(The following is adapted from a recent lesson I gave on a chosen General Conference address...)
Pop quiz time: Which current General Authority has the same name as the actor who portrayed butcher-knife wielding Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 classic “Psycho”?
The answer? Elder Anthony Perkins of the Seventy.
Elder Perkins gave a talk in the most recent General Conference entitled, “The Great and Wonderful Love”. His talk dealt with the myths Satan uses to distort our understanding of who we are and what we are capable of. At the end of his remarks, Elder Perkins made a comment that applies directly to people in our stage of life:
“You will experience greater joy in life as you eradicate adult-onset pessimism and substitute childlike optimism.”
So what is “Adult Onset Pessimism?” Let us first identify the problem…
Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP) can be brought on by a number of life factors. Some of the issues that induce AOP include School, Work, Dating, Taxes, Kobe Bryant, people who drive too slow in the fast lane, and PC to Mac compatibility. Here are some common symptoms of Adult Onset Pessimism (AOP):
1- Slouching posture
2- Excessive drooling
3- Declining grooming standards—only washes “visible parts”
4- Stops wearing pants
5- Refers to self in third person, as in “Ricky don’t feel good tonight.”
6- Fails to move for long stretches of time in public situations
7- Only buys gas $5 at a time because “they’re gonna nuke us soon, anyway”.
8- Regularly explains low grade point average by pointing out that “grade assignment is a tool of modern class warfare whereby the Bourgeoisie continues to suppress the Urban Proletariat. And Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard”.
9- May or may not be breathing
10- Constantly makes negative comments, like “she’s out of my league”, “I could never do that”, or “watch me lie down in front of this bus”
So why do these issues make us feel pessimistic? What is the deeper fear/problem? Some might suggest that discouragement, fear of failure, despair because of past failure, unfulfilled expectations, and a lack of faith might be possible causes. Elder Perkins suggests that Satan uses three snares to perpetuate AOP:
1. The Snare of False Inadequacy—you are neither good-looking or smart enough to succeed.
2. The Snare of Exaggerated Imperfection—your best efforts are insufficient.
3. The Snare of Needless Guilt—the hole you have dug is too deep.
Have you fallen into one of these three snares? Here is a handy Multiple Choice Test you can take to find out:
Do you suffer from Adult Onset Pessimism?
1. The local gym advertises a special no-money-down, $9.99 a month six-month membership. Do you:
A. Sign up immediately after consulting your monthly budget.
B. Hesitate, wondering if the same gym will lower its rate to $7.99 if you wait a month or two.
C. Talk yourself out of it, figuring you’ll probably go for a week or two and then give up.
D. Go down to the gym and laugh in their pretentious, plastic faces, cause you would never stoop to working out with a bunch of shallow thick-skulled macho beefcakes and their surgery-enhanced groupies who wouldn’t talk to you if you paid them.
2. Your boss tells you he will give you a 20K a year raise if you complete a special one-year Executive MBA program. Do you:
A. Register immediately, grateful to finally have the chance to move up the corporate ladder.
B. Chuckle at your boss behind his back because you thought he said “NBA Program”, and is obviously a horrible judge of talent.
C. Pass on the opportunity, citing an obscure article you found online that claims MBA grads are going out of style, and that a degree in Hotel Managment is the new hot credential.
D. Go back to your cubicle and spend three hours surfing ldslinkup.com, because even if you did sign up for the stupid program, it would just prolong the already infinite amount of time you’ve been stuck in this pointless, go-nowhere black hole of a job.
3.A woman from your mother’s home ward that you met one time six years ago calls you and tells you she wants to set you up with her returned missionary daughter, who is really shy and doesn’t date much but can cook enchiladas like the Devil himself. Do you:
A. Go on the date. After all, who is to say when good fortune will come?
B. Go on the date, even though every blind date you’ve ever been on has been a catastrophic disaster, but because your parents met on a blind date, you always feel this sick obligation to give it a chance.
C. Ignore the invitation, make some kind of vague excuse, take the phone number but conveniently forget to take it out of your pants before washing them on an extended hot cycle.
D. Tell the woman to e-mail you a photo of her daughter and you’ll get back to her.
4. The 13th Ward weekly e-mail announces a joint Friday mingle with the 32nd Ward for the upcoming weekend. Do you:
A. Go to the mingle and dance like you’ve never danced before.
B. Show up to the mingle at 10pm after calling three different friends to find out if there are any hot chicks there, then leave after twenty minutes of routine conversations with the same three friends you talk to at every ward activity.
C. Blow off the mingle, disgustedly telling yourself that the girls in the 32nd Ward think they’re too good for you anyway.
D. You never saw the e-mail because you blocked 13th Ward messages from your inbox six months ago.
5.Your boss gives you tickets to the upcoming Brad Paisley concert. Do you:
A. Call up your fly honey and say, “Woman, it’s time for a night on the town.”
B. Debate endlessly whether to call your number one option at the last minute, and finally call option number six because you know she probably doesn’t have anything else going on.
C. Call your roommate, cause there’s no way you’re wasting a concert ticket on some girl who will probably stop returning your phone calls next week.
D. Wait a minute, why would anyone want to go see Brad Paisley?
If you find yourself answering mostly A’s, you’re doing pretty good. But if you find yourself drifting closer to the D range of each question, you might be suffering from a nasty bout of AOP.
So now that we’ve identified the problem, how do we cope with it? Elder Perkins provides the cure for AOP—five suggestions to apply to your daily life. “For as a man thinketh, is he…”
I: See Yourself as a Precious Child of a Loving Father in Heaven
PERKINS QUOTE #1: Our children with confidence sing, "I am a child of God, and he has sent me here." Little children feel and know what perhaps you have forgotten. You are the beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father, created "in his own image”, and of immense value—so much so that Jesus Christ gave His life for you.
We need to understand that, contrary to what the world might suggest, we are the offspring of divinity, with wonderful potential. It might help to memorize this convenient little mantra:
"I am a valuable son of God with good prospects and a lot to offer despite the superficial misdirected social values perpetuated by the so-called ‘standards’ of reality television that inform me otherwise."
And here it is in French:
"Je suis un fils valable de Dieu avec les bon avenir et beucoup a proposer nonobstant le superficiel mal oriente valeurs sociale perdurer by chez pretendu ‘critere’ de realite television qui informer me autrement."
Or you could just memorize an actual scripture. That works nice too.
II: Place Your Burdens on Jesus Christ
PERKINS QUOTE #2: The Savior promised, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." As you "cast [your] burden upon the Lord," you will feel the peace of the Spirit.
This is a statement we hear often, but like the typical “pray and read your scriptures” response, I wonder if we’re getting deep enough. Exactly what does it mean to “place your burdens on the Lord”? I’m not sure it’s an idea that can really be put into words, but I know that one must come to the point where they are willing to let go of their worries—to stop dwelling on them, over-analyzing, fretting, pushing, demanding—and put themselves in a place where they are willing to accept the Lord’s will on the matter.
III: Forgive Yourself of Sins and Imperfections
PERKINS QUOTE #3: Jesus said, "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." Start with yourself, and forgive others as well. If God will not remember our repented-of sins, then why should we? Avoid wasting time and energy reliving the past.
IV: Sustain Hope of Eternal Life
PERKINS QUOTE #4: If you imagine that your prior sins, character flaws, and poor decisions prevent you from receiving all of God's blessings, consider the experience of Alma the Elder. Referring to his younger years as an immoral priest for the wicked King Noah, Alma admitted, "I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance." Yet Alma's repentance was so complete and Christ's Atonement so infinite that Alma became a prophet and was promised eternal life. As you do your best to be obedient and repentant, you too can receive a place in the celestial kingdom through the Atonement and grace of Jesus Christ.
Suggestions 3 and 4 are closely related to a concept I’ve been pondering lately. It seems that a lot of discouragement comes from the notion that the “present is permanent”, that any trial we are currently facing, or any fallout from sin we are dealing with, is a permanent condition. It is not. The present is not permanent. That’s the whole point of the Atonement. We may not necessarily be delivered from these trials, but even if we must pass through them—as is frequently the case—the point is that WE WILL PASS THROUGH THEM. They will end.
V: Find Joy Each Day
PERKINS QUOTE #5: One source of joy is service, for when you are busy helping others, you will have less capacity to agonize over your own shortcomings. The Savior wisely taught, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it."
Adult Onset Pessimism prevents us from recognizing many of the wonderful opportunities of life. Years ago in Logan, I was given the opportunity to play drums for a Neil Diamond cover band at the USU Valentine’s Dance. I really wasn’t a very good drummer, and I didn’t know if I would be up for the task. Whenever I had performed with bands previously, I was pretty ragged at best. And yet, I wanted to feel the sublime power of “Shilo”. I wanted to share the eternal truths of “Forever in Blue Jeans”. I wanted to embrace the horrible reality of “Love on the Rocks”. So instead of succumb to pessimism and doubt, I thought, “nuts to it; If I go down, I might as well go down in flames.” Patrick Henry, one of the heroes of the American Revolution, said, “If this be treason, then let us make the most of it”. So I did. At first it was really hard to learn Neil’s songs, cause he just seems to write from a planet all his own. But eventually I caught on, and playing the Valentine’s Dance was one of the highlights of my time at Utah State. It even helped me meet this really cute violinist, who later rejected me, but at least I took a shot.
I think that the key to fighting discouragement and pessimism is to realize that when the Lord challenges us with an opportunity, He’s not really asking us to do it by ourselves. If we understand that we can let the Lord work through us, then there is nothing we cannot accomplish through His infinite capacity. Nephi said, “for I know that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” We hear that scripture all the time; but if we truly believe it, then there is no reason we should ever let discouragement, doubt, or adult-onset pessimism cloud our vision.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, amen.