Today I am going to probably massacre a scripture by taking it totally out of context and using a phrase for my own purposes. Okay? Okay. Glad you’re on board.
We’re going back to Jacob, one of my favorite Book of Mormon prophets (as I have mentioned before). This time, though, we are going to take one of Jacob’s commentaries and examine in a different light than he intended. Basically, I’m going to apply it to us instead of the group to which he originally intended.
In (the part of) Jacob 4:14 (we will be reading), it says:
Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.
“Doing your best”
It may have been in the post about perfectionism that I mentioned how I get frustrated when people say ” just do your best” because a large part of me feels that my ultimate best would amount to being perfect: no mistakes, just 100% awesome. I know that we are not expected to be “perfect” in this life because it’s just not possible, but my brain likes to think that maybe I can get there. Or at least 99.9% of the way there.
But that question I bring up today is as follows: does expecting and requiring 99.9999% perfection out of ourselves right now amount to going “beyond the mark”?
Where is the mark?
When we strive for unrealistic perfection, or at least perfection in things that we cannot perfectly accomplish right now, are we missing the point? Is the point of the gospel and the Plan of Salvation to “kill” ourselves trying to perfect, letting obsessions and compulsions whack away at our self esteem as we try to live perfectly and harmlessly, or is it to make mistakes and utilize the Atonement? Is the point actually to not be perfect, or at least not try to be perfect on our own?
I feel like I often do as Jacob says here and “look beyond the mark.” I try to accomplish more than is expected, maybe hoping for some bonus points at the end of it all. But really, if Jacob is right, looking beyond the mark doesn’t make us more awesome. It actually makes us fall because we are missing the point. We miss the beautiful simplicity that is letting ourselves fail so that we can appreciate our dependence on the Savior. We begin to stop understanding what the actual point of all of this occasional mess of life is because we think we should be able to do it all on our own.
…and then add in OCD (or depression or….)
I think having a mental health issue can further complicate this whole process because we have our brains telling us that we are or should be or ought to be a certain way. We begin to believe that we should be living or doing things one way, and that way might be taking us beyond the mark or missing it completely. Maybe we don’t “desire” to be this way, as it says in Jacob 4:14, but it still can led us to that stumbling point.
If you feel like you are stumbling in the Gospel, chances are something like this may be happening. Get the mark back in sight, get the outside help you need, an then get the most important help you need—the Atonement. As I like to say, living the gospel is not always easy but it is simple.