But I Always Want to Know the Things One Shouldn't Do

Guest Post from Maralise "But I always want to know the things one shouldn't do." "So as to do them?" asked her aunt. "So as to choose," said Isabel. ---Portrait of a Lady by Henry James This cheeky but sincere interaction between a young American and her ex-patriot Aunt stunned me when I first read it. Not because it was clever (come on, James is always clever), nor because it rang true for me (which it does) but because it made me reconsider why I make the choices I do. I have a sick interest in knowing the "not so sunny" side of decisions. My husband and I have often discussed (of course with great decorum and emotional restraint...ha) how many of our choices are black & white and how many are gray. To me, many of the decisions we make are gray. There are those that have great import to our physical and spiritual selves, and those that have very little import other than us thinking that they do. So, I wonder...are we as Mormons and mothers so obsessed with being good that we turn every decision into a good and bad choice? For example, am I a "bad" mom because I let my son watch TV for a certain number of hours today? Am I a "good" mom because I didn't let him watch for more than 1 hour? Am I a "good" visiting teacher because I set up and take charge of the monthly appointments? And does that make my partner "bad?" I know there are true and untrue doctrines, good and evil choices, even good and better decisions, but I think we have a tendency to group ourselves into "us and them" when we view all of our choices as Black and White. And in doing so, we disallow ourselves from having a whole portrait of others. And I think this judgment makes us lose some of our ability to empathize with their condition. In conclusion, am I willing to stand in the foyer at church and hand out flyers that say, "The world is a foggy mix of gray decisions?" No. Do I think the youth leaders in our ward should preach that it doesn't matter what choices the young people make? No. But would I like to quietly say that some of our choices may or may not affect our eternal salvation and our happiness in this life and in the hereafter? Yes. Well, maybe anyway.


Anonymous Selwyn said...

Ooooooooooh, now you're getting into a grey area *grin*. I think we always start beating ourselves up when we start talking about "good" and "bad" - normally because we're feeling inferior to Ms. Perfect-Always (whom I've never met,nor seen, nor care to!)

There are always more choices available than "yes" or "no". Knowing other options exist, and what they are, plays an important part of making decisions, choices and asking for help in prayer in making those decisions.

You're not "good" and making your VT'g companion "bad" by organising the visits. It's all relative. If you organise them to say "I HAVE to do them because SHE never does" is different than doing them because she's just had a baby and has had complications... If we do the best we can, we're doing better than "good" - we're doing great. And if not, we're not "bad", we're just still getting "better". My 3 cents worth.=)

4/02/2006 10:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

Good vs. Bad.


That's interesting because some decisions are easy. Very easy. Drugs, bad. Pornography, bad. Murder, bad. Stealing, bad. But as I've gotten older the one thing I've noticed more than anything is how gray everything can be.

Am I a bad person for asking the RS to get me an easier VT partner because I was called to be the PP and I don't have time to be with a VT partner who refuses to return my calls?

Am I a good mom because I have instilled discipline in my home even though it may sometimes be at the expense of trust?

Am I bad mom or a good mom because I focus on cleaning one day and ignore the children, but then the next day I focus on the children and ignore the house?

Everything seems to be gray/grey. That's why we have the Holy Ghost to let us know if we are doing good or not. I think that's the best gift we could have ever been given. Life is hard, choices are hard, results can be hard, but at least we have a guage in which to tell us if we're doing okay...

4/03/2006 09:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am grateful also for the Atonement which, as I am striving to do my best with the good, the bad, the ugly and the gray, can compensate for my goofs along the way. The phrase "free to choose" means, in part (at least to me) that we are free to mess up along the way, because the Lord knew we WOULD mess up, especially as we make choices with the many options available (and the many voices shouting that their way is the "best" way). I like the reminder that the Spirit is really the only voice that matters, bottom line (of course, taking prophetic counsel, other good studying in our mind, etc. into consideration).

Also, I think we start getting really "good" when we are "doing our best" strictly for the love of God, not for relative or comparative or other externally-based reasons. In a way, there is no relative because we are only in comparison with ourselves and where we can be, not with anyone else. Don't know if I'm making sense on that point.... I'm still way too focused on comparisons to feel "good" about what I'm doing...and need to do more looking upward in that whole process. THAT is when what we are doing can be clearly GOOD.

4/04/2006 01:27:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

One of the RS general presidency members gave a talk either last year or the year before about this very topic (obviously I took careful notes). So many times it comes down to a choice between two good things and the trick is deciding which thing is more important - and RIGHT to do - at the time. Like, I could sit here and blog (a good thing) or I could get up and make sure my children have breakfast and in my daughter's case, a clean diaper (also a good thing). My kids are always going to win out over blogging, but you get the idea. Sometimes you have to choose between going to the cannery and going to the temple. Hmmm.

I get tripped up when I get too busy. I find myself having to make a choices between "which appointment can I cancel? Or should I fit them both in and be really late for one?" and "do I show up unexpectedly to go with my daughter's class on a field trip because my husband was going to but didn't know he had court that day and it turns out he can't go, or do I apologize profusely to her teacher and hope she doesn't lose one of her kids?"

That's the point that I have to take a step back and say, PRIORITIZE and stop saying yes to everything! (and slap my husband for his shortsightedness)

4/04/2006 12:47:00 PM  

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