In the New Testament, Matthew reminds us that where your treasure is, there will your heart be also… We have been given the great gift of agency.
We have the power to choose good or bad. We can choose to be happy or not. We can choose to fail or to learn. This is the one gift no one can take from us—the power to choose.
Which wolf will you feed?
There is a story told of an old Cherokee teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One is evil: he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good: he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Free to Choose
Ages ago, before we came to this Earth, there was a Grand Council held. In that council our Father wanted us to have the same joy and happiness that He has. He presented His plan whereby we could come to this earth, gain a physical body, and experience the bitter and the sweet of this life. We could choose to keep His commandments and become like Him or choose not to keep His commandments and deny ourselves of the joy and blessings He promises.
The key to His plan was that we would be free to choose. This gift is called agency, the power to choose. The companion of agency is always accountability. We are each individually responsible for the choices we make and the consequences that follow, both good and bad.
We have the ability to know right from wrong. We have the power given to us from God “to act … and not to be acted upon” (2 Nephi 2:26).
What we accomplish in this life and the next depends on the choices that we make. Just as the wise old Cherokee explained, it was his choice which wolf he fed. He had agency, and he alone would be accountable for his choice. He would have to live with the consequences of his choices.
Failure is an Opportunity to Learn
Sometimes after making a mistake, you may say, “I knew I shouldn’t have done that, it didn’t feel right,” or maybe, “I knew I should have done that, I just didn’t have the courage to act!”
Follow those positive impressions. You are not given them to make you feel bad about yourself. You are given them to help you know what to do next time. There is no such thing as “failing” if you learn from the experience.
When we make a good choice, we are rewarded with the positive consequences of our actions. We feel good and are reassured that we made the right choice.
Conversely, when we make bad choices, we must suffer the negative consequences of our actions. This is not punishment for the sake of punishment, it is intended to help us realize that there are better choices to be made, and alternative courses of action.
What You Treasure, There Will Your Heart Be Also
The things that we seek after, the things that we spend our time doing are what we love.
Can we say we love our families if we spend all of our time working and do not set aside time to be with them? Can we say we love helping others but never take action to actually help other people?
What are we telling the people in our lives when we focus on material things or spend all our time on social media but no time with them in person. Do we choose to cultivate real and lasting relationships or spend our time in front of a screen?
There in is the paradox. We say we love the things we should but our actions aren’t always aligned with our intentions. Despite how much we want something, if we don’t act on our intentions, they will remain nothing but thoughts. “Actions speak louder than words.”
One Life to Live
You have one life to live. While we are on the Earth choose to actively live. Be intentional about your decisions and don’t let your environments choose for you. Keep your life as free from trouble as you can.
“Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” – Booker T. Washington
When a choice is before you, ask:
- What does this do for me?
- What does this choice do to me?
- How does this choice affect others?
- Why am I making the choice?
- What will I think of myself if I make this choice?
A Time of Reckoning
The media is everywhere. Messages come through music, books, magazines, TV, the internet, and social media. Who are we making our hero’s? Who do we choose to be our example?
Every Cinderella has her midnight.
Whether judgment comes from an external or internal source, we must live with the choices that we make. Eventually, we will face the consequences of our actions, even if they do not come quickly.
Choose integrity. Integrity is doing the right things for the right reasons even when no one is watching. If we live a life of integrity, we can be assured that our actions and intentions are pure regardless of what others may say.
Small Things Lead to Great Things
I love the saying: a life by the yard is hard; by the inch, it’s a cinch.
“By small and simple things are great things come to pass.” – Alma 37:6
Habits are created by taking small and consistent action every day. These small actions can be life changing.
As we set goals, let us be aware of our intentions. What are we choosing? Are we choosing a good thing or a bad thing?
Maybe the choices facing us aren’t bad, perhaps we must choose between a good thing, a better thing, or the best thing.
Perhaps we can simply choose to spend extra time with our family every day. Maybe we can choose to develop a talent instead of watching a TV program. Or maybe we can invite someone over to dinner or join us for an activity.
I truly believe that small things can become great things.
Decisions Determine Destiny
Thomas S. Monson said, “Decisions Determine Destiny.” That simple phrase is powerful because of its truth. The decisions that we make will impact us.
What is so exciting to me is nobody can choose for us. We have ultimate control over our own decisions. And if you are letting others make decisions for you, that too is your choice.
Your past does not have to determine your future. You have the power to change. You have the power to choose your own destiny. You can decide what you want and make it happen. All it takes is action, belief, and endurance.
Bowen, Shayne. M. (2012). lds.org. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/youth/article/agency-and-accountability?lang=eng
lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/37.6?lang=eng
lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/2.26?lang=eng#25
lds.org. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/6.21,%2021?lang=eng