Last night, the assigned topic was change. I had a busy evening so I knew I'd be quite late to the meeting and I thought about missing again, but as I pondered the topic, my paper pretty much wrote itself so I went and shared it with the group. Here it is.
Here’s Your Change
I was selling tickets last week on opening night of my daughter’s school play. Ticket prices were four and seven dollars which meant I repeated the line “Here’s your change” dozens of times as I handed back various assortments of bills.
As I thought about the topic of change, that phrase “Here’s your change,” kept running through my mind. If only it were that easy, I thought. But as I reflected more and more, I realized that maybe it is. Maybe change isn’t as elusive as it sometimes feels.
Recently I was listening to a podcast when the speaker said something that was so inspiring that she may as well have reached through the internet to say, “Here’s your change.”
She pointed out, in short, that circumstances are neutral. It’s our thoughts and the meaning we give them that determine our feelings which determine our actions. So if we can change the way we think about something, we can change the way we feel and ultimately act.
This goes along with my belief that we have been put here on earth as agents to act, not objects to be acted upon.
Let me share a simple example.
Let’s say my preschooler spills her milk during dinner. I immediately get mad, thinking (and saying) that she is so irresponsible and if she would pay more attention to what she’s doing, I wouldn’t have so much work to do. I get up in a huff to clean it up, fuming the whole time.
Is she irresponsible? No. That’s only what I think about her, but it doesn’t make it true. The only fact here is that there is milk spilled on the table. What is she then? Well, she’s a preschooler. Sometimes preschoolers spill their milk and that’s okay. If I can slow down enough to change my thinking, I may even find some compassion and reassurance for my daughter to let her know that she’s normal and that spilled milk is no big deal. Do you see the difference?
So if, for example, you don’t think your husband is doing a very good job making you happy, stop and change your thinking. That’s not his job. It’s yours. No one can make you happy because you are not an object to be acted upon. It’s what you think about the things your husband does and what meaning you give to those thoughts that determine your feelings of happiness…or not. It’s also important to realize that it’s not your job to make your husband happy. It’s his. Because we’re agents to act, we have the option to choose happiness. No one can force it upon us. Release other people to feel how they feel. You can’t control their feelings. And know that you are free to feel how you feel and that you can change your thinking and the meaning you give those thoughts to arrive at the feelings and, ultimately, the actions that best serve you.
This is potentially life-changing stuff. I know it has changed my perspective. I have realized that when I react negatively based on other people’s actions, I am giving them control over me. I have learned that I can change my thinking and it will, in turn, change everything.
One other thought.
As I pictured my podcast friend reaching through the internet with my “change,” my mind’s eye focused in on another picture. It was one of the outstretched arms of the Savior. I could see the marks of the nails in his hands as he said, “Here’s your change.” I had to catch my breath because that is exactly what the Savior offers to each one of us. “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you,” (Alma 5:33).
Repentance means change. It’s not always easy, but change is what will allow us to return to our Heavenly Father and feel comfortable in His presence. We will never achieve perfection on our own, but through the Savior’s Atoning sacrifice, we can become perfect through Him. He can change our very hearts. This is available to each one of us, but He always honors our agency and will never force us to choose Him. But if and when we do, we will see Him waiting there with outstretched arms.
“Here’s your change.”