Episode 120: Lessons Learned from Terryl Givens
Welcome back to the show! As you may already know every 10th episode I spotlight a book or teacher or person that has helped shape me into the confident human being that I am in the hopes and intent that you can learn and benefit from them as well. I’m really excited to bring you this week’s topic and I’m going to narrow it in on just one book instead of all his works because they’re all amazing and that would just be the longest show ever – so I’m narrowing down on the book, ”The Doors of Faith” because it’s absolutely amazing and there’s so many gems in it that you’ll want to pocket for future use.
It’s not a big book by any means – it’s only 136 pages but I’ve read this little book countless times. My copy is worn, bent, highlighted, marked up with so many notes in the margins – it’s become very loved and cherished. This book is a compilation of lectures that Dr. Givens delivered back in 2019 and I love the title of the book as mentioned in the forward by John Rosenberg that reads, “Doors are transitional spaces, thresholds to be crossed, pasts to be transcended, undetermined futures to be glimpsed with faith: “it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” Other doors mark home, a returning and reaffirming: “but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2). This book is a primer for traveling between those two doors of faith- between the first door of
leaving and questing and proving and the second door of arrival in the encircling arms of safety (Alma 34:16).
So much of our struggle to feel confident is in arguing with these transitional spaces between mortality and immortality and what I mean by that is we get confused, deceived, and caught up in the belief that we have to be finished in the here and now – that we have to have done, become, accomplished all the things – and we create this time frame which becomes an unnecessary weighty pressure and adds to a scarcity mindset that really becomes a massive stumbling block in our lives.
So I love the thought of doors – that here in mortality we are in a transitional state – where we are crossing thresholds into a quest of mortality. So I hope you’ll stick around to here just a few insights into the book and then hopefully you’ll grab your own copy and dig in because this book really is insightful, thought-provoking, and an invitation to grow more confident – in that you get to know yourself deeper – being able to question your thoughts and beliefs so that you can show up with more certainty and assurity in your life.
I won’t cover all of it – I want you to enjoy the gift that each segment, chapter, idea brings – but I will spotlight just a few of my favorites that I felt would be fitting here. Right at the beginning in the introduction he starts talking about faith and if you’ve been here for just about any of my podcast episodes you’ll have heard me say that confidence is synonymous with faith.
Faith is the assurity – the certainty in things not seen – just as confidence is the ability to be certain in ourselves without having to have the past evidence or proof of ourselves. And right at the beginning of the book in the introduction we start with the antithesis of confidence – insecurity and thus anxiety.
I quote, “Anxiety appears to be the default human condition. We are fragile creatures, and at the best of times, we have a tenuous hold on happiness. We are anxious about loved ones, about the state of our world, about our work, our health, and the ineradicable burden of measuring up to our own hopes and expectations. Even those secure in their discipleship find all too few moments of respite from a world strewn with reminders of our vulnerability, the brittleness
of life. Anxiety is more than a drain on our body and soul; in ourselves and engender in others. The great Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that “without freedom from anxiety man is so enmeshed in the vicious circle of egocentricity, so concerned about himself that he cannot release himself for the adventure of love.”
I love that – what shift does it stir in you when instead of thinking about life and life as a test or a time to be proven but rather an adventure of love? It still can be a proving place, a place where we are given opportunities to grow but don’t you love this idea of an adventure of love? Without the pressures of needing to be perfect all the time – and that is the ultimate goal but we lose sight that Jeffery R. Holland reminds us of, “In mortality, perfection is pending” – I went on a journey to study perfection and the best synonym for is complete. Perfect is complete – and that’s not the goal the goal here – the goal is learning, growing, using your agency to choose God. We’re in this transitory state – a doorway between this state of adventure to see if we can learn to love as God loves: ourselves, each other, God, and this refining process.
So much of our perfectionistic tendencies don’t lie in striving for completion but rather as an attempt to avoid a negative feeling. We want to be perfect so others won’t feel disappointed in us, so we won’t have to feel or rather think that we’re inadequate. So what changes if we look at perfection as completion and life as an adventure of love?
I love what Vincent Van Gogh is attributed to have said, “I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” It is an adventure – and that love starts with your relationship with God and yourself. It’s impossible to know yourself without knowing your origins and identity and that comes from your relationships with God and knowing whose you are.
Continuing on Givens writes, “Niebuhr’s “adventure of love”
may be the grandest consequence of a life of faith, though little noted. Faith liberates us from the angst of our own preoccupations and frees us to
listen, to fully attend, to clearly see the other. And so it may even be the case that as our aptitude for and exercise of faith increases, so does our capacity for what Clement of Rome called the practice of love.” Most of us do not fall neatly
into categories of belief and nonbelief, perfect faith and debilitating anxiety. Faith occupies a spectrum, as does the degree of our other-directedness. None of us has yet reached that perfect day when we see as we are seen. That is why the nurturing of faith is an incremental task that beckons to us all.”
I mean, come on, right? That is amazing – I want to invite you to replace FAITH with confidence each time you hear that and see what changes for you. Faith is synonymous with confidence. Let me read that passage again and I’m going to substitute it out with confidence so you can hear the difference and I’m going pause and elaborate some of my thoughts into it as well.
Confidence (Faith) liberates us from the angst of our own preoccupations – our own preoccupations with fear, with doubt, with worry, wondering what others think of us, about us, etc – and frees us to listen (to ourselves and others -how often do we cloud or block the channels of communication – listening because we’re so busy with our own story in our head that we don’t actually listen to the other person? It’s our insecurities that block the freedom to listen to others and this next part -), to fully attend (to be fully present instead of like the last one – entertaining our own doubts and conversations in our minds about what we think they mean), to clearly see (this is certainty, yes?).
And so it may even be the case that as our aptitude for and exercise of Confidence (faith) increases, so does our capacity for what Clement of Rome called the practice of love.” The more confident you become the less you think about yourself in the sense of your ego – your doubts, worries, fears and thus you can be more present, offer more love, thought, time, energy towards others in this grand practice of loving.
“Most of us do not fall neatly into categories of belief and nonbelief (or confidence or insecurity), perfect faith and debilitating anxiety. Confidence (faith) occupies a spectrum. None of us has yet reached that perfect day when we see as we are seen. That is why the nurturing of Confidence (faith) is an incremental task that beckons to us all.”
There are so many people that lump confidence (faith) into one sum. Something you have or something you don’t have. But it’s a spectrum. You can feel certain to a degree. You can feel safe and secure to a degree but it’s incomplete and this is our quest – to nurture your confidence line upon line. And who wouldn’t want to engage in this task when the benefits allow you to be present, to improve communication and listening, to have more energy for others, to be free while you venture on this grand adventure of loving, right?
Givens goes on to share this example of when he was a scout and he had this old-school compass and he shares that it wasn’t always easy to get a reading and that you had to hold it in just a certain way, to be really still or the needle would jiggle around. So he says, “Perfectly still, perfectly level, perfectly unimpeded by wind or drafts within its glass enclosure, the needle could at last
swing free and find its true north. That was always a satisfying moment: The needle’s atoms are in perfect alignment in their domains, the domains lined up in the same direction, producing a magnetic field. And in properly sheltered
calm and equipoise, that nature is revealed, and the needle moves assuredly, confidently, toward the greater invisible force without.
The analogy is not exact. We are not born into a condition of sheltered stillness. Quite the contrary. We come with massive inherited baggage, multiple influences on our bodies and psyches, inherited predispositions, innate biological needs, inflicted emotional wounds, and fleshly appetites and weaknesses. We are in the maelstrom, not safe under hermetically sealed glass.
And yet, something in us is “whole from the foundation of the world. And perhaps life’s task is to discover, and to express, an authentic self that emerges out of all those forces and distractions. To find, if not utter stillness, at least a kind of self knowledge, a stable fixed point from which we at last act rather than merely live to be acted upon.”
The first step towards a confident life and what I teach is a practice called, Quiet Confidence which is this ability to be still. While the worldly whirlwinds swirl about – like that alliteration there? While life is life and so much noise surrounds you – being able to get to a stillness, a point of self-knowledge, a stable fixed point where we can be intentional, see things as they truly are, and then act – that’s what all of us want but few actually know how to get there or have really experienced this.
And it’s not a constant. Much like that compass and needing to treat it in a careful way – your quiet confidence is the same. It’s a series of daily realignments, doing your thought work, getting to a place where you can posses that self-knowledge so that you can be intentional in your progression. It can’t be a one stop shop because if you remember confidence is knowing and embracing ALL the parts of you and being able to trust in yourself and in your abilities.
That self-knowledge is a daily task. Elder Oaks once said, “You owe it to yourself to get to know yourself in every detail possible” – that getting to know yourself, self-knowledge is a daily task because everyday you are presented with new circumstances, a new scene before you, even to the point of new biological workings depending on what you ate, how your body is functioning, and what other physical elements are now added to the scene. The task of getting to know yourself in every detail possible IS a daily one – so it’s no wonder that the quest for quiet confidence is also going to be a daily practice – in the grand adventure of love and loving.
When I’m in a coaching session I help my clients see themselves more clearly. I help them step back and what I call, “Make it math” – math is solvable. It makes sense – basic math – and the pieces do align and from there seeing it in that light it helps them to be still, to get to that point of self-knowledge where they can take the next step forward and act in a way or make decisions in a way that is in alignment with their truest selves.
Before I had the opportunity to experience coaching I was a mess – I looked amazingly put together on the outside but inside I just was playing this no-win game. I lumped confidence into a be or not to be kind of position so anytime I’d be challenged with a particular circumstance I’d feel inadequate and then I’d make it mean that I wasn’t enough, I was failing – and all other kinds of demeaning things and it was’t until I started learning the process of stillness, self-knowledge – seeing things for what they are – truth, facts – and not the clouded, exaggerated story my natural man brain wanted to run with and make up that I started to feel better, more authentically me, and to be able to act how I wanted to and not how I believed others wanted me to.
That was the beginning of freedom and quiet confidence. It is a practice and one that we’re not supposed to be free of in mortality. We’re here to experience life, to do what Givens says, “To gain certain knowledge by the operation of something on ourselves.” (Our circumstances, right?) “Now that is an undertaking to embrace rather than resent.”
How many times do we resent our circumstances rather than embrace them? We have this idea and expectation that things should be easy and fun and happy all the time but it’s in the learning, the struggle that we really gain traction and experience and that gives us the gift and opportunity to feel deeper, more rich and full emotions.
I just want to pause for a minute and share something from one of my clients just recently. She had a huge project that was nearing a deadline and she had this whole colluded story about how she was inadequate, not equipped with the necessary talent to carry this out. Her mind gave her more and more evidence, past examples, past stories, past experiences to prove her current story about herself true even though it didn’t feel good nor was it going to help her to move forward in the task at hand.
So in one of our sessions we spent time make it math – clearing out the derbies of false, limiting, fictional tales and accepted that some things in life aren’t supposed to be easy or fun or desirable. However that doesn’t mean they aren’t to be embraced, understood, and carried out. She reached out to me the next day just on cloud nine and was so proud of herself that she had accomplished the task that she’d been avoiding and putting off for an extended period of time. I asked her how she felt and she said “like I’m on top of the world” and then I asked if the struggle was worth it to get to this feeling and she responded with, “Without a doubt”.
If it were easy, fun, and/or desirable would that feeling have been an option? Would it have existed? We need these moments, these opportunities that require more stillness, more self-understanding, awareness, and knowledge so that we can grow, experience and choose.
Givens continues. “Perhaps we are set adrift in this world of obscurity and turmoil and trial so that we can fight our way through to genuine self-knowledge, finding a way to let our compass needle swing free amidst the din. And in that discovery we may find a way forward, to cultivate and nourish and expand that “unknown quality” that hides within.”
Thinking about it in that light, can you not see why each circumstance is something to embrace rather that argue with or resent?
What is “hiding” within you that you only need to keep moving forward to discover? One of my favorite, just so encouraging thoughts comes from George Q. Cannon who taught that, “Everything you ascribe to God you also have within yourself – though it may lie dormant or in embryo” it is our quest to discover, develop, and become.
Knowing this it’s something to look forward to. I can’t become a perfectly patient person without having the learning ground that would call on patience. I can’t become a fully optimistic person without wading through negativity. I can’t feel the on top of the world feeling without struggling through resistance and trial. If we only knew what was on the other side of the river of woe I know more of us would on your own accord dive head first into the “river of misery” and experience all that was necessary to develop those divine attributes and virtues. But we lack faith – confidence that such exists so we try with all our mights to stay away from, resist, and dig our heels in the dirt to avoid that river of experience.
Confidence is learning to believe not in what evidence you already have about yourself but to trust what exists for you as you proceed. Which is faith, right? Believing in that which is hoped for but not seen*. And because we move forward it is that faith, that confidence that makes it happen, that makes it possible.
So the last concept that I want to share here on the podcast is the topic of “anti-fragility”. This is still in just the introduction – I’m telling you, go buy this book and love it as much as I do. So Given writes, “ The writer Nassim Taleb coined a new word to fill a void in our thinking about the concept of fragility. He notes that
we usually think of its opposite as “sturdy” or “unbreakable.” But as he points out, the opposite of breakable is not unbreakable, just as the opposite of diseased is not healthy, nor is the opposite of broken, repaired. In all such cases, one is countering a negative with a neutral. The word we lack is antifragile. As he explains,
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shock and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
Many things in the world–the inanimate particularly–are merely robust. Living, vital things are more likely to be antifragile. The antifragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means- crucially–a love of errors. …Antifragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them and do them well.”
In our progression the goal isn’t to just exist and avoid challenges but to use them as opportunities to make us stronger. The goal isn’t to just get through life but to endure, to become, to get stronger. I love the idea of anti fragility. We don’t want to just not break – we want to be grow stronger because of our circumstances and the harder your circumstances consider the stronger you have the opportunity to become.
Is this not something you want to embrace and look forward to? Confidence is knowing that all things work FOR me and not against me. The adversary would have me believe that this is wrong, unfair, too hard and limit me from learning and becoming all that I can be. He would keep us so busy putting out “fires” in our lives that we fail to see the bigger picture -that the little fires in our lives extinguish on their own – and some don’t even really exist. Some if not most of these little fires are made up things in our minds, we make up deadlines and fear the consequences of such – which really means that you’re going to think a thought about it and feel a feeling. That’s about it.
Or we’re operating from social constructs that seem pressing but are in fact, just a made up group of thoughts that we have agreed to collectively as a society but when you step back and are still, when you give yourself the opportunity to question those – you can start seeing them for what they really are – just a fictional fire that doesn’t have to hold power over you if you don’t want it to.
You can use these little fires to make you anti fragile. To see things more clearly and become stronger. Let me give you an example of what this can look like in an everyday kind of situation because it’s not just big things – everyday little things eat and chisel away at us.
So, I used to be a major people pleaser. If someone asked for something or for me to help out with something I’d always say yes even though in my mind my mind was screaming NO! I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to bake 500 cupcakes or host the next cub scout activity. But my little made up fire had me afraid of what would happen if I said no.
I was afraid of what they’d think of me. If they’d be disappointed in me. If things would fall apart if I didn’t participate. And that was until in my learning and practice of quiet confidence – which mean self-knowledge – that I discovered that it’s okay to be honest and say no. That saying no didn’t mean anything negative about you. It was an opportunity to be honest, authentic, real, and to connect with the other party in a genuine way.
I learned that saying no when I needed to helped me to become stronger – and not stronger in saying no more often in fact the opposite happens. Because I’m honest with myself and take care of me – I’m in a position to give more – I’m not clouded by my ego or fears or resistance to discomfort, rather I can be honest in a kind, respectful, genuine way that makes me stronger – anti-fragile.
And in being authentic you start to see that what once seemed like a huge fire to be afraid of wasn’t a fire at all.
Faith, antifragility, certainty are all aspects of quiet confidence. We live in a mental world that we choose – a construction of our own thoughts and beliefs. Givens writes, “ We cannot live without these frameworks, these narratives we construct. Consider your own life and the sense you make of it. It is not just a future biographer who would have to select from the infinite details of your life, from the countless thoughts and actions, experiences and witnessings,
inclinations and triumphs to tell your life story. You, too, You are who at every waking moment, are living the story you choose to tell yourself that gives coherence, purpose, meaning to your existence. You are not just an object among objects in an to be endless stream of cause and effect. You choose and navigate, or you meander and drift–but in every case, witting or not, you consolidate a limited set of data points to constitute a story with you as the protagonist. We could not rise from one day to the next and engage the tempests of life without this most fundamental place of beginning: I have a life, and this is my story.”
Your story can be one of faith, of quiet confidence and anti-fragility. You are more powerful than you think or realize yourself to be. This is your life. You get to choose your story. Embrace your circumstances rather than resisting them. Become stronger in them rather than existing or playing neutral. Discover the freedom that only faith and confidence creates.
This is why I love this work so much and why I feel so much joy as I work with my clients – it’s an indescribable experience that I hope everyone of you gets to experience and become. Quiet confidence is a freedom that most don’t even know exists. I want this for you and for sure this book can help you in that process. So go buy the book, let’s talk about it! And when you’re ready come and work with me. Let me help you in your quest for self-discovery and knowledge.
Okay, my catalysts! Have an incredible week and I’ll talk to you next time!