Humility, thy name is motherhood.
Before I had children, I knew everything. A perfectionist by trade, I took pride in whatever project I was engaged in and did it well. Certainly parenting would follow in like manner.
Oh, how we learn!
As a child, I remember hearing Ezra Taft Benson warn of the dangers of pride. And when we had lessons in seminary on the topic in high school, I can recall thinking, “I’m so glad that pride hasn’t ever been an issue for me.”
Ha, ha. Hahahahahahahaha.
It’s interesting to recognize weakness in ourselves in hindsight. Suddenly an entire new perspective of your life emerges, and the clarity can make your heart wince.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Steven E. Snow’s recent Conference address, “Be Thou Humble,” hit incredibly close to home for me. Striving for greater humility– and teaching our children to do likewise– is such a challenge in today’s culture of entitlement. And as such a parent whom Elder Snow describes as striving to “persevere through the valley of humility,” my heart has been feeling especially heavy of late.
Elder Snow encourages:
The Savior taught His followers that they must humble themselves as a little child in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. As we raise our own children, we need to help them remain humble as they mature into adulthood.
We do not do this by breaking their spirit through unkindness or by being too harsh in our discipline. While nurturing their self-confidence and self-esteem, we need to teach them the qualities of selflessness, kindness, obedience, lack of pride, civility, and unpretentiousness. We need them to learn to take joy in the successes of siblings and friends.
President Howard W. Hunter taught that “our genuine concern should be for the success of others.” If not, our children can become obsessed with self-promotion and outdoing others, jealousy, and resentment for the triumphs of peers.
Of course these are ideals each parent should strive for. But in the heat of the battle, some days we may look at our progress as parents and feel nothing but discouragement.
Patricia T. Holland relates her own experience with these feelings:
When the Lord created parents, he created something breathtakingly close to what He is. We who have borne children innately know that this is the highest of callings, the holiest of assignments—and that is why the slightest failure can cause us crippling despair.
Even with our best intentions and our most heartfelt efforts, some of us find our children not turning out the way we’d like. They are sometimes very difficult to communicate with. They might be struggling in school or emotionally distressed or openly rebellious or painfully shy. There are lots of reasons why they may still be wobbling a bit.
And it seems that even if our children are not having problems, a nagging uneasiness keeps us wondering how we can keep them off such painful paths. At odd moments we find ourselves thinking, “Am I doing a good job? Are they going to make it? Should I spank them or should I reason with them? Should I control them or should I just ignore them?” Reality has a way of making the best of us feel shaky as parents.
But thankfully, we are not alone in this endeavor. Our Father in Heaven will never abandon us.
Though we may go through times of struggle and frustration, all of these experiences can be for our good. As Elder Snow explains, “If we choose to be spiritually attuned and remain humble and teachable, our prayers become more earnest and faith and testimony will grow as we overcome the tribulations of mortal existence.” Through increased humility we draw closer to the Source of pure love and wisdom. And He will lead us along to greater heights.
Yesterday was one of those difficult, in-the-trenches kind of parenting days for me. I have been blessed with five amazing, but strong-willed children. And we have been going through the refiner’s fire repeatedly with one of my eldest who is incredibly bright and precocious, but struggles with pride and respecting authority. More days than not I have been worn down to the brink of emotional and physical exhaustion.
As evening fell yesterday, I was left feeling overwhelmed and a little defeated. Tender mercies came in the form of one of my closest friends who arrived spontaneously with hugs and chocolate.
Moreover, this morning as I was racking my brain trying to figure out how I could write a post on something that has been quite difficult for me this past week, I rediscovered these words of Patricia Holland in a favorite book:
What I want most of all to convey is that I am one with you—a parent carrying a bundle of guilt for past mistakes, shaky confidence for the present, and a fear of future failing. Above all, I want every parent to have hope.
Inasmuch as almost none of us is a professional in child development, you can imagine why I was so encouraged to hear this from one who is. A faculty member at Brigham Young University said to me one day, “Pat, parenting has almost nothing to do with training. It has everything to do with your heart… When our attitude is one of brokenheartedness and humility, of love and interest in our children’s welfare, then that cultivates communication. Our children recognize that effort on our part. On the other hand, when we are impatient, hostile, or resentful, it doesn’t matter what words we choose or how we try to camouflage our feelings. That attitude will be felt by their discerning hearts.”
Jacob in the Book of Mormon said that we must all come down in the depths of humility and consider ourselves fools before God if we would have him open the gate of heaven to us. (2 Nephi 9:42)
That humility, including our ability to admit our mistakes, seems to be fundamental both for receiving divine help and for earning our children’s respect… I wonder if personal revelation ever comes without counting ourselves fools before God? I wonder if reaching and teaching our children requires becoming more childlike ourselves? Shouldn’t we share our deepest fears and pain with them, as well as our highest hopes and joys, instead of simply trying to lecture and dominate and reprove them again and again?
Her words, an answer to my humble prayers, brought such peace and light to my soul. I am encouraged to continue on, walking in faith and humility. To persevere in love; to be real and vulnerable in my parenting efforts. As we strive to remain teachable and open to divine inspiration, we have not failed.
It’s not about perfection.
It’s all about the heart.
Thanks for joining us for General Conference Book Club today!
How has letting go of pride affected you in your life’s journey?
How will you teach the children in your life the virtue of greater humility?
This Thursday we’ll review “What Shall We Do?” by Neill F. Marriott. Come and join the conversation!
New to General Conference Book Club? Check out the details here.