Dear Angela: My twin sister has been a less-active member of the LDS Church for many, many years. Recently, she has been struggling with self-esteem issues and spends much of her time in what seems like constant agony. She’s getting professional help, but having dealt with similar issues, I know the message of the gospel can provide a light at the end of the tunnel and help in carrying her current burdens.
Years ago, she asked me to stop inviting her to church, to stop encouraging her to read the scriptures and to stop “pushing my testimony” on her. She reaffirmed this desire to be “left alone about church” a few weeks ago. I want to be respectful. I also want to help her, and I know Elder (Jeffrey R.) Holland’s recent conference talk on self-love would be a valuable read for her. Should I take the gamble and share it even though she’s asked me not to? Any advice for me?
— Sister’s Keeper
Dear Sister’s Keeper: I encourage you to respect your sister’s feelings about church, hold off of presenting religious solutions and continue to be a listening ear, gentle adviser and nonjudgmental friend.
Elder Holland’s talk, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect — Eventually,” from the October general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a powerful one, especially for anyone who is struggling to see their own value in this world — but it doesn’t sound like your sis is in a mindset where she can hear it.
I do want to add the caveat to my advice that maybe you’re feeling a spiritual prompting to share this talk now — you don’t want to ignore this prompting.
My sense, though, is this is more about you being a loving sister who wants to take away your dear sister’s pain. Many can relate.
When the timing feels right (e.g. when she asks for help/perspective), consider sharing some of the themes from Elder Holland’s message in a secular/“this is just good advice” way.
Here are some to consider:
1. We should not demean or vilify ourselves — this will not make us into better people.
2. We should not expect perfection from ourselves yet, but we can do little things better every day — speak more kindly, act with more love, forgive just a little more.
3. Strive for steady improvement; toxic perfectionism is counterproductive.
4. We may stagger and stumble as we strive to live well; that doesn’t mean we aren’t on the right track.
5. Help others who are trying to improve.
6. Refuse to let your shortcomings and follies and the shortcomings and follies of others make you cynical.
Now it’s true these themes come to life when we understand that they are rooted in the Savior’s love and sacrifice for us — but your sister may not be ready to engage with that part of the message yet, and that is OK.
Here is a part of that talk that I want you to remember: “In this and every hour he (the Savior) is, with nail-scarred hands holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents.”
The Lord knows your sister; he is holding on to her and working with her in his own way — just as he is working with you.
Be sensitive to the Spirit. Listen with love and be respectful of your sister’s agency.
Readers: Have you ever been in this situation? What recommendations would you make to Sister's Keeper?
Angela Trusty gives advice about religion and relationships. Connect via Facebook www.facebook.com/angelagtrusty