“Measuring Up,” New Era, June 1999, 4
One summer when I was a teenager, I became very discouraged. It seemed that all my friends were taller and better at sports than I. I thought that growing taller would solve my problems, naively thinking being bigger would somehow make me better at whatever I wanted to do.
Worried about my lack of height, I went to my tallest brother and asked him what I could do to grow taller. I figured he would know the answer to my question. What he said surprised me: “Obey your mother. Whatever she asks you to do, do it without waiting.”
My confidence in my brother was so strong that I went to a storage room, stood against the wall, and made a pencil mark to record my height.
For the remainder of the summer days, my mother’s wish or slightest hint was my command. Almost immediately the feelings of growth began to fill me with satisfaction. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of this before. My mother may have spent the summer in shock, but it didn’t matter. I was growing. Anticipation of the results that awaited me at the conclusion of my vacation brought me happiness all summer long.
When fall came I returned to my measuring spot near the storage room. Quickly I located the mark on the wall. Standing next to it, pencil in hand, I made a second mark, turned and looked to see how much I had grown. You can imagine my disappointment when only one slightly darker mark could be found.
I went to my brother to get an explanation about what had happened. After hearing my concern, he asked me an important question: “How do you feel inside?” My inward feelings of growth were undeniable. This I explained to him. He then reminded me that Heavenly Father looks on the heart, not the outward appearance (see 1 Sam. 16:7).
It was really true; I had grown. The willing and obedient service rendered had increased my ability to understand that the true measure of our success or growth becomes apparent to us when we do our best to willingly serve others.
A hallmark of the magnificent power of Jesus Christ was His ability to improve the lives of all He associated with. Our powers are not the same as His; however, we can follow His example and do as we have seen Him do. When we do as He did, we experience success; we grow in stature with God and man (see Luke 2:52).
Time is one of God’s gifts to us, and our time is a gift we can extend to others. Time is the essence of life. Our careful and prayerful use of it is essential to our experiencing the happiness and growth we desire. Wasted time is a source of great disappointment and heartache. Wasted time means time not used to an advantage. “What might have been” are terrifying words when you think about poorly spent or wasted time.
Our time on earth is intended to be used to make things and circumstances better for our having been here. Sometimes we wonder how to measure our success. For instance, not all missionaries are blessed with the opportunity to baptize many converts. Not all students are blessed with high academic achievement. Not all employees or employers receive great financial benefits. But all of us may experience growth and thus success in our lives.
How then may you measure success, or growth, or the best use of your time? It is possible to determine our success by asking and honestly answering the following questions:
Are things better where I have been because I was there?
Are things better where I am because I am here?
If the answer to these questions is negative or questionable, you might ask yourself this set of questions:
How can I make things better where I live or work?
What can I do so that people are better for knowing me?
How well am I fulfilling the tasks I perform?
Less than our best effort may permit us to do some things well without accomplishing our very best. We know when we have given our best and achieved the best result we are capable of producing. Success and maximum growth come when we are determined to put forth our best possible effort.
While attending the University of Southern California, I was faced with an interesting question. As the dean looked at my graduate school transcript, which consisted of nearly all A’s, he called my attention to the lone C on the record. He asked me what I thought that grade told him about me. When I responded that I didn’t know, he informed me it meant I was capable of getting a C grade. In my mind I was wondering what the A’s told him. Later, I realized he was teaching me to seriously approach my studies or I might be willing to accept less than my best effort.
We must not become content merely to work to get something finished. Diligent effort and a caring attitude toward those we serve benefit everyone. Diligence and faith enable us to perform at our highest level, bringing about the most good, growth, and blessings to ourselves and others.
Summertime may present unknown, unfamiliar, unpleasant, or wonderfully rewarding challenges for us. Whatever the circumstances are, let us use our time wisely, with an attitude that we will serve and make things better because we are there.
Have a successful, growing experience this summer through your Christlike service—doing that which blesses the lives of others. You can make things better wherever you are.
Personal growth and development require continual effort and focus. Don’t slack off spiritually. Read, study, and identify at least one area of personal improvement you are going to work on this summer.
Maintain a prayerful approach to the use of your time this summer.
Don’t work on Sundays. Don’t compromise this spiritual commitment in obtaining summer work.
Consider how your summer activities will affect you and your family. Often, when we schedule time for ourselves, we schedule the time of other family members. Family considerations should accompany all decisions about summer activities.
Assist around your own home in some way without being required to do so. You might volunteer to do a task or chore which is unpleasant or difficult for others. You might even find something that could be done anonymously.
Be anxiously engaged in good works. Of your own free will and choice you should find some opportunity each day to cheerfully do good for someone.
Is there a service you can provide for someone less fortunate than you? Service is the pattern of the Savior’s life and carries an element of sacrifice. His life was spent in going about serving others without concern for the difficulties which would beset Him. Your time is perhaps the greatest gift you can give to others.
Learn a skill or develop a talent enabling you to improve your ability to serve in the future. Personal development requires great focus and attention and involves overcoming pride with humility and gratitude. Recognizing talents is one way of acknowledging the kindnesses and blessings that our Heavenly Father provides for us. Helping another to develop a talent or learn a skill is one way we may assist Heavenly Father in distributing blessings which He has prepared for His children.