Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

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Curt Sunshine
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Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Curt Sunshine » 30 Apr 2010, 22:19

This month's New Year's Resolution is to "seek less my own" - taken from the same verse as last month's resolution, I Corinthians 13:5. [The entire list of monthly resolutions is detailed at my New Year's Resolution post for this year. (http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010 ... -2010.html)] In the previous months this year, I have focused on suffering longer in kindness, envying less, being less vaunting and less puffed up, and behaving less unseemly. Each of those aspects of charity has been interesting to parse and strive to understand better, but this month's aspect (seeking less my own) has been fascinating for a totally different reason than the others. Initially, I want to share why it has been so different - and pay tribute to an amazing man, my father, and an amazing woman, my wife.

Almost three months ago, my father had a stroke. I wrote about it in a special post. ("A Tribute to Charity: My Father Had a Stroke This Week" - http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2010 ... troke.html) In that post, I excerpted from a post I wrote back in November of 2007 about when my niece died unexpectedly - and how my father notified us of that event. ("My Niece Died This Morning" - http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com/2007 ... rning.html) I want to link those posts here in order to give anyone who might read this an understanding of how I learned what I believe to be the fundamental core of "seeking not one's own" - and use it as a launching pad for why my contemplation of this month's resolution has been so unique and special for me. Please read those posts if you have not done so previously.

I hope this post is not too personal, but it will be much more so than most of my posts here.

I met my wife almost 28 years ago, on Monday, June 14th, 1982. We were attending a summer youth conference at BYU called Honors Academy. She walked into the room where I was talking with someone else, and my immediate thought was, "Wow! She's the most beautiful girl I've ever seen!" I knew within a week that we were going to be married someday, and I spent the next four and a half years (inlcuding the time I spent on a mission in Japan) working toward that day. When we met, I was 16 and she was 15.

My sweetheart kept a journal like few the world has ever seen. Voluminous doesn't even begin to describe those tomes. There were days when the entry was 5-6 pages long, and they were full of not just details but also feelings and hopes and dreams and frustrations and worries and self-doubt. There was no filter to her writing; everything was laid open in those pages. I have spent the last two days sick at home, and I have spent much of it re-reading her journals.

Just as at other times during the past two-and-a-half years, as I have focused on the attributes of godliness and tried to be a little better at something each month, I have been struck the last two days by how appropriate it has been - how non-coincidental it appears to have been - that I have been immersed in re-discovering how much I understood and practiced the concept of "seeking not my own" while I was dating my future wife. I also have been struck DEEPLY by how much I have let go of that over the years and how much I want to grasp it again.

You see, I loved her deeply as we were dating - and while that only has deepened over the last 28 years, it struck me hard that I have not sought as actively as at that time her happiness above my own. I have made sacrifices at various times to accommodate what was best for the family and let go of what might have been best for me individually, but I have not focused my energies as much on "seeking HER own" quite to the extent that I did back then. I understand that my focus necessarily must be divided now that I am working full-time and caring for six children, as well - and I know I am a good husband, but reading her journals from when I so desperately wanted her to know how special she was amid her self-doubts and the emotional turmoil of her teenage years has made me realize that I grew SO much because of that focus.

I lost myself, to a large degree, during those years. I lived my own life, and I did things on my own of which I am proud. I sang in the Trouveres (our high school acapella group) and won a few music contests; I was the Drum Major of our award winning marching band; I was a State Sterling Scholar General Scholarship competitor; I was accepted to Harvard College; I had a wonderful life by most objective standards. However, I would have given up all of that if it was the only way to help my girlfriend be happy and recognize her beauty and potential. In a very real way, I lived for her - and, in so doing, I found amazing joy in losing myself. I was "seeking not (my) own" - and, as a whole, it was the happiest, most glorious time of my life.

How does that translate into my life now - especially, as I said, now that I have competing aspects of my life that pull my focus away from just the love of my life?

As I began to consider this month's resolution, what struck me HARD is that I am at a bit of a crossroads in my life. I have struggled recently as I have sought to strike a balance between some things I really want badly as an individual and some things that I have felt drawn to as a husband, father, church member and friend. It has been difficult for me to let go of some of my dreams once more and realize that, perhaps once again, I need to lose myself as an individual and do some things strictly because there are things that I can do for others - that only can be accomplished if I choose to "seek not my own".

There is more to this resolution than simply seeking not my own accomplishments and dreams in isolation (and I will address that in future posts this month), but I wanted to begin this resolution by thanking my wife for the chance to read her journals once again from the time when I truly was the happiest I have ever been - and for what it has made me consider about what I need to do at this time in my life.

I don't know if this will make sense or resonate with anyone who reads it, and I will be back to the more analytical side of these resolutions posts next week, but I simply want to start this month's focus with a public statement that helping others be happy and secure, even at the expense of things that could be pursued on a personal level, is perhaps the purest form of "seeking not one's own" - and re-discovering how that (and more) applies to the here and now for me is something that I have needed.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Heber13
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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Heber13 » 01 May 2010, 22:43

Good words, Ray. Much to ponder here.

I think it is one of the paradoxes that is hard to think through and make sense, but one just simply needs to practice it and see the results.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by GBSmith » 03 May 2010, 20:54

The trick is to lose yourself in the service of another without being aware of it. To just do it for the sake of the other and not to make yourself feel better or to have someone say thanks but to just do it. We were sold a bill of goods by those that promoted the "me generation" and what we got were ashes. We will have arrived when that's just what we do, this caring for another, without planning or weighing the cost and for no other reason than that's what needed to be done. Easy to say and philosophize about but I imagine even a good try is worth something.

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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by PressingForward » 04 May 2010, 09:23

This was definitely insightful. True altruism can be tough for people, but oh the blessings that pour out from such a heart. Looking forward to hearing more!

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Curt Sunshine » 04 May 2010, 13:26

Thanks, everyone. This one was a little harder to write than most, because it's so much more personal.

I agree with GB that they key is not found in trying to lose one's self, but doing it just for the love of the person being served. It's when it just happens without conscious effort that it's the most amazing and empowering - and when it leads to "finding one's self".

Also, someone on my personal blog made a comment that caused me to want to add a disclaimer. The disclaimer is:
What I described with both my father and myself was good primarily, if not only, because my mother and my girlfriend (now wife) are not "users" or "abusers". My "giving" was not merely selfless, it was efficacious - and it's important that it was effective - that it actually did real good.


"Losing one's self" in a relationship where it is abused or has no lasting effect on the other person is NOT what this aspect of charity means, imo. In that situation, one ONLY loses one's self - and doesn't "find one's self" as a result. That is tragic.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Euhemerus » 06 May 2010, 19:15

@Ray
Thanks for the post. I really felt like I could hear your "soul" coming through. Very touching.

Another thing that strikes me is your ending statement
Ray Degraw wrote:I will be back to the more analytical side of these resolutions posts next week
I had to smile because it seems that people like us can't get away from the analysis! Even when we take a short break to really expose our feelings, we turn back quickly to analysis. My wife is quite the opposite, and from time to time I find myself wishing I could turn off the analysis a bit.
Don't believe everything you think
- bumper sticker I saw one day

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cwald
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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by cwald » 09 May 2010, 23:15

Ray, this may not be directly related to this thread, but it has been on my mind all week. Today at church during sacrament meeting I sat and listened to an 80 year old man mumble away for 45 minutes, giving a travel log about his grandmother (I think) and I must say that I have no idea what he said or why he said it. It was absolutely incoherent. All I know is that 40 other people were terribly bored and disillusioned about church today, and just had to wonder just how on earth this could possibly relate to the the gospel of Jesus Christ. My kids ask me why we have to sit in church for an hour and listen to blabber that has absolutely NO spiritual value to them. All I could think of was, maybe this was a good lesson in showing "charity". Certainly that "talk" meant something to that old man, even if it didn't mean anything to anybody else. It was a good teaching moment for my kids. Little by little I'm starting to grasp the idea that perhaps the church IS a place to actually practice true gospel principles, even if I disdain and loath much of the culture, doctrine and history. Goodnight.
  Jesus gave us the gospel, but Satan invented church. It takes serious evil to formalize faith into something tedious and then pile guilt on anyone who doesn't participate enthusiastically. - Robert Kirby

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Heber13
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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Heber13 » 10 May 2010, 08:35

cwald wrote:All I could think of was, maybe this was a good lesson in showing "charity". Certainly that "talk" meant something to that old man, even if it didn't mean anything to anybody else.
Thanks for that perspective, cwald. I totally agree with you, and think your kids will benefit by you teaching them that.

There are many talks, lessons, and activities in our volunteer organization that will be less than uplifting themselves for me, but they can all be training grounds for love and charity, despite the quality. I think that is one good way to lose myself and my needs...and view it the way you did, that the other person may have needed that, even if it was mostly non-value for the rest of the ward.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Charity Seeketh Not Her Own

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 May 2010, 08:54

cwald, that's my persepctive - especially since I have learned much by being asked to prepare a talk, and my children have benefitted greatly from that assignment, as well.

Just as an fyi, when an adult who has been in the Church for a long time gives a talk that just isn't reaching me, and especially when I know it isn't reaching my kids, I give them back rubs or exchange whispered comments or pull out my scriptures or the hymnbook to read. They have picked up on that and read whenever they are bored. However, when a youth or fairly recent convert is talking, I rivet my eyes on her, smile and nod throughout the talk and do absolutely everything I can to make it a good experience for that speaker. I know how hard it can be for someone who isn't used to public speaking to get up there and talk, so I do my best to help.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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