The past week or two, my mind has been mulling over the idea of self-betterment. A concept prevalent in most religions, it seems to be disappearing (or perhaps was always non-existent) outside this realm. A strong voice crying "take me as I am" is the motto of today's conceited and self-centered culture. Herein lies no desire to change oneself, to cast of facets of personality which are undesirable and adopt admirable characteristics.
What a task self-improvement is. First to divine the habits or traits which are weaknesses, then to have the humility to desire change, then to embark on a long journey to rid yourself of the undesirable. Such depth of self-awareness is often painful, as opposed to the blissful state of ignorance (using both meaning, one of unknowing and the other of ignoring).
Perhaps just as long of a journey, though somewhat less arduous, is to adopt admirable traits. This involves not a study of self, but a study of others, to view in them such qualities as you wish to cultivate in yourself. Here the trick lies in keeping at bay the green-eyed monster known as jealousy. It is easy to pinpoint good in others, and then despise the easy manner in which it comes to them while it always seems just beyond your grasp.
Nevertheless, while it may be a lifelong journey up a gentle slope, it is important to remember that even a gentle slope taxes your muscles, and progress can only be measured after a great distance is covered and you can look back and see the height to which you have climbed. Not all of it involves lofty ideas; think of the joy in learning a new talent, or the accomplishment of a new skill. I take joy in strumming my guitar, or laying a hand-made quilt over my sleeping baby. I am amazed when I have listened to a still small voice and caught hold of an opportunity to serve another. Even my continued bewilderment at gardening has come to be a challenge to which I want to rise defiantly. When my housework skills prove lacking, I set my hand at it again, trying some new way to conquer it (for I keep constantly in my mind the definition of insanity: doing something over and over in the same way and expecting different results).
The spiritual plane of self-betterment always seems elusive. The constant admonition to set myself to daily prayer, daily scripture study, and to keep a focused mind during sermons and lessons reminds me of how far I have to go. But rather than be a discouragement, I hear it as a reminder of that call to improve myself. I don't want to simply settle for what I am now. I don't want people to have to deal with me as I am. I yearn for an age when I will be less selfish, more patient.
In fact, I am adopting Galations 5:22 as a personal goal. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." (NIV) In the past these characteristics seemed to blur together. I found it hard to distinguish one from the next, as they all seemed to closely related. Now, however, as a desire develops from deep within myself, I am more clearly seeing each for what it is, and the manner in which I can start to develop each.
What divine words they are, and each word holds within a beautiful idea. The calling of motherhood provides a fertile plot of soil to start cultivating these traits within myself. I am grateful for a desire to grow and change myself, to have courage to walk down the road of self-betterment in a the midst of a culture promoting a useless universe revolving around self. I am grateful for a husband and children who inspire me to become better and to keep at it, one step at a time.