President Thomas S. Monson said, “My precious young sisters, I plead with you to have the courage to refrain from judging and criticizing those around you, as well as the courage to make certain everyone is included and feels loved and valued.”
It takes courage to set aside differences. It takes courage to assume the best. It takes courage to believe in yourself.
The last two stories are about one girl who had courage and one who did not. Notice the difference in outcomes. What hurts worse, the discomfort of going outside your comport zone or the pain of regret?
"A friend told me of an experience she had many years ago when she was a teenager. In her ward was a young woman named Sandra who had suffered an injury at birth, resulting in her being somewhat mentally handicapped. Sandra longed to be included with the other girls, but she looked handicapped. She acted handicapped. Her clothing was always ill fitting. She sometimes made inappropriate comments. Although Sandra attended their Mutual activities, it was always the responsibility of the teacher to keep her company and to try to make her feel welcome and valued, since the girls did not.
Then something happened: a new girl of the same age moved into the ward.
was a cute, redheaded, self-confident, popular girl who fit in easily. All the girls wanted to be her friend, but Nancy didn’t limit her friendships. In fact, she went out of her way to befriend Sandra and to make certain she always felt included in everything. Nancy seemed to genuinely Sandra. Nancy
Of course the other girls took note and began wondering why hadn’t ever befriended Sandra. It now seemed not only acceptable but desirable. Eventually they began to realize what
, by her example, was teaching them: that Sandra was a valuable daughter of our Heavenly Father, that she had a contribution to make, and that she deserved to be treated with love and kindness and positive attention. Nancy
By the time Nancy and her family moved from the neighborhood a year or so later, Sandra was a permanent part of the group of young women. My friend said that from then on she and the other girls made certain no one was ever left out, regardless of what might make her different. A valuable, eternal lesson had been learned." (Young Women's Manual 3.)
The last story is of Sister Sherri Dew that I found on the internet. I can't site the site because I can't find it! "She wanted to be a college basketball player. Perhaps there was no place, besides a chapel, that she was more comfortable or confident than on a basketball court. There, the girl who longed to be petite and pretty discovered her size was no longer a curse, but a blessing. She was a star player in basketball-crazy
at a tiny high school in Ulysses (population 4,000), averaging 23 points and 17 rebounds a game. She had a hook shot, a post-up move, a jump shot, and a valuable ability to get free for shots under the basket. Kansas
"'With all the modesty I can muster, I was good,' she says. 'I haven't seen many girls play basketball at that age who were as good as I was.' But this was in the late '60s and '70s, when there were few opportunities for girls to play college basketball. She chose to attend BYU and planned to try out for the basketball team there.
On the day of tryouts, she reported to the
, opened the gym door a crack, peeked at the players inside, and felt the confidence drain right out the bottom of her shoes. She couldn't make herself step through the door. She thought she could work up her courage if she paced the hallway outside the gym for a while. She walked back and forth, back and forth for three hours, but she never did enter the gym. When the tryout ended, she walked slowly to her dorm, castigating herself for not having the guts to try out. Richards Building
"'It's one of my biggest regrets,' she says. 'I've never gotten over it.'
"Okay. Jump ahead years later. BYU athletic director Elaine Michaelis, who coached the basketball team when Dew was a student, invited her to speak to the school's female athletes. Dew told this story for the first time in her life, one she hadn't even confided to her family. Her point was that they, as athletes, were doing something she had wanted to do but lacked the courage to try.
"Afterwards, Michaelis asked Dew if she remembered the name of the basketball coach in 1971, the year she failed to try out. Dew smiled and answered, “You bet. It was you!” Imagine Sister Dew’s feelings when her almost-coach said, “I happen to remember my 1971 team really well. You know why? It’s the only year we ever played without a full roster. We played all season one player short. I tried to find the person to fit that spot, and I couldn't. That year I was looking for a tall center who could post up."
"Sister Dew later said, 'I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach when she told me that. That was supposed to be my place on the team.'
Here’s what she says she learned: And this was Sheri Dew’s lesson, in her words: "The truth is, nobody can take your place. I thought I was good, but I'll never know. My fear and shyness paralyzed me. My whole life I've felt like I didn't quite measure up."
Do you feel like you don’t quite measure up? What kind of negative messages are you giving yourself? The scripts we play in our heads make a difference in how we feel both physically and emotionally.
Do the messages you play in your brain hold you back or spur you forward? Are you constantly finding a negative comment to counter every positive one that occurs to you? Think about it. Believing in yourself and your worth is important to your success. So value your gifts. Embrace them. Talk them up a bit inside your head. (No one will hear you, I promise.) Utilize them. Employ each one with courage and abandon. Mark Twain said, “If you can’t get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.”
I hope that you will build yourself up so that you will have the courage to follow the Savior and love your neighbor. We need more courage. Courage to stand up against the crowd. Courage to do what is right. Courage to believe in yourself. Courage.