On a recent trip to London, I learned to maneuver my way through the city using their underground transit system – The Tube. I was captivated by the quaint British accent that announced: “Mind the Gap” as we approached each stop. I loved the way these three simple words brought new meaning to the way that I would proceed on my journey. Sometimes there was a visible gap between where the platform started and the train ended or a step up or down to the platform. These gaps represented, to me, the various traps or stumbling blocks we can fall captive to if we are not mindful as we move along in life.
A stumbling block is an “obstacle or impediment” that can trip us up or cause us to lose our footing. Life is full of these traps, and being aware can sometimes help us avoid them. But more important than avoiding them is to recognize that we all face them – no one is immune.
One of the most critical challenges is recognizing the difference between happiness and pleasure. We are often deceived by imitations. We live in a time of “knockoffs,” where there is profit in trying to sell the consumer on a fake imitation of the genuine article. If we pursue that which is elusive and slippery we can be, in the end, left with nothing. LDS Apostle James E.Talmage describes it beautifully:
“In this day of counterfeits, adulterations, and base imitations, the devil is busier than he has ever been in the course of human history, in the manufacture of pleasures, both old and new; and these he offers for sale in most attractive fashion, falsely labeled, ‘Happiness.’ …He has learned the tricks of the trade, and knows well how to catch the eye and arouse the desire of his customers. He puts up the stuff in bright-colored packages, tied with tinsel string and tassel; and crowds flock to his bargain counters, hustling and crushing one another in their frenzy to buy.”
It has been said “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and the point is well worth considering. When we compare we often contrast the worst version of ourselves to the best we see in others. Social media puts a seemingly positive spin on others. What we don’t see is their unfolded laundry, the sink full of dishes, and dirty bathrooms. Don’t hold yourself up to some ambiguous standard of greatness. We all are unique in our journey with our own set of highs and lows. If you must compare look at where you were a year ago, and compare your progress. And in the words of my 3rd-grade teacher, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.”
We have all experienced the feeling of betrayal when we have been deceived, but how often do we consider the level of honesty with ourselves? Does it seem as if your poor fortune is a result of someone else’s actions? Do the burdens of your consequences not seem to add up? Self-deception is a very real trap and can be easy to stumble into. It can “blind us to the true cause of problems,” and impede our ability to perceive situations as they really are. Justification, rationalization, lying, blaming others, and failing to take ownership of our actions are just a few symptoms of self-deception. Ultimately, this type of deceit can catch us in a type of dual life – one that is based in reality while the other is based on the type of person you’ve tried convinced others of.
Sometimes stumbling blocks just can’t be avoided. Have you ever hiked along a trail that was full of large rocks and small boulders? The easiest way to move through them is to step directly on top of each rock rather than around and in between. Abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher suggested that stumbling blocks can be made into “stepping stones to a noble character and to Heaven.” Stumbling through life’s problems is not always easy to endure, but “minding the gap” enables us to possibly side-step a painful setback. As we contemplate the possible stumbling blocks in our life try thinking of them as building blocks to learn, grow, and become the type of person we were meant to be.
 “stumbling block.” Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2016. Web. 30 Nov. 2016. <http://www.definitions.net/definition/stumbling block>.
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Will you allow life to teach you or defeat you