Sunday, January 29, 2012

"And now, if you believe all these things...

"And now, if you believe all theses things, see that ye do them." (Mosiah 4:10; italics added)

So there I was, over a year ago now, flying economy in an ergonomic conundrum of a seat, watching the silver-haired gentleman across the narrow aisle from me.  A special thanks to the older man who inspired this blog, whose gentle arm was wrapped protectively, affectionately around his wife in the adjacent seat.  She snuggled up to him with the kind of trust founded on years of mutual loyalty and faithfulness.  A special thanks to the elderly couple and the people they had chosen to be, however imperfectly.

How do we get there, you and I?  How do we end up 34,000 feet in the air with the love of our life in the next seat over, a warm destination ahead, and a package of complimentary pretzels in our front shirt pocket?  I found "fidelity" to be the answer then and now; faithfulness, integrity and sincere attention to ourselves and to others, children of God who deserve nothing less than our best selves.

Twenty years from now, the love of your life in the airplane seat next to you won’t be there because of a witty Facebook status.  They’ll be there because of hours of rich, person-to-person conversations that taught them just how lovable you are.  How do we get there?  One year later, I still don't have all the answers, but I do have some ideas, slowly compiled and published over the last 12 months.

And the best one yet?  It's time to log off.

A dear friend once taught me that we "live in a remarkable world filled with truths waiting for us to discover."  Each of us has lives meant to be lived...meant to be shared.  And I can't wait to get back to mine. 

As a collaborative forum, Fidelity for Life remains open to guest posts, helpful links, encouraging art, and all reader contributions designed to reinforce our commitment to, and not distract from, living life in the real world with the wonderfully real people around us. (See "Submission Guidelines")  

But as for me and my house, we'll be out there "keeping it real."  

...And just to belabor the point:

"My dreams are worthless, my plans are dust, my goals are impossible.  All are of no value unless they are followed by action.  I will act now." (Og Mandino, The Greatest Salesman in the World, The Scroll Marked IX)

"Well done is better than well said." (Benjamin Franklin)

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing.  Action always generates inspiration.  Inspiration seldom generates action." (Frank Tibolt)

"Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned." (Peter Marshall)

"Action is eloquence." (William Shakespeare)

"Remember, people will judge you by your actions, not your intentions.  You may have a heart of gold - but so does a hard-boiled egg." (Author Unknown)
"Talk doesn't cook rice." (Chinese Proverb)

"All know the way; few actually walk it." (Bodhidharma)
"Action is the antidote to despair." (Joan Baez)

"Ironically, making a statement with words is the least effective method." (Grey Livingston)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

ISO Analog Manners in a Digital World

"If you have to tell people you're a aren't." -Margaret Thatcher

"Courtesy is as much a mark of a gentleman as courage." -Theodore Roosevelt

The interconnected world of modernity appears to be putting a new spin on the old adage that "familiarity breeds contempt."  The kind of "contempt" we face (we encourage?) nowadays is perhaps best described as casualness taken to extremes.  The circumspection, courtesy, grace, poise, and modesty in speech and dress that we afford respected individuals appear to decline dramatically as we become more "familiar" one with another.

And we are familiar, aren't we?  So familiar that we grow relaxed and careless towards our fellow man.  A quick perusal of blogs, Facebook photos, tweets and "status" updates reveal 30 year-old men still wearing baseball caps backwards...wives complaining of post-pregnancy stretch marks...girls thoughtlessly calling each other "hot"...boys who still haven't learned the art of shaving...individuals updating all of us on their latest meal, their latest sickness, their latest relationship (or lack thereof), their latest private news; in other words, their latest lapse in tact.

In some lonely rest stop along the information superhighway leading to a world of ultimate global socializing, we appear to have misplaced basic, uplifting social graces.  Adrift in a digital sea of "modern" data and knowledge, we seem quick to cut ourselves loose from the anchor of traditional wisdom.  We have become so familiar, so casual, so careless with the important relationships in our lives that we have replaced "gentlemen" and ladies" with high-on-ambiguity, low-on-responsibility, unisex "guys."

But for those who seek fidelity to their own gender identities and complementary roles as sons and daughters of God, we have the outstanding examples of parents, neighbors, friends and siblings who are quick with an uplifting phone call, an encouraging email, a treasured (and tastefully shared) photograph...though they may be continents away.  We enjoy worlds of guidance and encouragement at our fingertips, of which the following two articles are but the smallest sampling:

In short, we live in one of the most remarkable ages this world has ever known, a world with which we can become intimately acquainted to an extent our forebears could only dream (and prophesy) of.  May it never be said of us that acquaintance (i.e. familiarity) brought about contempt for our fellow man in the form of over-casual carelessness.  

May it rather be said of us that through our gentlemanly and ladylike conduct (amplified via our technologically enhanced opportunities for rich, meaningful contact with our brothers and sisters) we honored Him who is the first, and ultimate, Gentleman.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What do you need?

And how can I give it to you?

It's not always easy for me to be your son (or daughter).  There are parental expectations to fulfill, unsolicited direction to obey, unpleasant--but necessary--advice to swallow, and questionable fashion tastes that I find myself unwittingly inheriting.  Other priorities demand my time.  My own little family takes precedence now.  Life is too busy for an afternoon phone call.  And yet...

Every burden I have shouldered, you have shouldered with me, ignoring your own cares.  Every decision I have made, you have guided.  Every sorrow I have suffered, you have sorrowed with me.  Your paternal protection, your maternal nurturing, have made me who I am today.  Which of your burdens can I lighten?  Which of your decisions can I sustain?  Which of your sorrows can I share?  Dad, Mom, what do you need?  And how can I give it to you?

It's not always easy for me to be your boyfriend (or girlfriend, or spouse).  I have so many demands on my time, I simply can't be that perfect guy (or girl) every day.  I have emotional deficits that cry out for affection now, not when it's convenient for you.  I can't guess your moods.  I'm tired of feeling lousy for missing signals--unspoken requests for attention--that you thought were obvious.  And yet...

You're the special soul who makes me want to be that perfect partner.  My own emotional needs fade when I consider your happiness first.  I want to learn your moods so I can lift you up.  Please help me to understand your signals so I can present you with the attention you desire.  Let's put "me" off to the side for now.  Honey, what do you need?  And how can I give it to you?

It's not always easy for me to be your father (or mother).  I'm tired of seeing you repeat my mistakes...mistakes you could avoid if you would just listen to me!  Why do you only ask for help with the challenges I never had to face?  Will I ever have time to myself again?  And yet...

I love you in spite of your mistakes.  I pray for you and watch with pride how you tackle obstacles that never blocked my path.  My time alone grows less and less meaningful if I can't share it with you.  Son, daughter, what do you need?  And how can I give it to you?

It's not always easy for me to be your sibling.  It's not always easy for me to be your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend.  It's not always easy for me to put my own cares aside and focus on the needs of others.  And yet...

Living a life focused solely on my own cares, my own priorities, my own so much harder, and so much poorer, than living for you.  How can I lift you up?  Where do you hurt?

What makes you happy?  And how can I give it to you?

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)

"He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (JST Matthew 10:34)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Refinement: The Endangered Virtue

“If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” (13th Article of Faith)

A "friend of mine" (to whom we'll refer, in the interest of privacy and discretion, as "not me") was recently asked his criteria for selecting young women to date.  His relatively short list (paired down to 3-4 characteristics) included the desire to court women of "refinement."  This prerequisite proved grounds for the rather abrupt pronouncement that "not me's" standards were hopelessly unrealistic.

Perhaps refinement in character, bearing, and behavior has always proven the exception rather than the rule.  But it has always been a realistic standard to which earnest men and women aspire.  Has it now become an idealistic relic of a gentler era prematurely cast aside?

In the interest of all things "virtuous and lovely," to include our own souls, Fidelity For Life is pleased to re-post excerpts from the August article "Ennobling Refinement:"

Each of us is born to be great.  Each of us is meant to "fulfill the measure of our creation."  But our Digital Age of Enlightenment coexists with an Age of Careless Convenience, of ill-punctuated text messages, of embarrassing photographs thoughtlessly published on social media, and of steeply declining standards in appearance and manners (see: Crocs, All Neon-colored Iterations Of). 

Thankfully, bold champions of propriety, civility, and refinement continue to encourage us to "stand a little taller, to lift our eyes and stretch our minds." (Gordon B. Hinckley)

In his 2006 address entitled "Your Refined Heavenly Home," Elder Douglas L. Callister issues such encouragement, challenging each of us to live up to our divine potential by "paint[ing] a word picture of the virtuous, lovely, and refined circumstances that" await us beyond the mortal veil.

The full text and video are available at  Some thoughts from his address:
  • "The nearer we get to God, the more easily our spirits are touched by refined and beautiful things."
  • "I imagine that our heavenly parents are exquisitely refined. In this great gospel of emulation, one of the purposes of our earthly probation is to become like them in every conceivable way so that we may be comfortable in the presence of heavenly parentage."
  • "Refinement is a companion to developed spirituality. Refinement and spirituality are two strings drawn by the same bow."
Refinement of Speech:
  • "Our language reveals our thoughts, our virtues, our insecurities, our doubts, even the homes from which we come. We will feel more comfortable in Heavenly Father’s presence if we have developed proper habits of speech."
  • "Refinement in speech is more than polished elocution. It results from purity of thought and sincerity of expression. A child’s prayer on occasion may reflect the language of heaven more nearly than a Shakespearean soliloquy."
  • "Refinement in speech is reflected not only in our choice of words but also in the things we talk about....There are those who speak of stirring ideas, compelling books, and inspiring doctrine. These are the few who make their mark in this world."
Refinement in Entertainment:
  • "I don’t know whether our heavenly home has a television set or a DVD machine, but in my mind’s imagery it surely has a grand piano and a magnificent library."
  •  "The images to which our minds are exposed are held in store, seemingly forgotten, even for years. But at the crucial moment they re-present themselves to influence our thoughts and lives. And so it is with the music, literature, art, media, and other images to which we are exposed."
  • "When some music has passed the tests of time and been cherished by the noble and refined, our failure to appreciate it is not an indictment of grand music. The omission is within."
Refinement in Appearance and Conduct:
  • "That which has been said about bringing great language, music, and literature into the home...may also be said of our physical appearance and manners."
  • "We must not “let ourselves go” and become so casual—even sloppy—in our appearance that we distance ourselves from the beauty heaven has given us."
  • "Every man has the right to be married to a woman who makes herself as beautiful as she can be and who looks in the mirror to tidy herself up before he comes home."
  • "Every woman has a right to be married to a man who keeps himself clean, physically as well as morally, and takes pride in his appearance." 
  • "A husband should hurry home because of the angel who awaits him, and that angel should be watching the clock awaiting his arrival."
Elder Callister reminds us that we "are children of an exalted being. [We] are foreordained to preside as kings and queens. [We] will live in a home and environment of infinite refinement and beauty, as reflected in the language, literature, art, music, and order of heaven."

Whether we live up to our refined privileges in our media-saturated, entertainment-obsessed, morally cavalier society is a decision made with each conversation, each wardrobe choice, each piece of art on the wall, and each Friday night plan.

And our refined Heavenly Father stands ready to help us make the right one.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Courage to be Vulnerable

"And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit." -3 Nephi 9:19-20 

"I thank my great God that he has given us a portion of his Spirit to soften our hearts." -Alma 24:8

There's something inherently wonderful about January 1st, about a "new beginning," a fresh start, fortified with personal resolutions to become just a little better than we are now.

Not that it's always easy.  The type of soul-searching introspection that addresses our own life weaknesses has the potential to discourage us just as it does to invigorate us.  In this spirit of honest but optimistic self-evaluation, the following TED talk by Brene Brown constitutes one of those internet resources that has tremendous real-world applicability:

The Price of Invulnerability

May our New Year's resolutions help us to avoid the pitfalls of disconnected, numbing, foreboding and insecure perfectionism and bring us closer to our loved ones in a spirit of forgiving and hopeful interdependence!  Mortality was never about perfection.  Mortality was always about new beginnings, about second chances.

So in light of all the disappointments and joys sure to come by leading a more vulnerable life, by having the courage to live, Happy New Year!

Happy Second Chance.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What do you want?

"The desire of the righteous shall be granted." -Proverbs 10:24

"You want something, go get it.  Period." -The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006

"What desirest thou?" -1 Nephi 11:2

The modern life is the busy life.  It is the multi-tasking life.  It is the technologically enabled and expanded life.  The personalized, bookmarked, set-your-own-theme life.

And all too often, it becomes the unfocused life.  The uncommitted life.  The self-centered life.  The lonely life.  The life that presents so many options that it becomes easy to forget what we really want.  

So what do we want out of life?  What do we want out of the relationships that constitute "life" in any meaningful sense?  And what are we willing to do (i.e. to change) to make desires reality?

The modern miracles of technology inundate our daily lives with so much data that it can be easy to confuse "information" with "action."  This applies to the manner in which we invest in our relationships, be they romantic, parent-child, or friend-friend.  Sometimes we make the mistake of abdicating our own responsibility to live according to our righteous desires by holding back (i.e. withholding our hearts, our commitment, our best selves) until we receive divine revelation on what is "right."  We refuse to move forward in a committed direction until the universe aligns in that perfect cosmic fit (that perfect "social app") that...while it hasn't really ever come before, is sure to be just around the corner...right?

But when we focus so much on figuring out what is "right," we run the risk, along the way, of utterly failing to be a positive influence in the lives of those who are important to us.  And our doubts become self-fulfilling.  Why would we receive divine approbation for something we're not sure we want in the first place?  There is a tremendous difference between approaching the Lord with the wavering question "Is this right?" and the more hopeful "According to the righteous desires with which Thou hast blessed me, I want this.  Thy will permitting, what can I do to win your approval for this blessing?"

In short, there is tremendous power in deciding what we want in righteousness and living accordingly; in choosing a committed life over a busy life.  

So when it comes to nurturing a marriage, attracting a future spouse, raising a headstrong child, or connecting with work colleagues and friends...

What do you truly want?

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -W.H. Murray, The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, 1951

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Worth fighting for.

"If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now." -Jeffrey R. Holland, Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence

"Pursue your goals with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.  You are doomed to failure if you pursue them in a vacillating manner." -Robert D. Hales, Ten Axiom to Guide Your Life

"Sam: 'Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something.'  Frodo: 'What are we holding onto, Sam?'  Sam: 'That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo...and it's worth fighting for.'" The Two Towers (2002 Film)

There are some things in life worth fighting for.  Call them goals, call them priorities, call them treasures of the heart; ultimately, they are the reason we arise each morning with purpose.

People are worth fighting for.

In a society increasingly focused on instant gratification, illusory perfection and misleading superficiality, the patience-trying, at times glaringly imperfect and frustratingly complex people that fill our lives are worth fighting for.  The children's drawings on our refrigerators outshine the framed degrees on our walls.  The warm memories of Christmas conversations with loving parents outlast the company's holiday bonus check.  The quiet movie night with our spouse at home lifts us more than any exotic business trip.  The people standing at our graveside overshadow any other ephemeral "life achievements."

Loved ones are worth fighting for.

A Facebook "friendship" only intrudes on your space when it's convenient.  A romance novel only asks for your time when you're ready to waste it.  The ideal spouse, the perfect child, the sibling we wish we had...they're easy to love in the abstract.  But ours is the enriching opportunity to nurture friendships even when it's inconvenient, to sacrifice time for the pursuit of meaningful romance, to love the wonderfully imperfect spouse, child, and sibling who make life worth living.

We fight for our loved ones when we:

  • Make them a priority; when we fit our schedules around them.
  • Learn what makes them feel loved, and adjust our efforts of affection accordingly.
  • Put their own well-being and happiness above our own self-centered doubts, frustrations, distractions and routines.
  • Magnify our gender roles to provide and protect (men) or support and nurture (women).
  • Avoid the trap of filling our life with so many good things (jobs, education, church responsibilities, hobbies) that we're too busy for the great things.
  • See their potential with an eye of faith and recognize our own power to help them achieve it.
Ours is the opportunity to become a positive, uplifting influence in the lives of our loved ones as we truly learn to "lose ourselves in the service of others" by eschewing the modern-day temptations of "virtual" relationships, isolating entertainment, and multi-tasking "busy-ness" for the rich blessings of focused and steadfast commitment towards others.

And that's worth fighting for.