Sunday, July 17, 2011

Perceptions and outcomes.

A recent discussion with a good friend of mine prompted a bit of thought on this subject so I decided to blog about it! Cuz I always want to blog but I never actually do! So I guess anytime is better than never!

All points made in this post are generalized and are by no stretch of the imagination absolutes. Just as with any kind of diet, actual results may vary.

We have all heard the saying that says something along the lines of "Thoughts mold Actions. Actions mold Behaviors. Behaviors mold Habits. Habits mold Character. Character molds Destiny. Destiny molds Eternity." Anyone who knows anything about self improvement will tell you that it begins with your thoughts. Thought control. It is the key to self-mastery. But I want to add another link to the chain. Somewhat a precursor but more in the same realm as thoughts. "SELF-PERCEPTION MOLDS THOUGHTS".

I have been blessed enough to be a part of many conversations involving self-perception, and not specifically self-perception of a person's character, but of a person's emotions, living conditions, and any other self-related circumstances that could be perceived in one's mind. I have discussed many times how differing attitudes among differing people have led them to their current conditions of existence. Consider the rich and the poor. Generally speaking, although not always the case, the wealthy are wealthy because they see themselves as having potential to be wealthy, whereas the poor remain poor because they see themselves as poor. Those who accumulate wealth focus their minds on the prospects of the future, while the poor are often too focused on the worries of the here and now that they fail to see the potential they have to remove themselves from the situation they are in and into a better one. Consider education. A child who sees himself as limited in some way will always be limited by his own self-prophesy, while the child who see himself as having great intellect, whether it be true or not, will find himself to be successful in his endeavors. This "fact of life" has been recognized and understood for centuries. In this study I would like to present this specifically from a religious standpoint.

As a follower of Christ, I seek to follow his admonition to "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Of course I will never achieve perfection in my lifetime, but the principle remains to do all in your power to become who God would have you become. The thesis I would like to present is this: Those who see themselves as righteous followers of God will become such, while those who see themselves as sinners will remain as such.

Let's use addiction as a good place to begin. Addicts, regrettably, are great examples of this. Addiction is a vicious cycle. Addictive behaviors are in most cases a means of escape; an escape from the difficulties of life. These behaviors can easily rob an individual of self-esteem. Self-esteem is one of the most fundamentally important needs of human beings. So as behaviors become habits and habits become addictions, one loses a great degree of self respect. This in turn leads an addict to fall deeper into their addictions. The cycle continues in this manner (escape, despair, escape, despair) unless something is done to break the cycle. "Breaking the cycle" is achieved chiefly through two things: instilling a strong sense of hope and empowerment in the addict, and service. Addicts meet to discuss their hopes for the future, their vast potential to be stronger than they are, and they create a unity that gives one a sure knowledge that he or she can be free. This strengthens their self-perception. They see themselves as strong, capable, and they know that through Christ, they can do all things no matter how difficult they seem. Through service, they forget about their faults in the midst the many joyous faces of those whom they serve. They begin to feel important and their lives take on more meaning for them. So we see that the fundamental tools of addiction recovery are aimed at one thing: improving one's opinion of one's self.

These patterns that are observed are subtle. Often the addict doesn't realize that he or she is gaining a greater feeling of self-worth until long after their struggles with addiction have become almost nonexistent. They are even more subtle in our daily lives. Personally, my struggle is getting out of bed on time, or really getting to where I need to be on time in general. I know that I need to move more quickly in my preparations, but for some reason I just can't. Now some would say to me "that isn't a sin, it's just a weakness". I personally believe that all weakness and imperfection is sin. However this is not sin in the sense that people often see it today, as an act of ungodliness, but rather in the sense of the root meaning of the word sin which is "to miss the mark", the mark being perfection. (On a quick side note, being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have often seen that we, as members of the church, fall into the cycle that I am speaking of more easily than many who are not of our faith simply because of this desire to seek perfection. Please be wary of this in your own life.) The fundamental problem in my weakness is that I recognize that I am always late and I feel that I don't have the power to pull myself out of it. I have often found myself speaking to my friends on the subject and saying "I just can't get out of bed on time ever!" This is a flawed perception of myself. I CAN get out of bed! Granted it is difficult, but remember that with God nothing is impossible. And although it isn't impossible, I fall victim to my own self-prophesy because I see myself as incapable or weak.

On the flip-side, one of my strengths is caring for people. I find it very easy to love people that I don't even know, because they are children of God. I didn't always used to be this way. But somewhere down the line I decided that I wanted to be the kind of person who was like that. I envisioned myself being as such. When situations arose that could have been turning points in my endeavors to become who I wanted to be, I chose the path of action that would lead down the road I wanted, even though it was seemingly the harder road to take. I made the decisions I made because of who I saw myself as and who I envisioned myself as becoming in the near future. So we see that in this case, my self perception molded my thoughts, which in turn molded my actions, and then my behaviors, and then my habits, and finally my character. In the future, we will see how it will mold my destiny. The power of self-perception is immeasurable!

So now to return to my thesis, if a person sees his or her self as a sinner, his actions will be those of one who feels he or she cannot do anything right. Likewise, if a person sees himself as one who is able to make righteous decisions, he will do so. Therefore our eternal destiny lies in our perception of our self worth! This is why a study of the Plan of Salvation that God has laid for us is of such importance! We are children of God! He created us in His own image! He commanded us to be like Him! He wants us to be filled with righteousness, ever increasing in light and truth until we come to bask in the glory of His presence! We have infinite potential to be more than we could ever imagine of ourselves! That vision of who we are, as His children, and who God wants us to become should be the driving force behind all that we do! If we will always see ourselves as God sees us, we will become who we are to become! If we will focus our thoughts on the parts of us that are in accordance with God's will, however few they may be, they will grow! As we see ourselves as being humble servants of God, we will become such, more and more, every day, by our own self-prophesy!

When I returned home from my mission, my mission president gave me these words of wisdom. He told me of a phenomena, that I have now come to know is referred to as "glory" or "brocken spectre" (yes it is brocken, not broken), that occurs when one stands upon a high place, surrounded by fog, with his back to the sun. As the sun casts his shadow upon the misty air, the light refracts through the fog and creates a rainbow, which forms around the shadow of the person. He told me that if I am looking in any other direction, I won't see what I am intended to see. But if my eye is single to the glory of God, I will see myself shrouded in the glories of heaven, and the love of a Father and His Only Begotten Son, who always see me with a rainbow wrapped around my shoulders. I know who I am and I know who I am to become. I know that as long as I remember what the Lord sees in me, I can and will become all that he wants me to be. I am a child of God and He loves me!

And you are too and He loves you! "Go thy way and sin no more." (John 8:11)


  1. Wow! Reading this was the perfect way to start my Sabbath morning! I can't wait to read it again and share it with the missionaries, who are coming to dinner tonight! I am so excited to meet you and hope to be able to do so when I come to Az this week! I am hoping that Marc Anthony (you are JLo, afterall!) will be coming to Thatcher next wekend and bringing you! Her Aunty Shawna would like to meet you! You seem an amazing young man ~ I can't wait to read more!!!

  2. This is incredible insight. I plan on reading more of your "blargh's" - I'm truly blessed to have you in my life, Jacob. You're a fantastic human being.

  3. Thank you Chelsea :) That means more to me than you know.