Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making Room for Virtue

Stir and noise are a constant part of modern life. Everywhere we go, for much of the day, we hear clatter and clamor, jangle and din. We are wired with ubiquitous earphones and cell phones, computers with dazzling sounds and flashy graphics, and other forms of technology that have accelerated the tempo of life and made it louder, disrupting the more natural and peaceful rhythms. Sound is all around us, dissonance within us, noise everywhere.
Inward stillness allows us time to tune out the world, even if only for a moment, so we can ponder and receive revelation—so we can learn to really hear. By suspending our Martha-like intensities, we can focus on things of greater worth and loving relationships. Too often, the world tells us what matters, and we listen. In so doing, we fail to hear the Lord, through the Spirit, offering us a better perspective or “a more excellent way” (Ether 12:11).
In quiet contemplation and inward stillness, we may think more of everlasting things—of faith and charity and other timeless values; we may ponder more deeply the gift of agency and the virtue we desire to cultivate; we may feel a desire to become more like Jesus and to live His abundant life (see John 10:10). Our thoughts may turn to others who need our concern and care. We may consider more seriously the purpose of life. Put simply, silence gives us the opportunity to focus more earnestly on the things in life that truly matter. President Thomas S. Monson said: “We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the ‘thick of thin things.’ In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.”1
Without stillness, quiet, solitude, and silence, it is difficult to live a moral life, let alone a spiritual life; it is difficult to truly become our best moral selves unless we take time to evaluate our standing before God.
Time for holiness is a precious gift, a sacred offering to the Lord. Perhaps we need to simplify our lives so that there’s more room in our day to sincerely ponder the path of our feet (see Prov. 4:26), to feel the Spirit, to interact with others, and to respond with calmness. Some of our distraction, anger, and frustration come from our overcommitment of time, which often comes from the mistaken notion that the abundant life comes from an abundance of things or an abundance of tasks or demands or experiences. If we listen to the Spirit and heed the message of the gospel, we realize that the truly abundant life is spiritual, and very often the best way to achieve it is to unburden ourselves of our worldly excesses. Perhaps we should take a deep breath, step off the treadmill, and let the Spirit speak to us.

—Lloyd D. Newell (BA ’80), BYU professor of Church history and doctrine

BYU Magazine

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