“Truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come.”
Doctrine & Covenants 93:24
Last week we talked about the thoughts or the story we tell ourselves versus the facts that are observable and neutral. Once we have the facts, we can deal with things as “they really are.” We cannot deal with our reality if we aren’t willing to face it. Believe me; I’m a pro at this.
My spouse left the church within the first three years of our 26-year marriage. I acted out my ideal, “I have a great LDS marriage” for years. One day as I was driving and listening to Loving What Is by Byron Katie, I finally realized for real that, “I am married to a non-member.” I faced my reality. No matter what I wanted or pretended, the fact was that my spouse had left the church years ago, didn’t think of himself as a member, wasn’t trying to live the standards of the gospel – and wasn’t worried about it. I was the one who stressed about it. I was still living in my fantasy world. I was the one who was not seeing the truth of my life. I had to pull off the road and bawl. As hard as it was to tell myself the truth, once I did, I could finally deal with it.
Being positive and facing the facts are different. I am an optimistic person by nature. I study self-improvement, assume the best of people, have lots of patience and think positively. That is an asset. Using that strength to hide from reality is not an asset. You don’t need to swing the other way and start telling yourself untrue stories of negativity, but you do need to face the facts of the situation.
The fact, “My husband no longer attends church with me,” is just that – a fact. It is neither good nor bad in that state. If you believe that he covenanted to go to church with you, God wants him there, and you want him there, then you will most likely feel disappointed, worried, or hurt that he is not going to church with you. If your husband no longer attended church with you because he had died, you wouldn’t think anything of it. If you had married a man who didn’t go to church and he still didn’t, you wouldn’t be upset about it. It is the story or the thoughts you have about the fact that creates your feelings.
“My husband left the church” is a hard circumstance to think of as neutral if you, like me, believe in absolute truths and that the gospel is the way to happiness. You probably see him leaving the church as a tragedy. While that may (or may not) be true, consider if it is a useful thought. “My husband shouldn’t have left the church” is such a painful thought. It makes you feel resentful, sad, and worried. Could you consider other possible thoughts? For example:
This experience is what my spouse needs at this time in his life.
Even though I can’t see it now, everything is working out perfectly.
Both my husband and I are on our perfect paths.
God knows everything, and this turn of events didn’t surprise Him. He is in control.
I am learning exactly what I need to through this process.
Agency is an amazing gift for which I am grateful, and I would never deny my spouse his agency.
God has perfect love for me and my spouse right now.
How do those thoughts feel? Is there one that makes you feel an emotion you would prefer to feel rather than resentment, sadness, and worry? Is there a thought that creates feelings of peace, faith, or gratitude?
Look at things as “they really are” while maintaining your spirit of optimism. The two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. While you can’t necessarily change “things as they are,” you can change the thoughts you think and the feelings those thoughts create.