Here's what he taught me yesterday that just blew my mind:
What is agency? You'll probably say, " well duh, I learned that in Primary-it's the power to choose." I'm not going to say you're wrong, because you're not. BUT I am not going to give you full credit for that answer. Why? Let me tell you:
Actually, I am going to let Christopher J. Garvin tell you in his discourse: Agency: Its Nature, Origins, and Power. You can read it here.]
- Knowledge of good and evil
- Power to choose
This is a really cool principle, but in all honesty-the reason I was even writing about this was because of the funny story that occurred while we were learning. So...
My teacher explained that we blatantly deprive ourselves of agency all the time. Of course, I was slightly taken back when he said that. Sounds a little harsh, don't you think? But I had that reaction because I didn't truly understand the principle of agency. He used this example:
How many times has someone asked you to go do something with them and you reply "Sorry, I can't. I have to do my homework." You're disregarding your agency.
I thought, what's wrong with that? Doing your homework is important...But I obviously wasn't understanding the point he was trying to make. He continued:
There's something wrong with that statement. You COULD go out with your friends. Your homework isn't in charge of you-it has no say in what choices you make. You don't HAVE to do your homework; you CHOOSE to do your homework. You made the choice to do your homework instead of go out with your friends. You made your homework into an excuse. What you really should have said to your friend is: "Sorry, I would love to go, but I am going to do my homework instead."
Excuses are probably the most common way we abuse our agency, and the majority of the time we don't even do it consciously. We limit ourselves and our capacity to grow and reach our potential when we speak the language of excuses.
[Okay now I'm finally to the primary reason why I started this post in the first place. Here we go!]
As an activity, my professor told us to talk to the person next to us and come up with as many excuses as possible. He then said, "and if you can come up excuses from song lyrics-you get bonus points." Of course, who doesn't want bonus points? So after everyone had a chance to talk, he asked what people came up with. People mentioned song lyrics ranging from Jay-Z to T-Swift. Though none of the answers were wrong-Brother Hilton's expression suggested he wasn't satisfied. He then proceeded to say, "well, those are great...but you failed to choose the song that I feel has the most excuses and depicts the most blatant disregard to agency." Everyone paused as he pulled up the lyrics to the song he had in mind. Can you take a guess at what the song was? Guess before you scroll down and see-I dare ya!
I bet you won't get it.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me? Let it go, let it go...I can't hold it back anymore? Those are only a few lines! Does the blatant disregard for agency get any clearer? hahaha...I love Frozen-I promise I'm not a Frozen-hater. But you can't deny how the lyrics (yes, they are taken out of context in terms of the movie) really do scream [to the tune of Let it Go] "agency, agency! Just take it away from meeeeeee!" Thank you to Frozen for being such a perfect example.
But seriously...how many times do we use excuses like:
"It's beyond my control"
"He made me"
"It's too hard"
I'm sure we could make a huge, long list, but regardless, I hope you get the point. Each time we make an excuse, we limit ourselves. Excuses limit the use of our agency: the tool we have to utilize to attain all the blessings that our Father in Heaven has in store for us.
Listen for the language of excuses.
In the past 2 days, I have listened to more excuses than I can count, BUT I would never have noticed them had I not been looking for them. I was shocked at the number of excuses I heard, but what was even more shocking to me was myself. I made more excuses that I could count on two hands! I had to consciously think before I spoke. I had to rephrase sentences in my head before I said them so that I was speaking in a way that helped me utilize my agency rather than inhibit it. I had to think twice (at at times three and four times) about words/phrases such as "make," "have to," and "can't."
It is amazing what a difference this simple challenge has made in just one day. My appreciation and understanding of agency has increased exponentially. I've realized that agency is truly given to us that we might have to opportunity to choose "liberty and eternal life," as it states in 2 Nephi 2:27. Agency is an enabling power! As I have striven to fill my day with more "I can's," "I choose to's," and "I will's," (rather than "I have to's" or "I can't's") I have have been filled with a confidence that I have never to this day experienced. It just makes sense: If I take full, conscious responsibility for my choices and tell myself I CAN and WILL, of course I am setting myself up for success! But if I constantly say "I can't" or make excuses (whether conscious or not), then I am limiting myself completely. Application of gospel principles is truly how you come to understand them. Three days I ago I thought I understood agency, but now, I can confidently say I know what agency is. I know why we have it. And I LOVE it!:)
Heavenly Father really did have this agency all planned out perfectly, huh? Of course it is a necessary part of mortality, but it is a tool! A tool to enable and edify us. When we come to understand agency, we can properly utilize it and grow. The purpose of everything our Father in Heaven gives us is to help us grow and work towards achieving our highest potential. I love that:)
Realizing this at this point in my life was a tender mercy. I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through midterms-I was convinced I couldn't do it, that there was just too much to do. But now, with this new sense of confidence, I have all faith that I can make it happen. My Father in Heaven has my back:) And He's got yours too:)
I promise that as you strive to understand, develop, and effectively use your agency that you will feel empowered, optimistic, and confident. If it worked for me, surely it will work for you:)