We live in dark and difficult times. As you read these words, it is likely something is stirring in the front of your mind. Maybe it is something you saw on the news. Maybe it is a heated discussion you had on social media that caused your blood to burn. Perhaps this thing has caused you to stay awake at night wondering how any of us will survive this crazy world. Perhaps you’ve shed tears in despair or become passionate about a cause because of it.
No matter what we face or how we feel about it, the mandate from the Lord remains the same. We are the light of the world. We need to “shine before this people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
How can we be a light in the face of so much darkness and confusion? It begins from our very core, the metaphorical home of our beliefs and feelings. A change of heart is necessary for us to overcome the evils of the world. If you want to make a difference, these ten ideas can help facilitate a change of heart that will help you change the world.
1. Understand the commandment of charity.
Every cause seems to claim love. Love is love is love…until we decide loves needs to fit into our own definitions. Love is love when you accept and condone my every action. Love is love when you love only those who deserve it. Love is love when it is easy and convenient. Love is love only when someone is righteous.
This is the opposite of the love of Jesus Christ. When we understand the commandment of charity, we recognize how all-encompassing it is. It means kindness and respect for all. It means being willing to serve those who hate you. What did Christ do? He sacrificed himself for everyone. Do we take the time to internalize that? What that means for us and how we should act? Every single one of us is saved because of Christ. Not a single one of us truly deserves it. But he did it anyway.
Study not just the definition of charity, but how Christ is the embodiment of it. How did he live? What did he do and how did he react? How would he react if he was in our shoes? If we take the time to ask these questions, we may find ourselves living life differently.
2. Avoid haste and contention.
In a world of technology and social media, we have immediate access to a platform of varied opinions. If we so desire, we can easily share our own thoughts in the public sphere. This has created a thirst for blood and argument in our internet culture. We comment quickly, unfollow friends who don’t agree with us, and jump from one trending hashtag to the next.
What we don’t realize is that this has bled into our everyday lives. The way we communicate is fundamentally changing. The way we see people is changing. The way we treat people is changing.
We need to take the time to study things out in our hearts and in our minds. We should respond thoughtfully and with respect in any discussion. Certain conversations may be better in a private message than on someone’s newsfeed. There are times when we should say nothing at all. Contention, as described in the Book of Mormon, is of the devil. It is as clear as that and if we believe in those words we need to do our best to avoid its dangers.
3. Recognize that all suffering is important.
Passion is a great thing. It can spur us to action and help us feel empowered to do hard things. However, we can also become blinded by it. We begin to rate pain and delegate suffering to an arbitrary hierarchy we have in our minds. We may become confused why some issues that seem small to us are being treated “like a big deal” or find ourselves angered that no one is paying enough attention “to what really matters.”
Christ mourns with all those who mourn. When we turn to him, he does not tell us our suffering is unimportant or that we are overreacting. He is compassionate. He listens. He offers love without judgement or strings attached.
This is difficult for us to do. We can start by practicing empathy and trying to recognize how the suffering of others is something we need to pay attention to. We can do our best to offer support in a way that is genuine and pure.
4. Look the issues in the eye.
With access so much information, it is easy to see only what we want to see. We quickly find people who feel the same way we do and we suddenly find ourselves treating everyone else like the enemy. While there are definitely opinions and attitudes that blatantly go against the teachings of the Church, we need to take the time to examine each issue with diligence and an open mind.
A lot of it is ugly. It will likely make us uncomfortable. We may get confused or overwhelmed. We may not know what to say. Yet if we want to know where to build our beliefs, we need to understand why the rock is solid and why the sand is not. No matter what your final opinion ends up being, build it upon research, study, and wrestling with your own heart.
5. Don’t hyperventilate, educate.
People scare easily. People offend easily. What starts off innocently can quickly turn into a blazing fire. When you care about a cause, you want to defend it. This is especially true of gospel principles which we have covenanted to support. It feels like the battles to fight are endless and we can work ourselves up into a frenzy over it.
In such a state, we lose our effectiveness. Instead of spewing anger because others don’t understand our position, we should do our best to educate others as to our point of view and why we stand by it. Just as we hope others will listen to us, we should be willing to listen to others.
Follow the promptings of the Spirit on how to share the feelings of your heart in a constructive and meaningful way. Do your best to research both sides and use what you find to support your feelings.
6. Focus on your sphere of influence.
The troubles of the world are overwhelming. We can’t fix everything and our efforts can seem like too tiny a drop in the bucket. We can take confidence in the knowledge that God knows where we are and how to use us as a tool in his hands.
In fact, God wants to use us to help others. He has placed you, uniquely gifted and talented you, right where you are for a reason. There are people all around us we can influence for good, whether it is in person or online.
Take heart and focus on serving those within your own sphere of influence. Especially take the time to work with family and friends. Pray for your eyes to be opened to specific ways you can be of help to others.
7. Remember, remember.
In order to be changed, we need to remember. All too often, we pay attention and become involved as long as it is popular to do so. Once another story breaks, we forget. Nothing changes. We aren’t changed.
Think on the things that have moved you. Remember the experiences that have challenged your way of thinking and made you grow as a person. You don’t have to remember everything or become invested in every story, but let yourself be changed. Cherish and honor the things that have moved you forward.
If something is filling up your heart and mind, figure out how you can channel it into productive action.
8. Recognize who you represent.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our claim is that we are Christ’s disciples. We represent him. We are, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, his hands here on the earth. When we truly internalize this fact, we find our attitudes and actions changing.
If we care about representing Christ, we take the time to ponder his life and seek his spirit. We consider our interactions with others and our integrity when we are alone. This may seem daunting, but Christ makes it clear on how we should live and how we should treat others. His way is straight and all we need do is walk it.
9. Find a reason to hope.
If you are in despair about the state of the world, take a moment to watch this great Mormon Message from President Russell M. Nelson. It is addressed to those who feel “weak in the heart” and gives great ways to build our hope in perilous times.
We have the joyful message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and an eternal perspective. We have many reasons to hope.
10. Earnestly pray.
At the end of the day, the only way we can experience a change of heart is through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We cannot change our hearts on the own. By turning to Christ in earnest prayer, doing our best to follow the suggestions he gives us, we can change. We may not be able to change the world completely, but we can be a powerful force for good and become lasting beacons of light to those who seek it.