Why Are We Afraid to Love?
I am so excited to be here with you all today. Thank you so much for the beautiful music, for the prayers, Jan for your thought, and Morgan for that beautiful message. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to be before you today. You may have heard of the “Where’s Larry?” contest that the Bookstore is doing right now. It says, “Take Larry with you to all the cool places you’ll be going this summer. Take a picture with him, and then post it using the hash tag #WheresLarry.” I can’t think of a cooler place to be right now than the Assembly Hall, with all of you basking in the Spirit. I am truly humbled to stand at this pulpit where so many great men and women of God have instructed and inspired others. And I am so grateful to be here.
Now if you don’t mind, I would like to have my shot at winning a Hogle Zoo ticket. President’s not here today, so I think I’m going to go ahead and snap a “selfie” with Larry. I would like all of you to be a part of the picture, though. Could we bring the lights up for everybody? We’re going to do this. Don’t worry, I’ll tag everybody. Everybody say “cheese.”
As I pondered what I might share with you today, there were lots of thoughts that came to my mind as I pondered it. One question that came to my mind over and over again, though, was, “Why are we so afraid to love?” I don’t pretend to be an expert, or a love doctor, or to even know all of the answers to this question, but I did feel that it would be the topic that I shared with you today.
It’s a commandment. Matthew 22:37 says, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” We know it’s important, we know it’s a commandment. Yet we live in a world that is so often void of this love that the scriptures speaks of. Especially if you’re on the road driving in Utah. I’m only mostly kidding about that. It doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re on the road, whether you’re in your classroom, in your home, in your ward, on Facebook…wherever you are, it is becoming increasingly clear that we need more love in our lives.
We need to show more love to our Heavenly Father, but we also need to show more love to each other. As I’ve pondered this scripture, it became clear to me that the two are intertwined. You can’t love Heavenly Father and not love each other. And you can’t love each other and not love Heavenly Father. We need to love Heavenly Father, first and foremost. That is the first and great commandment. But we then need to let that love and His love flow through our hearts to those within our sphere of influence. Matthew 25:40 says, “Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
So again, I ask, why are we so afraid to love? We know it’s important, we know we need to do it. And let me be clear about what kind of love I’m talking about. I’m not just talking about romantic love, although I’m sure that falls into this category. I’m talking about all kinds of love. I’m talking about the kind of love that you needed that first day in your new ward when you didn’t know anybody. I’m talking about the love and support that you needed when you had to do that hard and challenging thing, and were not sure of your ability to do so. But especially I’m talking about the love we all need when our hearts are hurting, and when our hearts are broken. Again, why are we so afraid to love?
I asked this question to a lot of people. I even posted it on Facebook. You may have caught on that I’m social media-savvy, by this point in my talk. But I got a lot of responses. And you might be interested to know what a few of those responses were. So, I got a lot, it kind of fell into two categories. The first category was this “Fear of what might happen in the future.” And some of those responses were:
- Fear of heartbreak
- Fear of commitment
- Fear of vulnerability
One of my dear friends, who’s actually in the audience gave a great insight. She said, “There is always a chance they might break or bruise our heart. No matter how committed and wonderful they are, we’re all fallible and mistakes, selfishness, and poor choices happen. That’s why love and forgiveness are often synonymous.” What a great insight. Thank you, Anna.
There were lots of other responses as well.
· Misinterpretation of our expression of love. Does that ever happen to you? That happens a lot more texting than it happens talking on the phone, for the record.
· That the love will not be reciprocated.
· Of losing the people you give your heart to.
· Another person said, “It is scary to put things that are close to our hearts out there, because it is easy for things to get broken.”
· Fear of incompatibility.
· Fear of leaving our comfort zone.
The list goes on and on, of all these fears, all these reasons that we might be afraid to love.
Another category that I kind of identified in the responses I got was “Pain or hurt from our past.” Some of the responses were:
· My heart is too hard from past experiences to love.
· I am too hurt and broken to give of myself
· We often have love, but there’s too much hurt and emotional damage covering it up to see it.
All in all, these were the two major themes that emerged from the responses. Fear of the future, and pain from our past. Another honorable mention might be some of the effects of our culture and the world we live in that has corrupted our idea of what love is, and the adversary has done a great job at perverting and materializing both. And we need to be very careful about the things we take into our lives and the things, and John Bytheway says, “We marinate ourselves in,” that would corrupt our thinking and perspective of what love really is, of what true love is (“The Parable of the Marinade,” by John Bytheway).
The great thing is, of all these reasons of why we are afraid to show our love, the Atonement helps us overcome them. These obstacles and impediments can be alleviated through our Savior Jesus Christ. In regards to the future, and this idea of fearing the future, that prevents us from opening our hearts. President Monson said, “Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and Savior, will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts, as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not, be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith,” (“Be of Good Cheer,” April 2009 General Conference).
We are assured of justice and peace for all that will come, if we do our part. If we turn to our Heavenly Father, who has outreached arms to us and so desperately wants to alleviate us of these burdens and impediments that cloud our hearts. Let’s not trade possible pain for guaranteed loneliness. Alma 7:11 addresses the pain from the past; one of my favorite scriptures about the Atonement. It says, “And he shall go forth suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” Through the Atonement our pains and afflictions of every kind can be cured; if we use it. We can leverage the Atonement to remove these impediments from our life. I don’t pretend for a second to make that sound like an easy thing to do. But I know and have experienced personally the power of the Atonement, and the erasing power it can have on our burdens and our pain from our past experiences.
The spirit of love is in each and every one of us. II Timothy 1:7 states this clearly. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” We need love. God needs us to love, and many around us need our love. I cannot promise that it won’t hurt. In fact, it probably will. I think everyone in this room can think back to a hurtful experience where we gave our hearts up, and that resulted in pain. I cannot promise that you will not be sorely taken advantage of. But I can promise you that the blessings of Zion will be ours as we practice opening our hearts and courageously loving those around us.
The heart is a funny thing, and I feel inspired to address that briefly. Our hearts are not always right. And I hope you have a pen and paper out, or an airplane mode electronic device, and that you can ponder the question: if my heart is not right, what am I doing or not doing that is affecting my heart? And I would encourage you to include into your life, or let fall out of your life those things that are impeding your heart from opening, and impeding you from courageously sharing your love with those who so desperately need it in your life.
It takes time. In the talk “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart” in October 2013 Conference, we heard, “We need to understand that it is not possible to grow and develop the seed of meekness in the twinkling of an eye; but rather through the process of time. Christ asks us to take up our cross daily; meaning that it must be a constant focus and desire,” (Elder Ulisses Soares, General Conference October 2013). This takes practice.
I have a beautiful little 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer. And early on, I’ll tell you a little story about consistency, my mother told me that I needed to always check the oil when I pumped my gas to make sure I didn’t run out of oil and blow up the engine. And as I started checking the oil, I noticed that the engine was really greasy and dirty. And so I decided every time I would check the oil, I would grab an extra paper towel and I would just wipe off a little bit of the engine. It was a pretty dirty engine. But as I went and slowly wiped away one little smudge at a time, here now a year later of owning the car, it’s a pretty shiny engine. I’ve been tempted many times to not grab the paper towel and not worry about it. But we do that in our lives as well, and we need to be consistent and make sure that we are continually maintaining our hearts and striving to make our hearts right.
I’ll tell you one other story, where I almost succumbed to the fear of men, and suppressed a generous gesture. Back when I graduated Seminary I went to the Seminary graduation with my mother. And I looked over at her with a heart full of gratitude for everything she had done for me throughout my teenage years. And I had the thought, “Why not put your arm around your mom?” That thought was immediately followed by the thought, “That’s not cool to do, you don’t put your arm around your mom. There’s all my friends, what are they going to think of me?” I’m so grateful for the spirit of love and courage that overcame that fear. And I did put my arm around my mother that day. She later told me how much that meant to her. Never suppress a generous thought. The fact that I came so close to suppressing that generous thought to my mother makes me sick. And there have been many times when I have suppressed generous thoughts, and I’ve always regretted those. This was a quote made famous in a talk called “Personal Ministry,” that I have adopted as a guiding principal in my life. (See Bonnie D. Parkin,“Personal Ministry: Sacred and Precious,” BYU Devotional Feb. 13, 2007, http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1685. The phrase “Never suppress a generous thought” is from Sister Camilla Kimball.)
And I would invite you guys to take up the challenge, to never suppress a generous thought. President Monson said, “Send that thought to the friend you’ve been neglecting. Give a loved one a hug. Say, ‘I love you’ more. Always express your thanks, and never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved,” (“Finding Joy in the Journey,” President Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 General Conference).
We need to start today, and I’m going to tell you right now what your next step is. As we finish our devotional and as we head back to the college, at these doors you will all be given a card with this quote on the front of it, that says, “Never suppress a generous thought.” And I want you to think just for a second right now, and I want you to have a prayer in your heart right now. Who in your life needs your love? I want you to remember that name and when you get this card on your way out, immediately following this devotional, I want you to give that person a generous thought, and open your heart and courageously love them. If you want more than one, feel free to take a few, and there will also be extras on the ninth floor.
This talk was for me. I don’t want you to think I’m a selfish person, but it became clear to me as I was preparing this message that I was the one who needed it. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to be here with you guys, and that we can all together help create Zion and love each other. I have a strong testimony that as we courageously practice opening our hearts and loving those around us, and expressing these generous thoughts, that it will become natural to us, and that it will become easier. And not only that it will become easier, but that our heart will more closely resemble that of the Savior’s. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that He is our Savior. I know that we need to strive to have a heart more like His. I know that this is the true church of Jesus Christ on the face of the earth. And I know that the LDS Business College is a temple of learning, and that we are so blessed to be a part of it. This is my testimony and my invitation, and I leave it with you humbly, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Introduction: Chief Academic Officer Ron Guymon
Brother Neal Hooper. He oversees the student clubs and organizations, and communication at the college, and plays a significant role in the development of student leadership on campus. He’s excited to share with you this Fall a special project he’s been working on for some time. And if you’re interested on how you can get more involved and make a difference in the lives of others, be sure to pay him a visit sometime, or watch for announcements in the near future. Brother Hooper was raised in California. He’s the third of five children. He is the first in his family to earn a college degree. He served a mission in Costa Rica. He says he comes from humble beginnings and felt Heaven’s hand bring him here, and guide him through his experience here. LDS Business College is proud to call him one of our graduates. In many ways, his story serves as an example for each of us, about the kind of impact a college can have in the lives of those it touches.
Brother Hooper’s experiences at the college prepared him well to get a full-time job working for the Church as an instructional designer in the Family History Department, where he worked creating materials in many languages to help people understand the tools available to them. He then joined our staff last year on a full-time basis. Among his other callings in the church, he’s been Assistant Ward Mission Leader in the Spanish Branch and a Family History Consultant. Those of you who know Brother Neal know that he’s got incredible energy and some incredible talent as a gymnast. I’m not sure we’ll see that talent, but that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? So we thank our two speakers for coming.