I've had some things pressing on my mind for a few days now and I hope you will bear with me as I try and express them on this page.
I've been contemplating on who I am and in what I believe. It's been a rather soul-searching adventure. It's left me moody at times, feeling as though I just had no hope. It's left me anxious and annoyed that I had ever felt differently and ultimately it's left me happy, with a desire to share part of it with you.
I grew up in a religion that dictated my every move. I was taught to pray and receive answers from an immortal being who listened to not only mine, but everyone's prayers on a daily basis. I was taught that I would always be happy helping others and should strive to help someone everyday. I was told that service was a form of sacrifice that I could perform in order to please an all-knowing God who took time to help and listen to me. When I'd do service for another person I was meant to feel an extraordinary amount of the spirit, in which I was to infer meant that this God was pleased with my actions. I'd receive eternal blessings for taking a good portion out of my day to help. When I take a look back all I can remember is the amount of sweat that soaked my obese little body and the noxious smell that I must have produced. Now, before I start receiving all of these concerned messages, this is not my thoughts on leaving the Mormon church. The church itself and my feelings towards it are a discussion for another day. When I was a young man I didn't appreciate helping others and was only allowing myself to become a sweaty pig in order to become favorable in the eyes of God. It was almost as though my only reason for being a good person was based on this religion educating me on all of the blessings I'd receive for being one. My happiness and ultimately my salvation was based on whether I gained favor with God, so I did everything that I could to try and gain it.
I was going about helping others simply because I felt that it was expected of me. I didn't want to be the jerk of my congregation because I refused to help an old widow lady pull her weeds because she needed a beautiful garden even though she wouldn't even be able to go outside and enjoy it. Oh, I guess she could look out the window. I suppose that's the most important part...and I gaining "points" with God. Everyday people are doing service to gain favor in some way or another. They want to earn a badge or a have a "special feeling". They help because it's expected of them. It's what they are told to do. Why do you need to be part of a religion in order to be a good person? Why do you need to drag God into the picture in order for you to be happy? Are you truly gaining anything when the only reason you are helping someone else is because it's what is expected of you? There are a lot of sweaty pigs out there, just like me, who are only helping the old widow lady because you want to be one step closer to salvation. You are wrong, and really need to change.
As I was thinking about all of these things I came up with a few ways to help myself be a better person. These are life lessons that I'm slowly trying to adopt into my life. These are lessons that I've come up with in order to help me help others for the right reasons, not because I'm manipulated into thinking I'm going to gain favor in some way if I do. I want to share these with you because maybe they can help you. They're in no particular order because one is just as important as the others.
1. You should help others because you want to, not because you are told that it should be what you want to do. I might be the only person in the entire world who grew up doing things because I was told that's what I was going to do, but I don't think so. I know a lot of people who have been very well-trained in the ways of service that they do it because...well "because this is how I become a good person" they say. You aren't a good person because you do things that are expected of you. You are a good person because you want to be one. You want to show your support. You want to do it. A good person doesn't expect a reward, whether it be a cookie or a divine and heavenly feeling. Someone who is inherently good helps out because it's a part of their nature. They see a need and go about filling it. Yes, a religion can help you be good, but it takes a truly good and decent person who can go above what their religion dictates and help because they want to.
2. Don't be so negative. If you want to go about doing good then stop allowing the negatives of life sink into your head. The old widow lady might not have been able to go outside and actually look at the garden that some sweaty obese teenage boy helped create but it was the thought that counted. I should have looked at the bigger picture. I didn't know what she was going through nor where she had been. She could have wanted her garden to look good because every year previous she had spent hours making it look spectacular. She might have needed something bright in her life when she left her house to go to church or the doctors, because both can be rather depressing. You aren't really helping someone when you go about it in the wrong manner. When you complain about what you are doing and say negative things about having to do it then you might as well not be doing it. You aren't helping someone out when you talk about them behind their back. It makes them feel bad when they find out what you said and makes you feel worse when they don't want your help anymore simply because of something that they weren't ever supposed to hear. I will be the first to admit that I'm guilty of talking behind someones back. But, I've dedicated myself to stopping. I've come far from the obese teenager and actually like helping people now. I do however tend to grumble a little when I feel forced to help someone that I don't particularly enjoy being around.
3. Think about the positives. There are going to be times when you are asked to help someone that you don't like. The first thing that you are going to think is something negative. This is when you need to stop yourself. There is an individual who needs your help. Your preference for that person has nothing to do with the help they need. You might be the only person who can help them. It's at this moment that you discover if you are truly a good person or not. If you can put your personal feelings aside and help them to the best of your ability then you are a good person. Also, it's like I said about the widow woman, you don't know where this person has been nor their back story. Instead of being worried about your feelings towards them, focus on the task at hand. You will feel better about helping them, and maybe they will gain a little respect for you. I was told two days ago that I needed to stop letting people get under my skin. It's infectious and can make you feel sick.
4. Learn to love yourself. You cannot begin to start helping others if you don't first learn to help yourself. You need to be the most important person in your life. Your health should be the most important thing to you. You can sacrifice your entire being to helping someone but at the same time slowly kill yourself. There is no way that you can ever help someone else if you don't know how to help yourself. I wish I could tell you all the secrets of learning to love yourself but that's something that each of has to figure out for ourselves.
This post tonight was a bit preachy. The only person it was truly intended for was my sweaty obese teenage self. You guys were only a sound board for things I was trying to tell myself. But, while I have you here let me ask, what are your reasons for helping others? Why do you want to be a good person? Leave me a comment, I'd love to hear from everyone.