The LDS.org definition of Virtue included a link to the word “power”. There were links to a few scriptures that have strengthened my resolve and desire to lead a virtuous life.
The power to do good is in each person: D&C 58:27–28;
“27. Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; (28.) For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”
In the early days of divorce, I was an agent unto a good nap. At first I felt so happy and free. I really could do whatever I wanted! The dark clouds of a bad relationship had lifted. Yet as the days progressed, discouragement set in and I began to feel so useless on my own. Parenting alone was easy in some ways. The ways by which I taught or cooked for or cared for my children were never brought under question. They were never supported either. That was something that I had craved in my past relationship too, a validation that I was being a good mom, that I had made a good meal, that the goodness I was shaping in my children was “good”. There didn’t seem to be even a hope in that now. The more things I noticed about being divorced and alone in this new way of life, the more discouraged I became.
Then I’m at the grocery store with my kids. The kids were being their normal awesome selves, but I was paying too much attention to what others were doing. Their eyes would pause upon the children and smile but then a glance at my hand would reveal that I had no ring. Some of their scowls seemed to be attached to thoughts like, “does she even know about birth control?” and, “Wow, no one loves her.” My married friends always tell me that I’m just imagining things like that, but my single friends have felt it. I pulled the cuffs of my sweatshirt down a little, hiding my empty hands.
The good cause in my life became a little skewed at that point. I wanted a ring. I wanted someone to cook for. At night I wanted someone to breathe next to me. The emptiness was too consuming. Thoughts like, “I can’t do this on my own” and “I’m nothing without someone to love me” echoed in my dreams and made it hard to smile. It wasn’t depression, it was a growing cloud of desperation. And when you’re desperate, guys who like desperate women come out of the wood work.
At first I had that optimism, the I can find a good guy attitude. I got online and started hunting for someone to fix my emptiness. Do you note the change in my focus? My quickly escalating despair became a search for a feeling instead of a person. The feelings are easy to find. I was quickly back to my teenage self, pushing limits and getting too excited. So what’s the best way out of that? Repent and be lonely? Marry someone fast? Break covenants? I needed better options? I needed someone to point the way back to the Iron rod. Thinking figuratively helps me. Once I realized how far I had drifted away from the good virtue I had enjoyed in marriage…even in thought…I was scared. I looked back and wondered what it would have been like to be near the tree of life, all happy in the rest of the Lord, only to have the destroying sword of divorce slice a giant divide separating me so far from what I had dreamed and lived for.
Well intending married people tell you stuff like, “Don’t worry, you’ll be married again soon!” and, “You’re better off alone”. Whatever. All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back to him, I didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want to be married. It’s a really great place to be. I gave up trying to figure it all out and determined to do a few things that were good, that I knew I could be successful at. So that put me back in the “agent unto myself” and gave me a little hope. Though I didn’t know for sure what it was going to be, I knew that this was a good cause and that there is a reward ahead of this effort. I can still feel that truth in that, can you? We have been granted the free will to do what we want in the day and in the night. Virtue is found in the act of good. We can create and strengthen virtue by pausing to do good. There are good causes all around us. Choosing to be my own good cause helped me along the path to a more virtuous life.
What were those little good choices?
The choice to pray: Kneeling beside your bed in tears without the ability to utter words counts as prayer. I can promise you that. When I was too discouraged with myself to talk with God, I would just say, “Heavenly Father” and sit there. Sometimes I sang a song about jesus to my kids hoping that he would hear and know that I was trying to find the words to speak to him. I knew that he could hear my heart, and that He knew of my desires to be better. He knew I hadn’t figured it out yet. He knew that someday I would succeed. He shared peace with me even when I didn’t deserve it.
The choice to improve myself: Not everyone needs to get a degree to better their financial situation. But the choice I mad to go back to school was for more than just the degree. Living like I lived in a retirement community was a peaceful neglect of life for the most part. Though I kept busy keeping up with my kids, I was in limbo and knew that at some point I would need to open mail, make a budget, or even a grocery list. (Don’t laugh, you can live for months without figuring stuff out). Life was totally on hold because I couldn’t grasp the future with me in alone. I couldn’t imagine me succeeding. When I finally started making a future plan, I knew I would need to go back to school and learn how to be me again.
The choice to wait: I want you to know that for every bad date I went on, I avoided two or three of the wrong kinds of guys. I was trying. I was saying no to guys who wanted to hook up, just not all of them. I would go out with the ones I thought I could say no to. (Disclaimer- Mormons don’t understand the true definition of the words “hooking up”). The better I got at saying no to a handsome guy that wanted just to hold me, the better I could spot the good men in the world around me. Married ladies don’t worry, I wasn’t trying to get the attention of your men, I was just learning from them, from the way they looked at and treated you. It was in these observations that the desire to hope, and the desire to wait began to blossom.
Find 3 ways to progress towards goodness. Be an agent of virtue! You’re not alone, I’m over here being virtuous too. 😉