One of the great things about weekly columns is the almost instant feedback that we writers get and the opportunity it gives us to stay with a topic that seems to be generating unusual interest. Last week, this column was on the remarkable promises that King Benjamin made to parents who could remember their own “nothingness.” We have received so much response to and interest in that subject that we want to continue it for a couple of weeks.
Part of what makes the concept so interesting is its counterintuitive nature. Instead of the prevailing proactive, independent, do-it-yourself attitude, the "nothingness" notion is that we don’t really become something until we think of ourselves as nothing. God can’t truly use us and make us his own until we develop the deep humility that comes from understanding how completely insignificant we are. It is the great and divine paradox that we are less before we can become more. Jesus said, "He who would find his life must lose it.”
Happiness and joy, in their deepest and most spiritual sense, are not things we earn or deserve or develop, but gifts that God gives us as we strive to understand his “everythingness” and our own "nothingness."
It is the polar opposite of what most of the “self-help” and “positive mental attitude” gurus tell us. They advocate “believing in yourself” and telling yourself, "You can do anything,” and looking in the mirror and saying, “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.”
Benjamin and other prophets, not to mention the Lord himself, say just the opposite, admonishing us to remember our "nothingness," to believe in divine power, and to be meek and lowly. Instead of saying, “I can do anything,” we say, “I can do nothing — except with the Lord.”
For many years, the wonderful and venerable Elder LeGrand Richards lived in our ward and we loved him dearly. He was one of our favorite general conference speakers. But what we remember most is what he said once in a general conference prayer. It’s hard to find verbatim records of prayers, but as nearly as we can remember, he said something like this: “Help us all, including the general authorities on this stand, to remember our own nothingness.”
This great man realized that both happiness and power lie not in a magnified idea of our own importance but in a greater realization of our insignificance and a greater focus and worship of the majesty and power of God.
It is especially true in parenting and in our marriages. Men who think too much about their own importance tend to exercise unrighteous dominion, and women who get too consumed with their own rights and entitlements can fall prey to vanity and selfishness (of course, each can happen to both men and women). Parents who think of their kids as their possessions or their “subjects” turn their kids either into robots or rebels.
Parents who are awed by the calling of parenting and fully aware of their own inadequacy in being stewards over God’s own children, develop the kind of humility and prayerfulness (and "nothingness") that draws down inspiration and that allows their kids to both love and respect them. It is in these homes that the atmosphere exists that Benjamin speaks of — where children love and serve one another and where fighting and quarreling (which will never completely go away) begin to become less frequent and less venomous.
It’s not a common or oft-expressed sentiment, but our wish for you, and for ourselves as parents, is that we can each grow more and more aware of our own "nothingness."
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Read Linda's blog at www.deseretnews.com/blog/81/A-World-of-Good.html and visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com.