Thursday, January 14, 2010

Thoughts about Self-Reliance

I thought that the visiting teach message on self-reliance had a lot of things that I needed. (Incidently, I’m incredibly thrilled that the VT message has been moved to second in the magazine! Yaaaay! No more flipping frantically to try to find it!)
Self-reliance means using all of our blessings from Heavenly Father to care for ourselves and our families and to find solutions for our own problems. (Julie B. Beck)
Here’s the kicker to that simple statement: in order to use all your blessings, you have to be perfectly aware of them and be able (and willing) to leverage them. Another thing that occurs to me is that we have to get over any ideas of “I’ll just wait and the Lord will bring ______ into my life.” No, self-reliance is all about being anxiously engaged so that when the Lord brings opportunity into our lives, we will have met him halfway.
How do we become self-reliant? We become self-reliant through obtaining knowledge, education, and literacy; by managing money and resources wisely, being spiritually strong, preparing for emergencies and eventualities; and by having physical health and social and emotional well-being. (Julie B. Beck)
Notice the action words--obtaining, managing, preparing. Self-reliance has a lot to do with the principle of stewardship.

It took my husband and I six years of marriage before we learned how to build, use, and manage a budget. That was a big deal.

The last few months, my husband and I have moved our family budget to an Excel spreadsheet that I can have on my Palm Pilot. I enter in our purchases and I have set it so that it computes how much money is left in each category. This is much more convenient than having our budget on a memo when we had to compute what was left ourselves. However, I found that at the beginning of the month it was very time-consuming for me to create the next month’s budget. I didn’t know enough about Excel to know if there was any way to do it faster, so it was taking several hours. I really wished that I knew more.. but I wasn’t doing anything to find out.

Finally I realized that I needed to take responsibility and just go get a book on Excel at the library and see if I could figure some more things out. It really couldn’t be that hard. I’m a smart girl. (I’ve taken classes on at least six different programming languages, for heaven’s sake!) So I did. And I was right; there was something I could learn that cut down the time by at least 80%! And I was so excited that I set up budget sheets for the next four months to make the process even faster for myself.

Something else hit me as I was reading the message about self-reliance. I have some dreams of things I would like to do. I need to take responsibility if I’m ever going to achieve them. I love to organize and I want to help people become more organized and learn the skills they need, so I need to work on that rather than just waiting for something to happen. I have a story that I want to write, and I need to work on writing it, rather than just wishing I could write it.

The idea of preparing for emergencies and eventualities also struck me. We’ve been told by the prophets that we need to have food storage and some money saved. This is clearly meant to compensate for some of the biggest emergencies, such as losing a job or some other accident. It is impossible to plan for every emergency, but we can decrease the difficulty of the biggest ones and then all the littler ones should be covered as well. The idea of preparing for eventualities seemed singularly enlightening and showed me that yes, there are some things that we can predict will happen eventually and we can take steps to prepare for them. My husband and I are steadily building a car fund in anticipation of the day when we have to replace one of our cars. I’m starting to plan how we’re going to allocate money for this year’s vacation travel. There are any number of things that can be anticipated and planned for. Senior missions. Children going to college. Parents become too feeble to care for themselves. Funerals. How to fill time after retirement. Provision for children getting their driver’s licenses. Children going on missions. Looking ahead like this can help us gain greater vision. Planning can help us embrace the future rather than running away screaming at its mere mention.

Something else I thought about was emotional self-reliance. It takes emotional self-reliance to be able to have a good attitude even when things are hard. It’s okay to lean on others when we are weak, but we can’t lean on others permanently. It some point we have to stand on our own. Complaining prevents us from achieving this emotional self-reliance.

“Self-reliance is taking responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare and for those whom Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care.” (Robert D. Hales)

Here’s some questions we can ask ourselves:

Am I waiting for my husband to suggest we have family home evening/scripture study/family prayer, or am I suggesting it myself?

Am I waiting for others to instruct me in doctrine before I learn, or am I searching the scriptures and the words of the prophets for myself?

Am I waiting for teachers to give good lessons, or am I studying the material myself?

Am I waiting for my priesthood leader to ask if I have committed a certain sin before I will confess it, or will I go to him and bring it up myself?

Am I waiting for my ancestors to appear to me before I do family history work, or will I start searching for them on my own?

Am I waiting for someone to give me extra food, or am I going to build food storage myself?

Am I waiting for the fire marshal to tell me that I need to clean up my house and get rid of stuff, or am I going to start working on getting organized myself?

Am I waiting for people to remind me of all my appointments, or will I write them on a calendar and check it each day myself?

Am I waiting to lose my job before I update my resume, or will I take care of it myself?

Am I waiting for people to tell me what jobs they want to give me, or am I looking at the options myself?

Am I waiting for others to teach my children good manners, or am I going to teach them myself?

Am I waiting for things to get so bad that my bishop and home teachers have to show me exactly how to make and use a budget, or am I going to do this myself?

Am I going to wait for someone to tell me to do my calling, or am I going to start working on it myself?

If there is a lot of things you realize you need to begin doing, try not to get stressed and overwhelmed. There is a time and a place for everything. Decide on something you will do and decide when you will do it. You can begin or increase your self-reliance in at least one thing today.


Valerie said...

I too am glad that the VT message was moved. :) Thanks for your thoughts. All your questions got me thinking. Since I'll be doing my VT visits next week, I'll be thinking about what exactly to say about the message, but your post has really helped me!

Anonymous said...

You should try the LDS Money Manager tool at

Its a lot easier than using Excel and has all the benefits of being online.

I still have to check out the new Ensign format, I've heard its a nice change for several things.

Michaela Stephens said...

Mormon Budget,
I looked at LDS Money Manager and I think I am comfortable with what we are doing now because it is a familiar and workable mental model for us (not to mention being free). However, it was interesting to see a wildly different way of approaching budgeting.

One of the advantages of our budget on excel is that I can have a copy on my Palm Pilot so that I can carry it with me everywhere and always be aware of how much is available. This helps me stay informed no matter where I am and it is not dependent on whether I have access to the internet.

I do notice that LDS Money Manager would enable future planning. That's very good.