Monday, July 5, 2010

The Tyranny of Acceptable

One thing that may cause us to feel discouraged in our calling is a fear that what we do will be acceptable. I say things to myself like "I hope this will be alright." Or, I ask my husband, "Do you think the kids will like this?" He absolutely hates that question, by the way. This fear is minor and it may be kind of vague, but over time it takes a toll. The problem is that we can’t really define what acceptable is. We may not have a clear idea of what acceptable looks like. But we are sure we’ll know it when we see it! Unfortunately, we often rely on someone else to tell us one way or the other. If someone says “That was a great singing time!” or “The kids really enjoyed that” we feel relieved and validated. If we can see that the kids are involved in singing time and want to participate then we feel relieved and validated. These feelings of relief and validation control the fear for a couple of days until we start the process again the next week. If no one happens to say anything, or worse, if the kids and adults seem restless or bored, then this vague fear blossoms into a stronger feeling that we have disappointed, that we are somehow inadequate, that we have failed.

I take great comfort in this quote and read it often to remember that I can feel calm and confident.

“There can be no failure in the work of the Lord when [we] do [our] best. We are but instruments; this is the Lord’s work. This is His church, His gospel plan. These are His children we are working with. He will not permit us to fail if we do our part. He will magnify us even beyond our own talents and abilities when necessary. This I know. I am sure many of you have experienced it as I have. It is one of the sweetest experiences that can come to a human being” (Ezra Taft Benson, Teaching No Great Call, 20).

I have experienced this magnification. I know what it is like to have the Spirit amplify what I did. In fact, this happens all the time! So, within this context, I really don't need to feel anxiety about performing up to acceptable standards. What I can do doesn't have to be acceptable. It simply has to be the best I can do. It has taken me many years to be able to understand this on a level where it makes a difference. The relief I feel in this knowledge lasts more than a day or two. I am thankful that I am made perfectly adequate in my Savior Jesus Christ. This doesn't mean that I don't continue to try to be the best that I can be, but I am glad to know that He will take my efforts and magnify them. Focusing on that relieves my fear and frees me from the tyranny of being acceptable. Thank you Jesus.


Nebraska Reed Family said...

Thank you for posting this...I have felt very inadequate in this calling of Primary Choister...In all my years of serving in the church, I have not been in Primary. Yes, I was pianist at one time and learned some songs. This was about 15 years ago. However, I have not taught the songs to the children. I am really struggling with this, because I don't know most of the songs, but I am trying. We live in Bellevue, Ne. where we sometimes hold more than 1 calling. I feel like I could do much better, so that is why I look to these blogs, because basically I don't know what I am doing. I know with my Heavenly Fathers help I will be able to do this calling better, so I appreciate what you have written...Thank you again..Joycelen Reed

The Children Sing said...

Joycelen, my heart goes out to you and all who struggle to understand how to do this. In spite of what some think, this is NOT an easy calling and because I'm in a branch I also understand about doing more than one thing at a time! Sometimes it feels overwhelming. I hope you can find some help here and I hope you will find local resources (think stake leaders!) to help you also. Try hard to locate that old training video "How to Teach a Song to Children." Hopefully there is still one of them kicking around in your stake somewhere. Ask around. I really think it is the best explanation and demonstration of how to prepare to teach and present the songs. My other tip is to get the primary songs on CD and just listen to them all the time until you can learn the songs. When you know the songs yourself, things will go much better. Hang in there. :o)

Anonymous said...

This blog post from a few years ago has really touched me. You have expressed the anxiety I feel about this calling so well--and reminded me of that principle from President Benson. I always feel bad when I hear so many people talk about how this is the "best calling in the Church"--and I feel like I must be missing something because it hasn't been that way for me so far. But I think that a big reason why I haven't warmed to it yet (after 6 months) is because of the "tyranny of acceptable" you describe. Thanks for your words of encouragement!

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