy to find ourselves in the position of making snap judgments, and often we don’t know the whole story. It was such a great talk, and so very timely.

  14. Stephanie, I read this whenever you first posted it and didn’t have a chance to comment. I came to this very same conclusion a few weeks ago–while going through my recent miscarriage–and felt that you defined my feelings exactly.

    No parents can be perfect in life, but we can be perfectly fit for our children. Wow. What a thought.

  15. This really hit home with me. I loved when you said, “Is it possible that our Heavenly Father has given us individually exactly the gifts/strengths that we need to bless the family that we have? That He provided us with the specific tools that will help them to reach their eternal potential?”

    At a recent meeting, one of the speakers suggested that we pray about motherhood–to specifically ask why we are the mother to our children. Like Stephanie said, there are things that only a mother can bless the lives of her children with. There is a reason they are ours.

  16. Hmmm, I hope that you are right that our strengths are tailored to our families, since then it really WON’T matter that my husband and I are passing on NO interest in or knowledge about sports. I felt bad when my son told me the boys in his 6th grade class talked about their favorite teams an he didn’t even recognize the names, but I pray that if any of my kids has a gift for sports that needs developing, someone else will be able to fill that gap for them.

    It’s also interesting to me that some of the strengths you listed are mine (somehow I do manage to do my girls’ hair most days and usually don’t get too far behind on laundry) but I’m usually much more focused on my glaring-to-me weaknesses (always-messy and dilapidated house, huge piles of unsorted papers, blah blah blah). I need to be grateful for my strengths even as I seek the Lord’s help to work on overcoming my weaknesses.

  17. “Is it possible that our Heavenly Father has given us individually exactly the gifts/strengths that we need to bless the family that we have? That He provided us with the specific tools that will help them to reach their eternal potential?”

    Once I realized this I was able to enjoy motherhood a lot more. I needed to be the best ME not the best at EVERYTHING.

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