Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Excerpt from Senior Capstone

Since changing majors at the beginning of this semester, I got to take my senior capstone class along with an intro to the major class. That was kind of interesting! The following is a piece from my senior capstone about truth, agency, and love. I thought I would share since these topics are close to my heart and this kind of marks the end of my college experience.

A Concept of Truth
When we are living in the world truthfully, we are not being self-deceived.  There are 3 types of truth: (1) pure or absolute truth which consists of spiritual knowledge; (2) diluted truth which is pure truth that has been poorly interpreted or secular/limited knowledge; and (3) relative truth or our own personal experiences and acquired information.  Pure or absolute truth comes from God and can also be understood as light.
As Terry Warner explains, we must first understand the difference between light and conscience.  Light is our truth, our sense of right and wrong, what keeps us from becoming morally blind or self-deceived.  Our conscience is something that is created within ourselves; something that can be changed and distorts the truth. Because truth or light does not come from us, it streams from those around us; the light cannot be snuffed out.  Light cannot be changed, although through our conscience it can become distorted (Warner, 2001). 
Truth creates freedom when you are experiencing something as it really is.  However, if experiencing something that is experientially not as it seems to be, you fall into victimhood of a false world.  Viewing truth as a concrete, non-metaphysical idea is to understand truth relative to how things are being in their temporal state.    This allows the rest of the world to unfold openly and honestly (Williams, 1992).  By yielding to the truth about others, "we abandon whatever lie we may have been living. Wholeheartedly embracing the truth cannot coexist with living a lie" (Warner, 2001 p. 147).  Therefore we cease to be self-deceiving and allow ourselves to be touched by the truth.  When we cease to become self-deceiving, we allow others to become real to us.  This change of heart comes only when we allow ourselves to be affected by the light of others.  As we see the light in others it is easy to live in the world truthfully because we let their feelings guide how we see them.   We should allow the light to be our guide, which will manifest to us the needs of others.
"The kind of people we are cannot be separated from how we interpret the world around us… Who we are is how we are in relation to others," which is why it is essential to open yourself to other's inner reality and see them as important as our own self (Warner, 2001 p. 42). The truth is us being receptive to others and is manifested by the light.  By following our initial thoughts to do what is right and allowing ourselves to be influenced by others, we will not be self-deceived and can live in the world truthfully.

A Concept of Agency
Agency is not a category of a person such as their eye color or dexterity; it is one's ability to recognize the truth about the world in which they live in and choose to live in the world truthfully.  Agency is our freedom to choose, wherein we can act for ourselves and choose liberty and life.  This agency is "an activity, a way of being in concrete situations" (Williams, 1992 p. 68).  Although our genes, culture, and situations play a factor in our lives, we have no constraints and have our own individual accountability.  Being free to choose does not excuse us of or keep us immune from consequences or accountability. Humans are the ultimate sovereign self (Maxwell, 2004). 
 Contemporary psychology asserts that reality and knowledge can be understood as some "thing" and is therefore necessary.  This notion creates the idea that things are the way they are and cannot be any other way.  However, this metaphysical necessity cannot adequately explain agency. To fully comprehend agency, it must be understood outside a metaphysical context, rather through human context.  In this context, human action can be properly explained and love has meaning.  An action can only be regarded as loving or meaningful if it is the chosen one out of other alternatives. Contrary, if an action is done simply out necessity, it is not meaningful and cannot be declared either moral or immoral.  Thus, morality requires meaning, which requires agency (Williams, 1992).    
Agency gives us the opportunity to have meaningful lives of both joy and sorrow.  According to Richard Williams, our choice is circumscribed by determinism, but we can choose for ourselves; right and wrong, truth and error, invited to virtue and enticed to vice (1992).  There comes a point when every person must decide whether or not to yield to the truth about themselves and others and allow their actions to be guided by it. This point is what Warner refers to as the choice point (2001).  This choice point is not based upon our feelings or behaviors because both can be counterfeit.  We may choose one alternative solely because we know it is right, not because we want to out of love. However, if our heart is not in the right place, our actions do not matter.  We must choose to not only choose the right alternative, but also choose it out of love.  However, this can be hard if we have become victims of self-betrayal as we begin accusing and blaming others and victimizing ourselves.  If we are living in the world untruthfully and being self-deceived, the only way we can begin to choose the right alternative out of love is to first choose the right, merely because we know it is the right thing to do.  As we continue choosing righteously, we will allow our hearts to be changed and become open to others' inner reality.  So, as an ultimately sovereign being, we can use our agency to choose the right because we know it is good and this will ultimately help us develop a love for those around us.

A Concept of Love
Love can be defined as being for the other in the ethical moment, which could perhaps be the world's greatest gift.  This love stems from our own truth and agency.  However, as Warner explains, when
"we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us… [Love] allows others their freedom. Most ironically it "compels" them to use that freedom" (2001, p. 191). 
This concept of love, as illustrated by Warner, reveals the connection between truth, agency, and love.  When we see the truth about others we are free to choose the right alternative, which gives loving meaning to that choice.  While translating the King James Version of the Bible, the word agapao was used, which translated to love. However, this love was a different type of love found in other parts of the Bible.  This use of love signified "a deliberate choice of affection and kindness" (Christy, 2002, p. 5).  We must not only choose to love, but also choose to act on that love.   
In order to love others, we must open ourselves to them. We must allow our hearts to be changed, which can only happen if we see others in truth and light. The ability to love is an innate trait in every human, but it is up to each individual to act upon.  For some, it might seem that certain people have "a special gift for loving people something that was like an ear for music or an eye for colour, It [is] quiet, unobtrusive; it [is] merely there" (Cather, 1930, p.22).  To some, love may seem like a special gift, however, it is a gift that each individual has; they just must be willing to open that part of themselves. 
To be for the other in the ethical moment, we must rid our hearts of hardness. Only then are we able to have our hearts changed; but rather, our hearts are not being changed, they are being restored (Warner, 2001).  Because love is a natural trait for each of us, failing to love and hardening our hearts becomes the unnatural.  Therefore, when we open ourselves to others and see them as they really are, we are restoring our natural tendency to love. Our undistorted-self naturally wants to do right toward others. Ultimately, when we love, we see the truth of others. In order to see the truth about others, we must see others as real people with actual realities. When we fail to love, we are self deceived.  Like love, self deception can be brought on by truth and agency. When we are seeing a distorted truth and then acting on that false world, we are self deceptive. 
When we are able to live in a world of truth, our love will know our boundaries of right and wrong, end self-centeredness, and give us the self-knowledge needed to liberate us to love to the fullest capacity possible (Palmer, 1993).  According to Warner, we are bonded to people either one way or another, which can be bonds of love or bonds of anguish (2001).  Either way, we are choosing one way to be bonded to them. By living in a world of truth, we can choose to love the other in the ethical moment. 

Failing to Love Results in Diseconomy
            Failing to love results in dis-economy.  Based upon the agentive theory, love can be defined as being for another in the ethical moment.  This is a moment of choice between right and wrong.  When you are living in the world truthfully and using your agency to choose right over wrong, you will be led to love those around you. However, if you are living in a distorted world and choosing the wrong alternative, this can lead to self deception.  As a victim of self deception, you fail to love.  Failing to love is resisting the invitation to be for another which causes you to give into self betrayal. This self betrayal manifests itself in three ways: (1) blaming others, (2) accusation/justification, and (3) victimizing. 
            However, the decision theory supports the micro economic theory, which centers on good economy as putting things together in a way so you get as much as you can out of your resources.  The economic theory focuses on four main points that people use to base their decisions off of. The first point is the knowledge of alternatives. You can properly use your agency because you are aware of the right and wrong alternatives. You are also aware of consequences, which is the second point. Third, the economic theory states that there must be a consistent preference of ordering; you will choose something over another option consistently because it is honest or based upon your values.  Last, you make your decision rule, which contains your decision criteria.  This is where you want to maximize your utilities from good economy.    Good economy comes when you follow these four steps of good decision implementation (March, 1982). There are necessary conditions to achieve good economy.  If these conditions are violated we will choose bad alternatives, which will ultimately result in dis-economy.  The conditions that accompany the agentive theory of love violate the necessary conditions of good economy. 
1.      Because truth is reality, we want to make decisions of choice based on reality. However, when we fall into self-betrayal, we are acting on a false world. What we think is reality, isn't. We think others are the problem, when in fact we are the problem.   Therefore, we cannot make choices based on true reality.
2.      Getting preoccupied or distracted from following through with the right choice which is necessary to implement the decision.  However, this is violated by the fact that when you are a victim of self-betrayal because it causes you to become hypersensitive and self-justifying. This hypersensitivity is destructive because we become so focused on what someone else is doing that we lose focus and become distracted.
3.      Finally, do not distract others from making good choices. When we are in a collusive relationship, we are quick to take offense and feel victimized. This causes the other to focus on you, instead of their decision criteria. 
As we violate these three conditions, we are failing to love, which results in dis-economy. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Thoughts

Sundays used to be my favorite day of the week. Not so much anymore... Jackson has a really hard time on Sundays because we go to church at 9am and he is not a morning person. And because of Jeff's schedule, he doesn't get to go to church so I am left to fend with the booger by myself. I have a totally new respect for single moms!

I also have a newfound respect for my mom. I really don't like going to church by myself, but she goes every week! As outgoing as I am with people I know, I'm not as outgoing around those I don't know. And I think this has gotten worse since we've been married. Jeff is fantastic about making new friends, getting to know people, striking up conversations about anything, and making others feel welcome.  Well since he's so good at it, I think I kind of have let him be the one to do that when we meet new people. Being a new mom in a new ward makes it hard to get to know people since I'm constantly in and out of class with Jackson.  So not being the most outgoing makes it even harder.  So I have made it a goal to get to know more people in our ward and neighborhood because I know we have some great neighbors!

The last two weeks at church we have had great lessons! I just wanted to share my thoughts I've had recently.

Last week we were talking about family roles. I love talking about it this, since family processes is such a huge part of my major, so being able to talk about it in a gospel sense is even more exciting to me!
As members of the LDS church, we believe that men and women have very distinct roles, especially familial roles.  The husband/father is to provide, preside, and protect. The wife/mother is supposed to nurture.

**Before I go on, it's important to understand that neither of these roles is more or less important than the other! Husbands and wives are equal partners and having different roles in the family is what allows them to work together so well! These innate roles are why it is necessary to have both a mother and a father in a family, but that's a completely different tangent I could go on about.**

Both of these roles in the family are trying to either preside over or nurture 5 specific areas:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Emotional
  4. Social
  5. Spiritual
The husband/father usually has the role of leading the family in prayer, scripture study, family home evening, etc. I've heard many women ask though how to help their husband fulfill these responsibilities without stepping on their toes. Other women have wondered who is supposed to nurture them. Of course husbands and wives should be a source of spiritual strength for each other, but last Sunday I realized that as women of the church, we need to focus on nurturing ourselves too! Nurturing your family doesn't just mean your children. You must also nurture your husband and you must nurture yourself. I don't know why that had never really clicked for me before.  As you nurture yourself, you will be able to better nurture your family.

In Doctrine and Covenants 51:9, it says that every man may " be alike among this people, and receive alike, that ye may be one..."  Although these thoughts about this aren't necessarily stemming from the context of consecration which this scripture is intended to be about, I got something different out of it: These saints were  commanded to be alike, to be one, however that did not mean they were to give up their identity or individuality.  I felt like this really applied to marriage for me.  A man and a woman become one, but that doesn't mean they should give up their own identity. I think this is also important when you start having kids. I feel like sometimes I kind of identify myself by Jackson. I haven't really had time to focus on things I love to do, which I think is something important for all moms to continue doing.

Jeff and I were talking yesterday about all the sad things that have happened in the world this week and how grumpy I've been because of finals. I told him I'll be so happy when this week is over! However, he told me that I shouldn't wait till this week is over, just be happy now.  Like President Uchtdorf said, "The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now."

So right now, I am going to begin trying to get to know my neighbors better, nurturing myself, and being happy now. 

These two make me most happy!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Makes You an Adult?

We've had a great last few weeks and of course they were busy! Mom and Dad (Jeff's parents) came up to visit. It was so great spending time with them and for them to get to see Jackson growing! We always wish they could stay longer!

Then Ginia came up to visit! We were super excited because we haven't seen her since November and Jackson has grown so much since then. Unfortunately we were all sick during her trip! Poor Auntie Ginia got a glimpse of what it is like to have a sick, teething eighth month old! Not the prettiest site sometimes! We were glad she got to visit those and it was nice just relaxing and hanging out.

While she was here we got to stay up late talking, just sister to sister. We talked a lot about life and what we want to do with our lives and how weird it is that I'm about to graduate college and she graduated about five years ago! It's funny that even though we were raised by the same parents, in the same circumstances, etc., we have turned out very different with very different hopes and dreams. It was fun sharing those with each other.

Then, today in my class we were talking about emerging adults, ages 21-25. This category has changed a lot since the 1970's.  Before the mid 70's emerging adults weren't really labeled as "emerging" adults. They were more of just adults. It hasn't been until recently that we've had to brand this age group. Studies have shown that "emerging adults" are less responsible than people of that age from different generations. So what happened between the 70's or 80's and now? What did our Baby Boomer parents do to us (no offense mom and dad !) to where we are now not as competent adults?

A lot of it I believe comes from the fact that our Baby Boomer parents raised us with the idea of we can give our children so much and our children can do anything they want to and be anything they want to be. Now that is a great attitude, but at the same time, has it enabled all of us "emerging adults" to become too dependent on our parents? In today's world, young adults, ages 20-15, are typically not thought of as "real" adults. So what makes you really an adult? If you're married, if you have a house, if you have kids, if you can afford your children's college tuition? The list could go on and on. All I know is that I'm married, I have a kid, I own a house and yet I still do not feel like a real adult. When does that change? When Jackson starts school? When our kids are teenagers? When I don't look like I'm still 13?

Maybe after I graduate college? That is just around the corner! I'm about to start my last semester of classes! Yay! It has been such a long road, but I am grateful that I'll be getting my degree and even more grateful that someday I can be an example to Jackson that if you put your mind to it, you can do it!

On another note, this week we had to give away Riley.  I miss her a lot, but know that she is in a good home with people that care about her. She'll always be my little smiley Riley!

She loved Jackson so much!