Sunday, June 30, 2013

In which I confront my fears about introducing the missionaries to my neighbors

After the worldwide missionary broadcast, I felt like I had to do something to help the missionaries in our ward.  I hit upon the idea of going door-to-door to all my nonmember neighbors and introducing the missionaries to them.  I know enough about my neighbors to share good qualities about them, and enough about the missionaries to share what they are about.   Introducing the missionaries seemed like a good thing to do for several reasons:
·      It would help the missionaries get a better chance to meet people in a neighborly, companionable atmosphere and assess their level of interest in hearing a discussion.
·      It would help my neighbors be more open to having a longer talk with the missionaries in the future if they met them.  Breaking ice is always good.

This was all good in theory, but when it came down to actually getting myself to call the missionaries and set all this up, I found myself paralyzed by fear.  For some reason, I was petrified. 

Heavenly Father knew all about it though because when I went online to browse Mormon blogs, I felt like so much of what I read was sending the message, “It’s okay!  You can open your mouth!  Don’t let Satan silence you!  You can do this!”  (By the way, thanks so much to all you Mormon people who blog!  You are awesome, and you do make a difference!)

But I still had fears and automatic thoughts that seemed determined to strangle me.  So I did a little exercise I learned about in a book called Feeling Good by David Burns (it’s a very helpful book about learning cognitive-behavioral techniques for fighting feelings of depression).  I wrote down and charted all the automatic fears and thoughts that came to me, asking myself why what I feared was a problem, then writing down more fears, until I had gotten down to the erroneous beliefs at the very bottom of it all.  Then I wrote down rational and faith-filled responses to debunk every single one of those fears.   I’m inserting the chart I made, for your edification:

Automatic Thoughts
Faithful and rational responses
I can’t introduce the missionaries to my neighbor. 
      (Why is that a problem?)
Yes, you can.  You have legs. You have a mouth that can talk intelligibly.
Because my neighbor would be annoyed with me.   
      (Why is it a problem for your neighbor to be annoyed with you?)
You don’t know for sure that your neighbor will be annoyed with you.  He may appreciate it instead.
Plus, did you ever realize that your neighbor might be just as worried about annoying you with a refusal as you are about annoying him?
Because then I’d feel terrible.  I’d feel rejected.
      (Why is that a problem to feel terrible and rejected?)
Actually, even if you are rejected, you’ll probably feel pretty good because you will have tried to help him become acquainted with the missionaries.
Because I don’t like it.  I don’t want to be hated.
      (And why is being hated a problem?)
You are jumping to conclusions. Being rejected is not the same as being hated.  Even annoying your neighbor is not the same as being hated.  Also, you can’t prevent people from hating you if they’ve really made up their mind to do it, so it isn’t something you need to think about. 
My neighbor might never talk to me again.
      (Why would it be a problem for your neighbor to never talk to you again?)
You hardly ever have occasion to talk to your neighbor anyway.  But even if you previously talked a lot, you could still say hi and ask him how he was doing.
Because then I’d be alone.
      (Why is being alone a problem?)
Just because one neighbor rejects you or is annoyed with you doesn’t mean that everyone else will abandon you too.
Being alone means no one wants to be with me.  It means I’ve been abandoned.
    (Why is it a problem that no one wants to be with you?)
No it doesn’t.  It can also mean that people have to be other places besides with you.
It shows I am worthless and hopeless as a person and not the kind of person anyone would want to be with. 
    (Assuming you are the kind of person that no one wants to be with, why is that a problem?)
No, it doesn’t.  You are a child of God and you are capable of growth.  If you sin, you can repent and change, so there is always hope for you.  Also, no one wanted Ether around and he was a prophet.
Being alone is miserable. 
No it isn’t!  You can be alone without being miserable.
What if my neighbor rejects the missionaries?
    (Why would that be a problem for you?)
Everyone has a choice to listen or not to listen to the gospel.
Because then he wouldn’t listen to the gospel and have a chance to receive it.
    (Okay, that creates a problem for him, but why is that also a problem for YOU?)
This won’t be the only time your neighbor has a chance to listen to the gospel.  God gives multiple chances.  Besides, just introducing your neighbor to the missionaries may help him be more comfortable talking to them in the future.
Then I’ll be sad for him.
    (Okay, why is that a problem for you?)

You can handle that.  It isn’t the end of the world.  You will have tried to help the missionaries.
I won’t be able to forget my sadness; I won’t be able to concentrate on anything else.  I will wonder if there were any way I could have done it better, and I will feel like a failure.
     (Why is that a problem?)  
You won’t be sad about it forever.  Plus, you’ll find other things to do and think about to distract you from your sadness.  You’re good at distracting yourself. J  Also, if you mess up in the way you introduce the missionaries to someone, that doesn’t make you a FAILURE.  Even messing up every time you introduce the missionaries doesn’t make you a failure. Instead it proves you have determination.
Because then I won’t be able to be productive.
     (Why is that a problem?)
Feeling sad and like a failure doesn’t prevent you from being productive.  And there are things you can do for a while that don’t require concentration.
I have to be happy in order to be productive.
No you don’t.  Usually, happiness comes from being productive, not the other way around.

Making this chart was a big mental and emotional relief to me.  And it was neat that after making it, I had something that I could reference in the future if I ever found myself feeling that way again. 

After this, I felt like I would be okay with introducing the missionaries to my neighbors, but for some reason I still felt a lot of resistance getting myself to pick up the phone to call them in the first place.  Calling them would be taking the initiative and setting events in motion and once I made that phone call, I would have to go through with my plan!  It would commit me to action.  For some reason that made me very uncomfortable.  Not sure why.

It is important for you to know that I did not work through all of the above issues on the same day.  It took me about two days to decide I needed to make the chart.  And it took me another day to realize I was uncomfortable with taking the initiative in this thing.  From time to time I found myself trying to guilt myself into action, but that didn’t work very well; it just caused more resistance, so I decided guilting myself wasn’t productive.  I recognized it was untrue to try to shame myself into it by calling myself a bad person for not doing it immediately because it wasn’t true that I was a bad person.  After all, I had the desire to introduce the missionaries to my neighbors, and that was a good thing.  That desire was me, so I wasn’t bad. 

Eventually I was able to remind myself that I could be an agent for good and choose to act rather than be acted upon.  And then I made the call.

The funny thing was, the number I called was for the wrong set of missionaries.  So they had to call me back with the real number, which turned out not to be the real number at all, so I had to wait for the second set to call me back with the real number.  But I also emailed my bishop asking for the number and he responded, so I called that number.  That was the right one.  Each time I called a number, I had to keep making that choice to take the initiative, which probably could have helped strengthen my resolve, but all I know was it started to feel a bit exhausting.  And I could help but wonder if any other members might go through a run-around like this if they want to refer the missionaries to someone.  Are we working closely enough with the missionaries that we can get our hands on the right phone number easily?  Do we have confidence that the number we have is the right one?  (There’s only one way to find out!)

Yes, I finally did get the right missionaries, a set of sisters.  They were SOO excited that I wanted to introduce them to my neighbors.  And I was able to talk to two out of four of my neighbors with them.  We had very friendly conversation and even though my neighbors weren’t interested in hearing more, we left them a little more informed about the nature of missionary work, temples, and even the Mesa Easter pageant.  

I also decided that I should introduce the missionaries to my Mormon neighbors as well.  We have three Mormon families that live a little ways down the street and it seemed to me that they might like to get better acquainted with the sisters and maybe they would be able to figure a way to help them too!

All in all, it was a fun time, and I feel stronger for it.  Introduce the missionaries to your neighbors, folks!  It’s a great first step in fulfilling your "member responsibility to help find people for the missionaries to teach."


Ramona Gordy said...

Hi Michaela
I understand what you mean. I have been pondering over this very concept. I believe that we will all be resurrected, but I have had questions as to "where are we going? Will everything that we have believed and acted upon with our faith be counted toward us ?

My biggest concern is" will our families truly be there?" Especially those we have labored to present "work" for them. Is my husband going to be there too? So I have pondered; In Ecclesiastes there is a verse that starts with "cast thy bread upon the waters and for thou shall fine id after many days ". I had an enlightening experience recently at the temple, it was almost like a "Surprise". After the end of a session and I walked into the Celestial room, and I felt so unbelievably happy and light and just bubbly, there was a group of people waiting for their friends to come in, and when I walked in, the expression of happiness that they shared with me nearly took my breath away and I responded with a big smile and a quiet hello. This was a moment when you feel like you could do a victory lap and come back and high 5 everyone and hug and kiss everyone. I thought, what is this, and the answer was that this is what it will be like when I return home and see everyone. This is a portion of the happiness I will feel and hopefully everyone else.
This helped me a lot.

Michaela Stephens said...

I know that feeling of joy too when going through the temple endowment and meeting loved ones in the celestial room. And I'm sure that is what it will feel like, only better.

Doing temple work takes faith. It takes faith to do something like that for someone you've never met before.

Christ said that even giving someone a cup of water in His name would not go unrewarded, so I have faith that every good deed we do, no matter how small, will receive its reward.