The new year brings with it that tradition of making resolutions. These goals seem to regularly focus on changing what we don’t like about ourselves, often such lofty changes that are so far beyond our reach that we abandon them by the 5th week of the year. I love this time of year, and have learned through experience that it’s best to use resolutions as a way of making goals that I know I can achieve.
I haven’t quite made an official list of specific goals for the year, but the thought of how I can become better has been on my mind. I have come up with a theme for my year, and that is to not be so hard on myself and others.
A huge part of this goal begins with not comparing my life to others’ in a way that makes me feel worse---or better—about my own life. It can be helpful to use the good we see in others as an example of good. The problems in comparing come when we begin to compare all the many aspects of life—marriage, children, finances, appearance, homes, creativity, and other talents---in a way that lead us to feel that we often just don’t measure up. How easy it has become to get bogged down by other people’s “perfect” lives we see only from social media posts, often only glimpses of perfection. We see all the things we are NOT, forgetting all the things we ARE.
Many months ago, in a particularly low point in my life, one in which I had been doing too much comparing and was being too hard on myself for all that I was NOT doing or NOT accomplishing, when I came across the one passage of scriptures that taught me more than ever before to quit being so focused on all my NOTS and to begin to see myself the way Christ sees me.
This scripture is of some of the last words Christ spoke while on the cross.
And [one of the thieves also being crucified] said unto Jesus,
Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
And Jesus said unto him,
Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
As I read that scripture this time—as never before--I truly began to understand the power of Christ’s statement. Here is a thief, having done something terrible enough to be sentenced to death, along with Jesus Christ, having a change of heart and pleading with Jesus to remember him. Christ could have taken that moment to reprimand the man, to remind him of the evil deeds which landed him a spot on the cross next to him and to prison on the other side. Instead, Christ gave this man hope, returned kindness for kindness, and explained that even a thief could have a chance to change and become better, even he deserved to be given the benefit of the doubt.
This passage, more than ever before, taught me how Christ sees me and how he sees each of us. He sees everyone as their best self, as a soul who can still make it, can still return home, as someone of great worth and value, despite whatever choices have been made in the past.
Some might read this passage and think, “Hey, all I have to do at the end is just believe and ask, and I’ll make it.” As has been said, “‘Twas a thief said the last kind word to Christ: Christ took the kindness and forgave the theft.” ¹ I don’t believe Jesus meant this thief would be completely forgiven and go directly to heaven, just for kindness or for a desire to believe. No, this thief--like me and all who have and will live--still had work to do. But, Christ could see his potential. Jesus acknowledged the thief’s penitent heart and gave him courage and mercy, understanding and encouragement in the darkest hour of mortality.
Christ gives us the benefit of the doubt, even when we seem to screw it all up.
Jesus is able to be merciful because He sees the beginning from the end and knows what we truly can become if we choose to do so. He is cheering us on and giving us credit even when we don’t meet that goal of perfection today or tomorrow or ever on our mortal journey. ² His arms of mercy are extended to us all to be with Him in paradise, to learn and do all we need to in order to be judged and eventually reach our potential for life eternal.
This, more than ever, made me truly understand what it must mean when we read, “The Lord looketh on the heart.” ³ Jesus sees my heart. But, not only my heart at this exact moment in time! Without being bound by the concept of time and mortality, Christ is able to see me-and all of us-- as we always were meant to be, to view us as eternal beings, as sons and daughters of God with divine potential, He sees me and you as our best selves, not as we see our fellow man and compare, judge, categorize, or label, as if we know the big picture. Jesus actually knows the big picture and sees my place in it. He also knows what I can become, having met and fulfilled every New Year’s resolution we could possibly make!
He sees me as I am, yet still loves me with all my faults and all the ‘NOTS’ I now have because He also sees me as I could be. My ‘AMS’ are enough right now, as long as I continue on with trying to overcome some of my NOTS, all while remembering to give myself a break when I fall short. I strive to see myself as Christ sees me, through merciful, kind, loving eyes, while being able to take in consideration my good intentions, all my attempts to be a little better every day.
This is the kind of person I want to be—one who can give others the benefit of the doubt, to see beyond this exact moment, but to try to see all as souls who are loved and known children of God. If Jesus could give love and mercy to a thief being crucified for his crimes, I should be able to love and forgive the grumpy woman at the store, the pushy mom at the PTO meetings, the sad and cold fellow patient, not returning a warm smile.
In addition, I should be able to not be so hard on myself, to not get discouraged or bogged down by the times I fall short. I love how John H. Groberg said it:
“Just as discouragement and depression feed on themselves (can’t you just hear Satan saying, “You can’t do it, you are no good, you’ll never make it”—sometimes he says that right to your heart, and sometimes he uses others as his agents), so does hope regenerate itself. Can’t you likewise hear the Savior saying, “You can do it, you can make it, you are worth something. I laid down my life for you. I love you. I redeemed you. I paid for you because I know you can make it. You can come home. Trust me. Follow me.” Again, sometimes he speaks directly to our hearts and sometimes uses others as his agents. But there is always hope in him.” 4
The only kind of hope that truly matters, that hope that lies in truly believing Christ—is the same hope fueling my resolutions---for this year and for the years to come. Because Christ sees me as my best self, is cheering me on, loves me eternally, and will never give up, I am more likely to use that hope to better myself and to help me have a better love for others. And, on the days I am frustrated by kids, or the insurance company, or any number of my fellow man…..I can try to remember that they, too, are given the same promise of hope.
1. Robert Browning, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 13th ed., 1955, p. 573-b.
2. See Jeffrey R. Holland, “Tomorrow the Lord Will Do Wonders among You”, Ensign, May 2016.
3. See 1 Samuel 16:7.
4. “There is Always Hope,” fireside address given at Brigham Young University, 3 June 1984.