Question: I am not particularly proud of everything I've done in my life. My 20s can best be summarized as self-centered and focused on my own pleasure and gain. It bothers me that this will always be in my past.

I don't live anymore with the same values, or rather lack thereof, but don't know how to put to rest the discomfort I feel about revealing my past. It bothers me enough that it often comes into my thoughts. Am I a hypocrite for espousing my new values to younger people, when at their age I was no better? Please help be deal with this because it causes me considerable emotional pain.- Vancouver, British Columbia

Dr. Laura: I remember a fax I received some weeks ago that said, "A hypocrite is someone who says, `Don't do what I do, do what I say.' A teacher is someone who says, `Don't do what I did, do what I do.' "

Sincere regret and profound change are to be respected by others, and hopefully, soon, by yourself as well. I hope you learn to be proud of your courage and commitment to become a better human being; I hope you find the peace you deserve.

Question: When I'm in an ebullient mood, I find it easy to feel filled with spirituality and a sense of closeness to God. However, I recently had a bad bout of some sort of viral infection, and prayed every night for God to make me better by morning or at least make me feel like He knew, or was close, or cared.

I couldn't feel a sense of connection. It makes me wonder about my whole faith. I spoke to my clergyman about this, but really didn't get an answer that satisfied me. I hoped you might help.

- South Bend, Ind.

Dr. Laura: One of the obvious problems we have when we call on God is imagining that God is an employee. We ask to be made to feel better by morning, but when it doesn't happen just like that (maybe it takes another week) we feel let down - even angry as a result of our hurt and disappointment. Sometimes what we pray for comes to us in a form other than we expected.

I am reminded of the story about the minister who wouldn't leave the roof of his house in a terrible flood, even though folks came by in a rowboat and then helicopter to rescue him, because, he said, "God will save me." After drowning, he meets up with God and complains that he wasn't saved. God responds, "But I sent people in a rowboat and then a helicopter!"

While you may be aiming for God to zap the germs in some organ or your body, God may be aiming for your soul, psyche or relationships. In other words, when you simply ask for food, you may get spaghetti or bread. Don't forget that they both can sustain you.

It might also be that there is something God wants you to learn or create by gritting through your experience.

Ultimately, it is sometimes very difficult to feel or believe when you're in pain or fear. Maybe that is the lesson we're supposed to learn - and maybe that takes a lifetime to learn.

Don't imagine that this lesson is easier for anyone else. Reading through the Prophets will reinforce that this is a human, eternal struggle.

Question: My daughter is 13 years old. The little angel I always remember her being seems to come and go - often replaced by an ugly monster which scares me. It sometimes makes it difficult for me to sustain feelings of love and connection. Then, all of a sudden, she's that sweet kid again. How do I stay on even keel?

- Salt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Laura: I think I'd get the Nobel prize if I could answer this question simply. Perhaps it would help for you to remember that it's crazy from the child's point of view also. One minute they feel like a needy, dependent child - the next minute they get a blast of hormones that propels them into a (false) sense of maturity, independence, with a desire for power.

The love, warmth and stability of the family is important here. That's why an intact, functioning parental team is a big help - not only for the child, but for the two of you to support each other at those hard-to-cope moments. It's important that the values and expectations stay firm, but that you try to accommodate the growing tendency of your child to build a unique self. If you figure out a perfect balance you'll be in line for a Nobel yourself!