Our Souls are Here to Grow

Behold, ye are little children, and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.

Doctrine & Covenants 50:40

I came across a sentiment from Vishen Lakhiani today that I thought was worth meditating upon: “Your soul isn’t here to achieve. Your soul is here to grow.”

Winning used to be a big deal for me. I was a fiercely competitive in speech and debate in high school, and I relished every medal and trophy, nearly to the point of obsession. I liked being good at something, but I liked even more being better at it than other people. It spilled over into my personal life. I was so competitive that Scrabble has been banned from our home because it almost led to a divorce. No joke: Our thirty years of marriage would have never happened if we let that game back into the house.

Injury and illness cured me of the drive to be number one. After a brush with the Reaper, I spent over six months at home recuperating. I was able to do virtually nothing but lie on the couch with my head in my sweetheart’s lap, binge watching Netflix. (We were getting down to Lone Ranger reruns before I was able to get back up and running…well, waddling). I learned that if I never had more than that, the presence of my wife, I could be completely happy. It was growth–the growth of my love for my better half–that made me happy. “Achievements” weren’t even on the radar screen, unless you counted “going to the bathroom unaided.”

Even if we aren’t A-type personalities, all of us want to feel like we have made achievements in our lives. We are proud of those moments when we surface to the top in something and people take notice, even if just for a moment. We maintain our own mental–if not physical–trophy cases and we take the time now and then to polish our awards and relive our better moments. Some of us, like Uncle Rico in “Napoleon Dynamite,” do little else.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with that. Heck, I have an actual folder in my desk at work labeled “I Love Me,” in which I store notes of congratulations or appreciation. Teeny tiny little file, mostly with notes from my wife, but it gives me a boost when I am feeling down.

The trouble comes when we equate our earthly accomplishments with our eternal progression. Often, the things that will earn us accolades among our mortal peers are different from what develops our discipleship. There is no “race” to become like our Father in Heaven, nor any difference between the star quarterback and the water boy in the eyes of our God. We knew before we came to Earth that there would only be One who would actually ace every mortal test, and it wasn’t going to be us.

As a result, we don’t need to fret over how far we have come or what we have “achieved” in the gospel as compared to anyone else. Our challenge is to do a little better today than yesterday, and wake up tomorrow determined to grow a bit more. So long as we do that, we are promised that all of us–rich or poor, famous or unknown, apostle or ward employment specialist–will receive the same ultimate reward, and it will come as a gift of God: Received not because of accomplishment, but because of endurance.

Stand a little taller, rise a little higher, be a little better. Make the extra effort. You will be happier. You will know a new satisfaction, a new gladness in your heart.

Gordon B. Hinckley
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