Today I'm going to touch on something that has been a weakness in my life, the fact that I often care too much about what other people are thinking or saying. This tendency is difficult when one is a writer, because criticism is rampant and even if the evaluations are just, it still stings. Learning to rise above all of that, and using the criticism to improve writing skills is crucial to being a successful author. It can be difficult, though, figuring out what to heed and what to ignore since some "helpful" opinions are less than that. ;)
Years ago, when my husband and I were first married, a woman in the community came up to me and said, "You are so lucky--your husband must really love you since he married you even though you're a diabetic." Ouch. I'm sure this person meant that comment as a compliment, but it wounded my pride all the same. It took a while for me to move past what that observation implied.
A couple of years went by and I was called to serve as the youngest Primary president our ward had ever experienced--to that point in time. Once again I faced an onslaught of criticism, and comments like: "She's too inexperienced!" "So and so would have been a better choice," & "What was our bishop thinking?" Feeling a bit worthless, I knelt down and poured my heart out to my Father in heaven. After that prayer, I climbed into bed, tossed and turned, and finally drifted off to sleep. I was blessed with the following dream, something that has helped me keep things in perspective ever since.
I was involved in several dramatic productions in high school and college. I'm certain that's why this particular dream began with me onstage. There I was, surrounded by the cast, ready to share my one and only line in the production. I uttered the small sentence, then ran down into the audience to see if everyone approved of how I had performed. "Did I enunciate clearly enough?" "Was I loud enough?" "Should I have said it a different way?" I asked these and other questions, hoping for positive feedback.
It took a while, but eventually I realized that the entire production had come to a halt because of my interruption. Mortified by what I had done, I turned my back to the audience and hurried onto the stage so the play could continue. When it was over, I ran into the "green room," off stage and did my best to hide in the corner, still embarrassed over my blunder. Suddenly, it was announced that the Greatest Director of all was coming in to talk to us about our performance. Overwhelmed with humiliation, I tried to make myself as invisible as possible.
When the Greatest Director appeared in the doorway, a reverent hush fell over the room. We all knew who He was, and knelt in deference to our Savior. One by one, He talked to the entire cast, except for me. I continued to press myself into the corner, hoping He wouldn't notice me. He noticed. After He had spoken to everyone else, He approached my hiding place and gently pulled me from the corner. His eyes were filled with compassion and love as He helped me straighten in place. Then He looked directly into my heart and said, "I am the only one you need to please." He handed me another script and assured that I could handle the role I would now play. The dream ended and I woke up, filled with a strong sense of peaceful love.
I've reflected on that dream quite often in my life. It helped me survive my years as the youngest Primary president in our ward (even if we were dealing with 121 kids and new policy changes from SLC, like having to cancel the traditional Cub Scout Rodeo). It eased things for me when I served in other callings that stretched me in various ways . . . and when my first book was published and I faced a new round of interesting comments. ;) It comes to mind every time I've faced a difficult challenge. I often remind myself that even if I can't please those around me, if I've tried to do my best, keeping an eternal perspective in mind, then that's what matters most.