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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Am I a Good Person?

I've now seen The Blindside twice. One of the best movies I have ever seen--so much that I've wondered if it's THAT bad to take a camcorder to the movie theater. I'm not going to sell it, just watch it over and over again.

There's a line in there that got me the first time, it struck me, but it made me cry the second time. In a scene where her motives are being questioned she asks "Am I a good person?" You've just watched a film that shows the amazing things she's done for someone else, and yet in her mind she's boiled it down to the question of motive. Why did she do those things? Were her reasons pure? If she did them for the wrong reasons are the things she did also wrong?

I ask myself this question a lot, and after so many years I still don't have the answers.

Am I a good person for having raised someone elses child, or was I simply looking to be a hero?

Now that the whole hero thing has backfired, would I have done it again knowing what I know now?

Is that only because it didn't go the way I hoped?

Do I only do good things because I want a good result?

Am I still a good parent when I resent the messes, the hours of cleaning, the unappreciation of my efforts?

Am I good person even though I find it so hard to forgive?

Is it fair that I divide my time between my family and the fictional characters in my head?

Yesterday was supposed to be my youngest daughter's baptism. She turned 8 in October, and I was planning to have her baptism in November, a couple of days before my book tour. Turned out that this year the stake baptisms are on the second Saturday of the month, not the first.  Right in the middle of my tour.  We had to put it off until December. I felt horrible and even though I realize it was simply a mistake, this is a BAPTISM, and it got bumped because I had a book tour--two weeks away from my family. It has not sat well with me, but I simply focused on the 12th of December and moved forward. Yesterday it snowed all day. Most of the family members canceled; and for good reason. I don't want them to take unnecessary risks, and the roads were really horrible. But as the day ticked on and the snow got deeper I realized that the chances were good that no one would make it; even those who lived just an hour a way. I saw two options: 1) Have the baptism anyway, but with only us. 2) Reschedule for January and hope more family members could make it.  My husband thought we should do it anyway, but you know what? As we thought and talked about it I kept going back to the part where if we'd done it in November, all those people would have been there. It was my fault it hadn't worked that way. Therefore, I felt responsible for the fact that after building up this event, KB's memories would be of only having her siblings and parents at her 'big' day. Lee and I finally decided to let KB decide.

I sat her down and explained the situation. Did I present it honestly? Without trying to prod her into making one choice over another? I don't know. I tried to focus on the important aspect being the ordinance, not all the extra stuff. Did I make it clear enough? I don't know that either.

She went into her room to think about it, and when she came out her eyes were red and her face was swollen. She's the only girl in her class who hasn't been baptized. She didn't like that she wouldn't be baptized until she's in a whole new primary class--9-10 year olds. She's been eight for two months already. She wanted to wear her new dress to church.

Did I appreciate those things enough? If I'd have just said "This is your day, Kylee, let's do this and forever have very special memories of the people closest to you being there?" would she have chosen another direction?

She chose to wait. I admit that I was relieved. Is that wrong too? Then I started calling people to tell them. Everyone was very nice, but I could hear an undercurrent "You're canceling an eternal ordinance because some people can't come?" I braved through all that using the "I'm doing what KB wants." but did she understand it enough to really know? Was it fair to leave the choice to her?

I don't know. I do know that I was unsettled about it all day, that I'm worried about what people think, and the message I've sent to KB and my other children. Today she should be welcomed to our ward as the newest member. But she won't be. Am I a good person even though ...

When I really think it through I do believe I'm a good person, for the most part. I try to do good things, and try to be fair minded and encouraging to others. And yet even making that declaration makes those things I've been wrong about glaringly apparent as they rise up as arguments against me.

And so I'm curious if we all do that to ourselves. I'd like comments to be left in the format of "Am I a good person even though...."

I'm not asking in hopes to make myself feel better--or am I? I don't know.


Brooke said...

Am I a good person even though I refused to help my sister in law move because NO ONE helped us? Not very Christlike of me. Am I a good person even though I wish my kids sometimes had school on the weekends too? Am I a good person even though I think mean thoughts about people I truly care about in general, they just really irritate me sometimes? Thanks for the thoughts. You've really made me evaluate myself.

Mary said...

I struggle with this all the time. I'm afraid I don't have an answer for you. All I can say is - do your best and the Lord will make-up the rest.

Your daughter will be fine. Three months isn't that long in the broader picture of things.

Kristina P. said...

I think you did the thing that was best for you guys. You are a good person.

Jordan (MamaBlogga) said...

Am I a good person even though I leave my young children to their own devices (or worse, in bed) for long periods of time?

Really, I worry about this, though I'm trying to be gentle with myself. I've been sick for two months now (so I'm trying to be gentle with myself physically and judgmentally), so I can't be myself or do everything I want to/should, at least not every day.

This was a struggle (but less so) before I was sick, but I really don't know if things will ever be that "normal" again.

On your story, Josi, it's really okay. It's an eternal ordinance—odds are pretty strong that waiting a month or two won't hurt her.

I think part of the reason why this is a hard decision is that there's not a wrong answer. A baptism with just your immediate family would have been a very special experience—and a baptism with all of your family will be, too.

(And to be honest, I remember almost nothing about my baptism, but much more about baptisms I've attended as an adult.)

Cheri Chesley said...

We all struggle with this question at one time or another. I question my motives all the time. Am I doing this because I know it's right, or am I doing it because I want the glory associated with it? From an outsider's perspective, I think you're a good person. But it's a continuing struggle. We don't automatically stay good people--our motives can be convoluted over time. It's not a bad thing to continually reevaluate ourselves to make sure we're STILL a good person inside.

CTW said...

Thanks for such a touching post. There is no question in my mind. You are a good person. I am a good person. We often struggle with the human ordeals of the mind. You absolutely did the right thing to let your daughter decide. There are too few milestones in our children's lives as members of the church. This is a celebration as much as an ordinance. Letting the celebration part of it in is a good thing--a good person allows that. I'm sorry for her that she had to postpone, but even that can be a teaching moment. Tell me the truth--knowing what you know about me, should I watch this movie? Can I handle it?

Amber Argyle-Smith said...

Am I a good person even when I let my son watch more than his alloted 2 hours so I can write more?

Kimberly said...

You know, while I think it's a great and thought-provoking question to ask ourselves, I don't think we can so easily label ourselves. I don't think I'm a good person or a bad person. I'm just a person who sometimes does good things and sometimes does bad. Who sometimes has selfless motivations but other times am self-centered and self-serving.

Of course, I'm also a person who is striving to be more than just a person. Striving to be better. Striving to be good. I'd love to look in the mirror some day and smile serenely and think to myself, "Yes, you're there now. You're the good person you've so long been striving to become." (And then I'll teeter off on my walker or in my wheelchair...).

Laurie LC Lewis said...

I do think we all do these things to ourselves. Of all the things for which I'm grateful, I'm most grateful for this one, that "the Lord looketh on the heart." If we get the heart right, even when the details are off, it will be okay.

L.T. Elliot said...

Am I a good person even though I sometimes resent serving? Am I a good person even when I feel like the last thing I want to do in the world is answer that phone and help out again? I don't know. I guess I just try to do the best I can.

I know you don't want to hear it but I'm telling you anyway--because you know me. You ARE a good person. You're one of the finest women I've met and I can't begin to tell you how I look up to you and admire you. You're kind. You're thoughtful. You're fun. And I truly believe you're a great mom. So even if you can't believe it of yourself, at least you can believe it from me. I think you're wonderful.

Grandma 'D' said...

Wow Josie...I'm sure we have all asked ourselves that very same question!!! You never cease to amaze me in your ability to teach us. We are not perfect...and definately human. which is a flaw in itself at times. And all we have to fall back on, for reassurance, is that still small voice and a peace in our heart that tells us we have indeed made the right choice. You are an inspiration to this old lady.
Your family is very lucky to have such a wise and loving Mother.
ON another Note..... I loved, loved, loved 'English Trifle'.
Can't wait for Devil's food Cake!!!

Becki said...

it always astonishes me when someone i have no doubt is good has doubts. of course you are good! you have been an incredible, irreplacable gift in my life! if you/we all do the best we can every day that's good. we can't predict the future or change the past, all we can do is the best we can at the moment. 'best' fluctuates according to circumstances (and hormones) so we can't compare it to someone else's best or even our past efforts. one of my favorite things about Pres. Hinckley was how often he said: 'just do your best' and he sometimes qualified it with 'very best' but he seemed to sense that we are all too hard on ourselves and looking for perfect results if what we've done is good enough. it's okay to wonder and search our souls but keep on going. the great thing you did with your daughter is let her decide. it showed you had confidence in her decision and understood it was about her, not you. this will resonate with her when even bigger decisions have to be made. i love that Nephi described his parents as 'goodly' not great, fabulous, wise beyond all others or even perfect. they were good and so are you.

Heather B. Moore said...

FWIW, I think you made the right decision. I waited 2 months for my baptism and we had no family around. Granted, we lived in Egypt, but when I was Primary President, I always emphasized how lucky the kids were to have their family members there. I think it strengthens the extended family's testimonies. It seems that family who is less-active or even privately struggling with their testimonies will feel the spirit at a baptism as well. It's really the closest feeling of being at the temple without being "in" the temple. I know it was hard for your daughter, but the spirit is so strong at baptisms that your extended family will benefit from that bonding that will take place.

Kimberly Job said...

Am I a good person even though I chose to get a divorce and change my children's lives forever?

Am I a good person even though sometimes I'm glad when they go to their dad's?

Am I a good person even though I'm too tired from working and neglect the things that are most important?

Am I a good person even though I care too much about what others think and let if affect my decisions?

Josi, we all struggle, wanting to be better and more than we are. You can only do what you can do, and Mom needs to be taken care of too.

I'm sure your family is happy that you have something you love so much and I'm sure writing makes you a better person, and a better mother.

We can't run faster than we have strength, nor can we control everything around us. I think you made the right decision by leaving the choice up to your daughter.

((HUGS)) You're awesome!

Sandra said...

Oh, I saw the movie for the first time yesterday. Notice I said first time? I will be seeing it again, and again, and.... and when it comes out on DVD? I will buy a copy and a just in case back up. It is that good.

And it even prompted a similar post from me.

Lorrie Munson said...

Good thoughts and very good comments. Thanks you for sharing.

As a Mormon Counselor I usually tell my clients that guilt is good. It helps us to want to repent. So, the question is what do you need to repent of? Unless there is something you are not saying in your blog, I can't see that you need to repent. So you need to stop thinking about guilt.

Our biggest fault is not finding joy. Your daughter has been taught about eternal ordinances, now she needs to learn about joy.

Have a wonderful season of celebrating and keep bogging. Others enjoy what you are doing.