We’ve talked a lot about Shoulds and Should-Nots on this blog. These are the thoughts that lead us away from Living in Truth and cause us to wallow in the Pit of Illusion. There is always pain in the Pit of Illusion and there is always peace when Living in Truth. One of the great places to see this exemplified in the scriptures is the beautiful Psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4:17-35).
Nephi is recounting the death of his beloved father and the anger and resentment of his brothers. As he records these things you can tell they have pierced his heart and he begins to think about all the things he should or shouldn’t have done and falls into the painful Pit of Illusion. He says of this, “my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities . . . my heart groaneth because of my sins.” While Nephi doesn’t use the words should or shouldn’t, he is obviously thinking them. He shouldn’t have been weak, he shouldn’t have iniquities and sins. But the truth is we all do, and while it is good to feel the pain and hurt for those things until we repent, after repenting we need to trust in the Atonement and move on. And that’s exactly what Nephi does. At this point he reminds himself that he has trusted in God (4:19), which means that despite his sins and mistakes Jesus Christ will heal and help him.
But as he reminds himself of all the Savior has done for him, he again begins to think about his failings and this time he says, “Why should I yield to sin . . . why should I give way to temptations . . . why am I angry?” (4:27). Again Nephi realizes that this type of thinking is sin itself and immediately commands himself, “Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin.” Then to counter this negative thinking, he commands himself, “Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul” (4:28).
Most of us realize we shouldn’t criticize others. But once we have done something wrong, we need to repent and move on and not criticize ourselves. Like Nephi when we are tempted with negative thinking concerning our own behavior that we have repented of, we need to turn our thoughts to Jesus Christ and rejoice that there is someone who can erase our sins. If we instead constantly wallow in the fact that we are sinners, we add more sin, cause ourselves unnecessary pain, and deny the Atonement of Jesus Christ. So rejoice! The Savior lives and we need to shout out with joy, “Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God” (4:35).