2020: The Year Self-Awareness Died

Yesterday, my EC and I made a less-than-brilliant choice: We decided to go to the mall.

Not far from us, we have an open-air mall where there are many stores packed together with small streets running throughout. There were SO MANY cars and pedestrians darting into the street, blocking traffic and basically causing a traffic nightmare.

Being the noble and virtuous man that I am, I decided to rise above it by quietly chanting to myself, “These are Heavenly Father’s children. I love each and every one of them. These are Heavenly Father’s children. I love each and every one of them.”

My cynical approach did nothing to help my frustration, but I persisted – until I took a corner a little too quickly…and almost obliterated a woman pushing a stroller.

She was angry, and shot me a death look that I deserved.

I made the expected apology face and hand signals, as she stormed across the street in front of me. Sure I felt dumb, but luckily, Chrissie was in Bath & Body Works, so she didn’t witness it. (So nobody needs to know.)

My misanthropic view of the crowds was only called into question by my own short-coming. I was adequately humbled for the moment and I decided to “chill.”

One of the things I have found interesting this year is the lack of self-awareness in the public realm. One quick example: Just last week, the mayor of a major US city got on TV and told his citizenry to avoid travel for the Thanksgiving holiday- then immediately left for the airport to catch a flight.

This kind of stuff happens all the time – many in the public eye are masters of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Their hypocrisy is remarkable, and frequent.

Politically, that has become the expected norm on a sides. “Listen closely to what I say, but disregard what I said a few years ago when the shoe was on the other foot.”

Beyond politics, the COVID pandemic has made self-awareness a rare commodity. I see people bludgeoning other’s with accusations of being “unkind” for not wearing a mask, while they busily hoard TP, etc. Others extoll the gift of agency, while disregarding that inconvenient “brother’s keeper” thing. Gotta love the irony, but not the hypocrisy.

Now would be a good time to point out that I am a major-league hypocrite as well – so much that I once wrote a blog post about it. Then again, most of us are, according to Elder Uchtdorf:

“If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be.” (Link)

So, if you consider yourself a hypocrite, welcome to the club.

I think hypocrisy flourishes when we are lacking in self-awareness. The problem is that finding self-awareness is not always a pleasant task. It can require that we look at ourselves a little more deeply, until we find those things that make us flinch.

The Savior has offered to help up with that:

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…”(Ether 12:27)

I can easily acknowledge that I am weak, but what to do about it? Christ answers that in the same verse:

…and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (ibid)

Ether mentions in verse 9 that these words “comforted him.” President Henry B. Eyring added:

“They can be a comfort to all of us. Those who do not see their weaknesses do not progress. Your awareness of your weakness is a blessing as it helps you remain humble and keeps you turning to the Savior. The Spirit not only comforts you, but He is also the agent by which the Atonement works a change in your very nature. Then weak things become strong.” (link)

Elder Dieter F. Uchctdorf supports this idea, saying “Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.” Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.”

If we aren’t willing to really dig in to discover, and to let the Lord help us turn weakness to strength, we are more likely to have that self-awareness blind spot that seems so frequent, ad visible, in today’s world.

When Cecil Samuelson was president of BYU, he gave the student wise counsel that applies to all of us:

“All of us need to have a clear awareness of who we are, what we represent, and how we affect and influence others. Virtually all of us understand that we are literally spirit children of our Heavenly Father. This insight should and must color all decisions and choices we make in our lives, including and especially how we treat strangers and others in our families, classes, church groups, and neighborhoods.”

We are blessed with a tremendous amount of knowledge about who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. That self-awareness SHOULD color our actions, especially how we treat one another.

Quoting the Apostle Paul, Sister Jean Bingham makes a great case as to how self-awareness can alter how we treat others:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

“When we see our own imperfections more clearly, we are less inclined to view others “through a glass, darkly.” We want to use the light of the gospel to see others as the Savior does—with compassion, hope, and charity. The day will come when we will have a complete understanding of others’ hearts and will be grateful to have mercy extended to us—just as we extend charitable thoughts and words to others during this life.” (link)

Christmastime presents us with a great opportunity to reflect on the Savior, but also to reflect on how much of Him we see in ourselves – even at the mall.


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  1. Here is some irony concerning masks.
    I have lived in a few countries that require women to wear face coverings in public. I have been close enough to some families that I was allowed to be in their homes when the women did not have to wear a covering.
    I found it very interesting in the adult women with how expressive they are with their eyes and how they have much less expression with the rest of their face that is usually covered in comparison to western women who can use their whole face for expression.
    Just an observation

  2. We reviewed Elder Scott Whiting’s recent conference talk in Family Zoom church this morning. He suggests that we look at ourselves with an eye to choosing one Christlike attribute we need more of (possibly getting help from loved ones and the Lord to identify what we should focus on). [self-awareness]

    Then we should ask the Lord for His help in taking one step at a time as we work on it. Elder Whiting promises us that if we will do that, we will begin to see examples of that attribute and find counsel on how to develop it everywhere we look.

  3. I agree with you, Brad. I have another philosophy to add, call it Rebecca Chapter 1, verse 1: Wearing a mask has allowed us to be “rude” to people. It is just an observation I have made, nothing more. To counter this observation, I have been going out of my way to make my eyes “smile” while wearing a mask. It seems eye contact is not common, our behavior has been altered in some ways. I personally do not like it. Wearing a mask is not natural and I’m concerned it is a metaphor for “masking” other things. Thank you for your wisdom in writing of our love for each other. I do love my fellow man and can’t wait to see their whole face again and smile with my mouth as well as my eyes.

    1. You made an excellent point. It’s interesting that a new phrase has developed in just the last couple of years: “virtue signaling”. Then somehow “mask wearing” became the number one player in this venue. I’m somewhat neutral on the whole thing but I agree that there seems to be more rudeness out there. I think it could be tied to that scripture from 1 Samuel 16:7–“..for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

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