Tuesday, May 17, 2016

When We're Feeling Worthless

"I am not important to anyone."  

"Who I am, what I have the ability to do, what I was designed to be is of no value to anyone else."

Feelings of worthlessness get to all of us at some point or another in our lives.  Others may respond to this conflict by putting us down.  When I felt bad about myself when I was little someone used to sing me the worm song: “Nobody likes me.  Everybody hates me.  Might as well go eat worms...”  This was intended to resolve my conflict by making me feel ashamed about feeling lonely and worthless so I would then stop it.  Not a good resolution process.  Those who use it are ignorant about this specific issue and/or are full of pride, and certainly are not empathetic.  Does shaming a person who already feels bad about herself help?  No.  If we're taught to resolve this conflict in this manner when young, we will learn to entertain shame thoughts when we are feeling worthless.  This will put us into the Belly of the Whale, a place from which it is very difficult to escape.

The fact of the matter is that we do need to be valuable to someone.  We can’t smother that need.  I believe God designed us to be that way.  What does it mean to be of value if not to be of value to someone else, to our family, and to our community?  For what reason do we exist other than to be of service to our God and our fellow men and to allow them to be of service to us in turn?  Is this not what love is?  So if we are feeling worthless, we may be depending upon people who indeed don’t care about the gifts we have to offer.  And that feels awful.  We’re not alone in this conflict.  The best of the best have been disregarded, left alone, and treated as naught.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” ~Isaiah 53:3-4

After giving everything he had to reclaim the house of Israel so they might remember their God with whom they had covenanted and stop sitting on fences between him and the idols of the world, and showing them miracles that verified God's power over these idols, Elijah was still rejected, ignored, and cast out.  Feelings of worthlessness engulfed him in the following verses.  "But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.  And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." ~Elijah in 1 Kings 19:4, 9-10

“For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words—they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels.” ~1 Nephi 19:7

This is why we need the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  Our Savior values us even if others do not.  He knows who we are.  He knows our gifts and our talents.  If we look to him for validation, he uses us as an instrument in his hands and we will feel our value more than we could in any other way.  But still, the hope is that we will value each other.  That's what relationships are all about--valuing and empathizing with each other.  That's where joy comes from.  That's what we live for.  Developing these kinds of relationships here on earth is one of the key reasons for being here.  We are sent to give our gifts, offer our talents, help one another to grow and develop in order to prepare to meet God (Alma 34:32).

Watch Ourselves and Our Thoughts
“But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” ~Mosiah 4:30

It is also possible that we could allow ourselves to descend too often into thoughts of worthlessness just to feel sorry for ourselves and/or for others to feel sorry for us.  This is another type of resolution process.  And it also does not prove to be very effective in the long run.  If we yield to this temptation all the time, we actually take the empathy others offer us in vain.  Empathy is mercy.  Taking empathy and mercy in vain is taking the Lord’s name in vain. 

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” ~Mosiah 13:15

 His name is love, charity, empathy, mercy.  It is meant to sustain us through difficult times when we can’t get out of the pit we’re in despite how very hard we are trying.  When we throw ourselves into the pit without doing what is within our power to avoid it and end up over-relying on that empathy, we’re kind of taking advantage of it in a not so good way.  Mercy is meant to contain adversity to a more manageable level so we can learn and grow from it.  We don’t just want to lie down and die when it hits us.

[Then Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple, And the devil came unto him and said], If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” ~Matthew 4:5-7  (Brackets JST)

So we see it always takes two.  The Cause of this conflict and its perpetuation can come from our own choices or from others—how they treat us.  Usually the case is that it comes from both.  It's up to each one of us to determine how much to rely on mercy and how much we can contribute to saving ourselves and others.  It's a team effort.  Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we don’t have to be subject to the negligent evaluations and ingratitude of others.  Other people have their choice.  But so do we. We’re never left alone.  We have our Savior who needs and wants us.  We are valuable to him.  And he is valuable to us.  I think that's what love, mercy, and value are all about.

Listen:  "Not Alone" by Red