This is a glorious time of year, the time we celebrate Christ’s birth. Most of us read aloud the account in Luke, and also the prophetic words of Isaiah, when he gave us five names for the coming Messiah, 700 years before his birth: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
But the scriptures also mention more than 200 other names, including Emmanuel, Alpha and Omega, the Great I Am, the Bread of Life, the Stem of Jesse, the Lord our Righteousness, Mighty One of Jacob, Only Begotten, Holy One of Israel, Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd, Son of the Most High God, Redeemer, Savior of the World, Anointed One, the Word, Lord of Lords, and many others. We could fill pages with his titles, and more pages with all that He’s done for us.
And, of course, we cannot hope to attain perfection in this life, only to be a little more Christlike than we were yesterday. But do we think of Christlike attributes when we think of ourselves?
An interesting exercise that comes from the world of psychology, is to take a sheet of paper and write down as many answers as you can, to this question: Who Are You? Many people have no problem at the beginning. LDS people would probably list their faith near the top. And our roles within our family: I’m a Dad, I’m a Mom, and perhaps their careers and interests: I’m a mechanic, I’m a teacher, I’m a golfer, I’m an avid reader, and so on.
A psychologist once told me that he had a male patient who wrote, I’m a 65-year-old diabetic. In a case like this, it tells you the patient thinks his most defining traits are getting older, and having health issues. Sometimes those first few lines reveal widowhood, financial concerns, or loneliness.
But most people start out with “surface” titles. Then, after 40 such labels, our writing slows down, and we have to think. Aha! I’m a graduate of (whatever school). I’m the owner of three horses. I’m a fan of (a team). I’m the bill-payer in my household. I’m a family history buff. I’m a traveler.
Eventually we begin to look inside ourselves. And psychologists say these are the most important items on the list. Sometimes people write: I’m a good neighbor. I’m an optimist. I keep my word. I’m a hard worker in my calling. I’m friendly. I’m a good listener. I’m generous. Or they’ll take a hard look at areas where they need improvement: I’m impatient. I’m uncertain. I’m confused. I’m stressed. I’m stubborn. I have things I need to repent of. I have dreams I’ll never realize. I look back with regret too often.
By the time we’ve written 70 or 80 things we are, a picture begins to emerge. But if we’re too self-critical, it’s an inaccurate picture. If you asked your loved ones to make a list of your traits, chances are it would be far more flattering than the one you make for yourself. The titles they might give you would probably surprise and delight you.
This is particularly true of those Latter-day Saints who compare themselves to others, and always feel as if they come up short. (It’s like the saying, “Stop comparing your outtakes with someone else’s highlights reel.”)
This Christmas, most of us will ponder the titles of Christ. Our hearts will fill with awe as we contemplate all He has done to save us. His mercy is beyond anything we can achieve in this lifetime.
But that doesn’t mean our own list of titles has to be despairing. Choose some of the positive words from your own list, to ponder about yourself. Remind yourself that you have made progress, you are a good person with kind impulses, and you mean the world to your loved ones. Give Christ the gift of a pledge to improve where you need to, but give yourself the gift of gratitude for how far you’ve come, and how many of His children you’ve helped.
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Joni Hilton is also “Your YouTube Mom” and shares short videos that teach easy household tips and life skills at http://bit.ly/YourYouTubeMom
Be sure to read her blog at jonihilton.blogspot.com.