A few months ago, a new Mormon Message came out that was somewhat controversial. If you are unfamiliar with Mormon Messages, they are short videos meant to be uplifting and inspiring. Here it is below:
If you don't feel like watching it/don't have time to watch it, the gist of it is that a very busy mother gives of herself all day long, making sacrifices, and ultimately misses the chance to see a family member from out of town because she was so busy doing things for other people. Then it shows all the people she helped that day and the way they were blessed by her actions. The overall message is that she did more good than she ever could have known, despite her frustration and exhaustion.
I saw several blog posts pop up about this video (all of them by women). Some said it moved them to tears and helped them realize that what sometimes seemed mundane in their lives truly had meaning. Other women said that they felt like this video was promoting women working themselves to the bone and that it was vilifying women who try to take care of themselves.
I fall somewhat in the middle. As self-doubt is my M.O., my immediate reaction was guilt. How many times have I told myself that I need a rest, that I need to go to bed early or read a book, instead of helping someone? But the other half of my mind said, "But you do need a rest, sometimes. You can't save the world if your tank is empty."
This video and my own internal dialogue about it were several months ago, and I'd all but forgotten about it until one night a couple of weeks ago. I'd been really busy, really tired, and Cal was having a lot of temper tantrums. I felt like I was trying to save the world and help people all the time (self-aggrandizement and self-pity... one of the uglier results of me not getting enough sleep) and I found myself praying to my Heavenly Father, "Can't someone help me out once in a while?!" And of course, about an hour later, one of my lovely and very, very busy friends brought me a dinner she had made because she happened to be thinking of me. Cue shame at my ungratefulness.
I was doubly taught by this experience -- first, I was reminded that God is mindful of me and my needs, even when I am not acting particularly worthy of His notice. But secondly, I realized that this friend, who has plenty on her plate, took the time to notice the thought that someone might need her help and acted on it, even though she probably would have liked to take a nap or do something fun in her free time.
So the question remains -- how do you balance that need to help others, to look beyond yourself and love your neighbor, without becoming so exhausted that all your happiness is leached away? As I was pondering this myself, a verse from the Book of Mormon came to mind. The context is that a king is delivering a speech to his people and discussing the need for them to serve the poor and needy. Then he says,
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (Mosiah 4:27)This verse has impacted me before, but it was definitely a good reminder to me of priorities. I can't run faster than I have strength. I can't go and go and go until I collapse into nothing. But I do need to keep going, and try to improve. My personal interpretation of this is that we should push ourselves a little harder than we are comfortable with, so we can grow and help others, but not push ourselves so hard that we don't have any energy or joy.
What I hope for this fictional woman is that this day is out of the ordinary for her -- that there will be other times when she can relax in a hot tub with a good book, go out with friends, get a good night's sleep. I believe we do have to sharpen the saw, recharge our batteries, take your pick of the resting-up metaphors -- but not just for our own good. We take the rest stops when we can get them so we can "run with patience the race set before us," serving and loving others and finding our own joy on our way through life.