Fear of Missing Out: Joy Dwells in the Ordinary

“The best things in life are on the other side of terror, on the other side of your maximum fear are all of the best things in life.” –Will Smith (1)

          When I first listened to the motivational speech by Will Smith about conquering your fears, it rang true to me; fear holds me back from becoming who I hope to be. In his speech he used the example of skydiving to explain the pure bliss he felt falling towards the ground. Bliss came as a result of overcoming fear and jumping out of the plane; bliss was found “on the other side of terror”. Fear is more like a brick wall than it is a glass window pane; both prevent you from moving forward but one doesn’t let you see to the other side. Fear not only paralyzes us, it blinds us from seeing “things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13). We may fear talking to a stranger, trying new things, monsters under our bed, not being happy, or making important life decisions. The reality is, fear comes in all shapes and sizes and should be recognized more often then when just jumping out of a plane. Fear prevents us from moving forward; it immobilizes our future, it hinders our learning, it turns away our service to others, it tears families apart, and out of it blossoms nothing greater than mediocrity. As children of the Most High God, we are meant for more than mediocrity, we are fashioned to become eternal beings. When we live in fear we fail to see who we may become and what we might have.

          The idea that we are better off conquering our fears rather than living in them is a theme strung throughout the media of today. How do we conquer our fears? The Nike company would answer Just Do It, your extreme sports enthusiast may add Send It, and Batman would tell you To Conquer Fear You Must Become Fear. All of these practices for conquering fear may or may not work under given circumstances; however, there is an unfailing way to push beyond fear no matter the circumstances. The way is love. The New Testament scriptures teach us that “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18). The prophet Mormon teaches that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever…wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all.” (Moroni 7:46,47). We develop perfect love by paying the price for it. Mormon teaches that the price men and women must pay is to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7: 48). The phrase “all the energy of heart” implies that strenuous effort is required to attain the ultimate gift of charity, or perfect love. Therefore, we shouldn’t expect the greatest of all the gifts of God to just fall into our laps when we want it to. Instead, we should recognize that the receipt of and appreciation for the gift of charity comes only through the struggle to attain it; and that struggle will always require an individual acceptance of Christ’s ultimate suffering through His atonement.

          Now, I want to point out a fear I have noticed during my “laps around the sun” here on Earth. This fear is indigenous to the 21st century and has become widespread through current technology, media, and social media platforms. It is the fear of missing out (FOMO). Missing out on fame and popularity, wealth and economic status, praise and honors of men, a vacation to the beautiful beaches of Mexico, a good job and a multitude of friends, or worst of all a firing surf session in South Orange County. Closely associated with this fear of missing out is the fear that one is living an ordinary life, doing ordinary things and the belief that ordinary is somehow less than the extraordinary.

          Back to Will Smith’s speech; don’t misunderstand my use of his speech to imply that bliss is only found on the other side of an extreme jump or an extraordinary life event. Bliss can be found all around us, even in the most ordinary tasks. Satan, being the enemy to all righteousness, is “cunning” and wants you to believe you are not enough and therefore cannot be happy (2 Nephi 9:28). Satan preaches that happiness is found in competition, in being the very best at something, in the freedom from responsibility, in the easy ways to success, in easy vocations, in the adventures of a world traveler, in the pursuit of something new, in the most stimulating environments, and in the most sensualizing songs. In these cases, happiness may be present but it will last only for as long as you can keep up in the race. True and lasting happiness, even joy is found elsewhere. President Nelson, our current living prophet, teaches that joy is found by focusing our lives on our Savior Jesus Christ (3). Focusing our life on the Savior includes obedience to God’s law, a willingness to sacrifice all we have for Him, and consecrating our life to His work.

          Elder Neal A. Maxwell further illustrates this fear of missing out. Although he did not call it the same, I wish to reference his talk Grounded, Rooted, Established and Settled to help seal in the truths that joy dwells in the ordinary and that you are never missing out when you choose to put your Heavenly Father first:

Occasionally I see individuals who are meeting life’s challenges reasonably well but who unfortunately fail to appreciate the general adequacy of their response. They let the seeming ordinariness of life dampen their spirits. Though actually coping and growing, some lack the quiet inner-soul satisfaction which can steady them. Instead they seem to experience a lingering sense that there is something more important they should be doing or that their chores are somehow not quite what was expected, as if what is quietly achieved in righteous individual living or in parenthood is not sufficiently spectacular. Feeling unrequited as to role and feeling underwhelmed do not occur, however, because of a structural failure in this divinely designed second estate [life on Earth]. Rather they occur because of a lack of love, for love helps us to see and to respond to those opportunities which have been allotted to us and which lie unused all about us. –Neal A. Maxwell (2)

This quote illustrates what the fear of missing out may look like and feel like. Elder Maxwell says the absolute solution to this fear is love. He goes on to beautifully explain what life looks like to those who push past this fear and take the Holy Spirit as their guide:

With the Holy Spirit as our guide, our conscience stays vibrant and alive. Things which we had never supposed come into view. Seeming routine turns out to be resplendent. Ordinary people seem quite the opposite. What we once thought to be the mere humdrum of life gives way to symphonic strains. Circumstances or a mere conversation which look quite pedestrian nevertheless cause a quiet moment of personal resolve, and a decision affecting all eternity is made. Sometimes you and I even sense it as it happens, but there are no bands playing, and there are no headlines. Therefore, a very significant part of getting settled in one’s discipleship consists of coming to terms with the realities around us that seem so routine. Routine, like trials, can bring us closer to God or move us away from him. What seems commonplace seldom is.”—Maxwell (2)

          When we feel our daily living is not enough, or that we are not enough and that we are missing out on what the world or on what a group of friends has to offer, we must remember we are enough. You are a child of God, with a calling that is uniquely yours, and both of these truths make you enough. You cannot be everywhere and with everyone at once, only God can. Let us be like the Book of Mormon prophet Alma and be content with what God has given us to do (Alma 29:3). Frank Crane, an american minister wrote about the importance of finding joy in the ordinary:

I call that man truly converted, or enlightened, or born again, or emancipated, who has purged his soul of the lust of the exceptional; who has learned that the greatest fun in the world is to enjoy those pleasures of life that are common to all the race (4).

The only thing you can miss out on that directly impacts your lasting happiness is the perspective and love of God. Do not let the fear of missing out stop you from beginning a new chapter in life as a disciple of Christ, as a mother, as a father, as a leader of mankind. Your Heavenly Father loves you and believes in the seed of divinity that is planted in you. You are fashioned to do those things he has commanded you to do within your own personal circumstances and in your own beautiful way. The ordinary tasks of life are extraordinary when you share them with those you love the most.

 

  1. https://www.goalcast.com/2017/04/15/will-smith-bliss-other-side-fear/
  2. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell_grounded-rooted-established-settled-ephesians-317-1-peter-510/
  3. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2016/11/sunday-morning-session/joy-and-spiritual-survival?lang=eng
  4. Muir, L. J. (1928). Flashes from the eternal semaphore. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press.

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