I am so weak.
I hurt so deeply from within that I find myself ready to wield the sword of my angry voice, cutting deep, rather than risk being wounded any further. It doesn't work.
I have struggled my entire life. There are so many good things about me, things that make me proud to be me. Virtues that humble me and thrill me, all at the same time. I have strengths that others dream of, and I feel so, so blessed. But I yell too often. I've gotten better over the years, but not good enough. It doesn't matter any more that I'm Italian, or that I'm the oldest of nine loud children. I don't want my raised voice to be the first thing people think of when they think of me.
I refuse the excuse of poor behavior that is so often used: "That's just who I am!" No sir. I'm much better than my worst. And I can change.
As I prayed and pondered yesterday, trying to unearth myself from the gripping and smothering hold this weakness has on me, a story came to my mind.
In the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, a book of scripture I believe to be the word of God, in complement to the Bible, there is a story of a group of people who called themselves the Anti-Nephi-Lehies. This seems like a weird name, but their story pressed upon my mind with a force I'd never before appreciated.
The Anti-Nephi-Lehies had been part of a group of people called the Lamanites. Throughout most of the Book of Mormon, the Lamanites are, for lack of a better term, "The Bad Guys." The Nephites (AKA "The Good Guys", mostly) spend much of their history trying to defend themselves in battle against the wicked and murderous Lamanites, and during times of peace, trying to reconvert them to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through sacrifice and pain, the missionary Ammon taught many of these violent and bloodthirsty people the gospel and they repented of their evil ways. As a token to God of their repentance, they dug a huge hole and buried all of their weapons of war, in a sense, burying their past and their sins, as they moved forward in a new life devoted to Jesus Christ. They changed their name to the Anti-Nephi-Lehies.
Later, when the wicked Lamanites came against them to battle, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies refused to take up arms, even in their defense, because of the covenant they had made with God to never again shed the blood of men. They would rather die than return to their old ways. As the Lamanite army advanced, the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, prostrated themselves on the ground and submitted their lives to the enemy, calling upon God and praising Him in the very act of being killed. Well, it isn't very satisfying to fight against someone who doesn't fight back and the Lamanites soon stopped their attack, shocked by the change that had come over their former brethren. So affected were they, if fact, that many of them dropped their weapons and repented, and more Lamanites were converted to the Gospel that day than the number of Anti-Nephi-Lehies who had been slain.
It's a beautiful story of redemption and the power to change. And I decided that I needed to bury my weapons of war too. I cannot yell and scream. No matter my hurt, no matter the injustice, I cannot inflict any more pain on others, especially those whom I love.
Last night, as I wept in my bedroom, I dug a hole in my mind. A hole big enough for my big, loud voice. My angry, hurtful words, my stinging tone, my cutting come-backs. I buried them all. And then I cried more because now I feel completely vulnerable, like a Lamanite warrior who has just buried his sword. Now I must rely on other means. Those hard ones, like long-suffering, patience, forgiveness. I can still express my feelings, but I must do so differently now if I want to truly win. And 'winning' may mean something entirely different after all.
This morning, during scripture study, I told my children about the hole I dug, and the weapons I buried. I begged for their help, as I'm sure to forget, bound to slip and fall. And you know what they said?
They're with me. They forgive me. They'd like to toss some weapons in the hole too.
And they love me.
Now the work begins. Day One, weapon free.