Ashlee Birk has been one of my many tender mercies the past couple of weeks. See her story here. I am grateful for her friendship...she has sent me text messages of hope, love and encouragement. She gets it! She understands the importance of directing your attention outward instead of inward. Life is not about self…it is about others.
What makes Ashlee so amazing and why do people love to hear her story? Is it because her husband was murdered and she discovered at the same time that he was being unfaithful, or is it because of the way she has chosen to handle her situation? Or maybe it is not an either or situation. Maybe the tragedy draws people in and simultaneously they want to know how is she doing this?
As a friend of Ashlee’s, I can say that she does not share her story because she wants pity or glory. She shares her story because of a desire for you to know and act on the principles she has discovered. It is more than her belief in God and His teachings, but it is the action from that knowledge that is helping her successfully navigate through her trials. She has chosen not to let her story end there…at the tragedy. She has chosen to turn her tragedy into a success story.
Here’s the thing, Ashlee, like me and everyone else, has her hard moments…her less than happy moments. She still has moments of sadness. She still has to battle forgiveness every day. She still has her doubts about herself and feeling like maybe she is not enough. But she also knows that those times will pass. She understands that God will help her through this. She understands that knowing, understanding and discussing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others is a beautiful thing. But the beauty does not lie in the knowledge, it is in the action and doing that we receive the greatest blessings and joy. It is when we focus our attention outward, rather than inward that we are able to act on what we know. It is through the action that we receive the healing.
Upon thinking about Ashlee’s tragic story, and after recent conversations with several friends who have and are experiencing some pretty tragic and hurtful situations, I have started to wonder. ... Why do good people make poor choices? This has led me to do some serious pondering and praying for answers.
In my pondering and searching, I have discovered something that is common in every one of the cases. I have discovered that it all leads back to selfishness. With this realization, I started to think about selfishness and how it relates to grief.
In thinking about the whole grieving process, I have come to realize that grief can be a selfish process. It is during the healing process that we focus on self. Grief is about why me; how could this have happened; what is going to happen to me; will I ever feel better; what and who can help me feel better; etc.
Obviously, grief is a necessary part of God’s plan or it wouldn’t happen. We need to remember “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4) Life is about learning and there are things we are able to learn through the process…so, yes, we need to grieve.
So…maybe it’s not so much about eliminating the selfishness of grief, but minimizing it. It is about learning to become more selfless. God is not looking for us to just “get over it,” He just wants to help us get through it. We cannot just go around or over our trials, we must go through them. God understands this and is willing to help us. It’s about knowing God and doing the things He KNOWS will work to help us get through the process of grief. And one of those things is service to others.
Many of us have experienced great losses, whether it be through death, divorce, or any other tragic situation, and because of that loss or hurt we can become a better person if we choose. We can turn our losses and hurt into a gain and obtain a greater understanding of God’s plan, and then we can implement that knowledge and live accordingly. We can live a different life. A life with great meaning. A life of service. In order to live a life of service we have to let go of pride and ego. It is not about what we can get, but what we can give to others. The irony is the more we build others up, the more we are built up.
So how do we become more selfless while grieving? Sharing your story, your heartaches, your pain and your sorrow can be an act of service. It helps others to connect with you. It helps them to see that they are not alone. Sharing facilitates the creation of relationships. But where the grieving process becomes selfish is when we forget to let others share with us. It is about understanding that they too have had hurt and loss. It is about getting to know them and showing compassion and understanding toward them. It is not always about them helping us to feel better, but about us helping them to feel better.
Like Ashlee, I discovered early on that when I was struggling with my grief if I turned outward and focused more on other people, my own grief was diminished which in turn helps with the healing process. When I am being more selfless, I am better able to cope with my losses…I receive the enabling power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is when we are selfless that we make better choices and decisions. When we are selfless we think about what might hurt someone before we do it.
Unfortunately, when we lose sight of being selfless, it is difficult to be aligned with God. When in self-mode, we tend to forget about others, which includes God. If we are not receiving personal answers from God, is it because we are so caught up in our self that we are not aligned with and willing to listen to God? And more importantly do we see that maybe we need to be more selfless? I have wondered how often God has tried to communicate with me and been unsuccessful because I was in self-mode.
Maybe, at times we are trying to regain what we lost by taking things into our own hands because we are focused on self instead of God. Unfortunately, by doing so, we remove the help we can get from God. We don’t trust that He will make things right, because how can He possibly make things right for us here in mortality? It may not be the “right” we thought it was supposed to be, but someday it WILL be made right. And, who is to say that something very different than what we thought it should or would be is not the right thing?
We can’t trust God, if we don’t know God. How can we know God if we are focused on our self? Self-mode does not lend itself very much to getting to know others. In order to know someone we have to talk to them. Ask them questions. Show love and concern for them. And we need to listen to them and actually hear what they have to say. So it is with God. We need to talk to Him through prayer. Read the scriptures to understand Him. And we need to listen and hear His answers.
Like Ashlee, I have also discovered that you need to turn it over to and trust God. Learn to really pray. Learn to really listen. It is not always easy…some days are better than others. But with God’s tender mercies and help we can make it through this thing called life!
Let Ashlee’s story inspire and motivate you. Motivate you to DO what she does. It is more than just hearing and knowing her story…it is in the doing. Follow her lead and DO what she does. It is those things that will help YOU to HEAL!
P.S. Don’t forget this is a daily battle. Do not lose hope! And always remember you ARE enough and MORE!