EPISODE 8: Choices - Solutions to get unstuck from pornographyNov 12, 2019
Choices – the way forward.
Finding your way is a matter of choices and making the ones that you believe will bring you the most happiness.
So, I often work with young men struggling with pornography who are just about to graduate high school and, for members of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, that means that they are getting ready to choose whether they will serve what we call a full-time mission.
That means that they will spend 2 years away from family, away from girlfriends, away from college studies and sports and they will go out to a place they are assigned and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with complete strangers, sometimes in a language that they will learn that they have no experience with.
When I was young boys went at 19 and girls at 21, now those ages are younger, boys can now go at 18 and girls a year later.
A lot of these boys are struggling with anxiety, with pornography, with knowing if they will be the missionary they need or want to be.
Just a note about my show notes. they are essentially the outline and notes that I use to do my podcast. I don't edit them once I finish the podcast, so they are here for you as is and to give you a little glimpse into my mind as I do the show. They aren't a word-for-word transcript.
I had a conversation with someone just today about the choices that he is making and why he is holding back from moving forward with his life because of the overwhelming feeling that he has. He said to me, It's hard to find the motivation to go to school when you don’t know why you are going.
Which lead him to feel overwhelmed and then led to various types of buffering and avoiding.
What I’m not saying is, just go because you should or because someone else says you should or because you think you are supposed to or some other external reason.
As I was talking with this young man the question I asked him was, why are you choosing to stay home?
That took him back a pace because it wasn’t that he was actively choosing it, it was that he was not choosing anything.
Now, this wasn’t about him serving a mission but in a way, it is the same conversation.
Inaction is a choice, but often we don’t think of it that way. we think of it in terms of not yet chosen.
But in reality, we are choosing, we are choosing the status quo.
What is happening with this young man is that he feels stuck, overwhelmed, and generally unhappy.
Some of you are thinking, yeah, because he isn’t choosing the right thing. He isn’t doing what is right and so he is not happy.
But think about what you are saying there. You are essentially saying that we don’t choose the thing that we are told we should do, go on a mission, go to college, then our happiness will be in jeopardy.
By that logic, most of the world is simply unhappy and can’t have joy.
The real reason for this sense of overwhelm is his thoughts, what he is making his choice of inaction mean, and his lack of ownership.
We already talked about his thought and his feeling. In the conversation, he also told me that if he doesn’t go to school that will mean that he can’t get a good job and provide for his future family. That was what he was making it mean that he doesn’t have motivation.
But the flex point, the place where the rubber meets the road is the lack of ownership.
The truth is, regardless of whether he goes on a mission or goes to college or whatever, unless he decides the path he wants to take, he will stay unsatisfied and continue to choose thoughts that overwhelm and hold him stuck.
He didn’t go on a mission, not because he chose to do something else or chose to stay home, he didn’t go because he outlasted everyone else in the game of ‘when are you going to put your papers in’. he didn’t declare his choice, he simply chose inaction and the world passed him by.
Now he is in the same place with his schooling. Somewhere in him, he believes that going to college will benefit him, but he hasn’t made the choice to do it or not do it. He is simply waiting for the people around him to stop telling him what he should do.
That’s a terrible strategy for life if you want to be satisfied with what you are doing.
And by the way, being satisfied with what you are doing and the path your life is taking is part of my definition of joy.
when that is how you choose to act you are acting in the only way you know how to control the situation, simultaneously you are expecting life to come to you and put you on the path that you want with no personal buy-in.
If this is you, let me give you 4 easy, simple things you can do to move forward.
Then I will tell you the story of my own struggle of whether or not to go on a mission.
First: choose to decide, knowing that it will be the right thing.
Second: Make the decision and stick with it for a set period of time – 1 week, 1 month, 1 year
Third: Tell 5 people that you love about your decision and ask them to help you follow through and to support your decision for just 1 year.
Fourth: be willing to be wrong
I walked into the church building not knowing if I wanted to be a missionary for my church.
I had grown up as a member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints and I was the 4th child in my family.
My oldest brother served as a missionary in Portugal. He had a distinguished career as the elder who fixed all the bicycles in the mission. He served faithfully and came home a better person.
My brother just older than me served in the Boise Idaho mission and is a keen scriptorian. Discussing a gospel topic with him brings out the best in you and in your understanding of God and others around you.
My oldest sister who is the number two child in the family went on a mission after both of my brothers to chile in the Santiago south mission where she learned to love Chileans more than she loved any people before.
But for me, I had not known that I would serve a mission. In fact, I felt like my bad habits, including pornography use and masturbation, were things that would mean that I couldn’t go on a mission.
I also didn’t know that I wanted to teach the gospel to complete strangers. Partly because I didn't know if I thought it was the truth.
I had done seminary, early morning bible study for high schoolers, held in our basement. Seminary teacher was my good friend David Stuart.
I would roll out of bed at 5.59 and 59 seconds and go down in my pajamas so that I could have the chocolate milk and donuts that he would bring.
It wasn’t for the lessons, though he was a good teacher. I was not a good student.
It was because I respected him and knew that he loved me like a son.
I went to church with my family for my entire life. My dad is a staunch believer in doing the right thing and being right about it. So we never did anything halfway at our house. We were members of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints go to church every Sunday for 3 hours and then we come home and we eat and take naps.
Not sure if that last part is really what everyone does but that is what we did.
My dad is also a staunch believer in naps.
Each week when we had youth night, we called it mutual or young mens night and sometimes we did combined activities with the young women, I would go. Mostly because I wanted to but sometimes because I was told I had to.
I didn’t always get along with my youth leaders. One brother in particular whose name I have forgotten but some of my friends from that era will probably remind me after listening to this podcast, he was particularly difficult for me to get along with.
I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me – at least I didn’t think so then. But he was, in reality, a decent guy who was just doing his best to deal with a kid who was difficult to manage because I loved mischief.
I also had leaders Like my dear friend Shawn Stephenson. One of the greatest men I know. A good man, with a good heart, who could see past all the nonsense of a teen boy and just love him for who I was.
But none of that meant that I really wanted to serve as a missionary for my church because I didn’t know how, I wasn’t sure of the message, and I didn’t think I could toe the line as a good missionary.
There are all the rules and all the people telling you what to do and really what not to do and I have never liked any of that sort of thing. I like to discover for myself the best way forward. If there is a rule that I don’t agree with, I will either skirt it or I will try to change it. I don’t believe in nonsense like, just do it this way because we say so.
I believe in finding the best way, the right way the most efficient way forward. And I didn’t know if being a missionary was that way.
I had even gone to the church college for second-class students, which at the time was called Ricks College. A great place to get a decent education for rock bottom prices. But even there I was really bad at following the rules.
In fact, had the school administrators known all the things that I had been up to in my short stay in Alpine Chalet, where I was roommates with my cousin, they surely would have kicked me out, because the rules are very strict.
I was there, standing in the foyer of the church building where I had gone to church for the last 5 years and I didn’t know.
It was the proverbial fork in the road. I saw both directions.
I would like to tell you that I had some grand religious experience and that revelation changed my life that day.
I will tell you that I went into an empty classroom, shut the door, and prayed to know if the church was true and whether I should go on a mission.
in that room that looks just like all the other rooms in every other church building in all of the world. I feel like I got the answer I needed that day,
And the path forward became clear to me.
And it is the principle that I learned then that has made all the difference in my life. Moving forward is a choice. One that we can make prayerfully, but also logically, even when we skirt the rules a little and aren’t the kid we are supposed to be.
I saw my future more easily, and while I would continue to make many mistakes over and over and over for many many many years, I could see the direction I wanted to go.
Not the direction that I was supposed to go, because that was not how I did things.
I came out of that room a changed person. I knew that I would serve a mission. I knew that I would figure it out as I went along. I knew that my path was one that I would choose because it was what I wanted.
And I am grateful for not knowing the end as I stood at the beginning. Because that meant that I could make it my own
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