Sunday, August 7, 2011
The dictionary defines "honor" in the following ways:
1. honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
2. high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank: to be held in honor.
3. high public esteem; fame; glory: He has earned his position of honor.
When ever I am going through a particularly hard time in life, I always think of my favorite cartoon character of all time, Prince Zuko, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He begins the TV series as the main bad guy, hunting down the Avatar to restore his honor and regain his rightful place as heir to the throne of the Fire Nation. Throughout the entire 3 seasons of the show Prince Zuko is obsessed with his honor. He is most particularly concerned with the third definition of honor, high public esteem. All he really wants is for his father, the emperor, to think well of him. He wants to earn his place as the heir to the throne. But as the story progresses, life only gets more difficult for this banished prince. He faces trial after trial after trial, and nothing ever goes right for him. But somewhere on this journey, he starts to realize the difference between right and wrong and he sees that by regaining his "honor" in his father's eyes would be going against everything that is right. And when he is on the verge of regaining the honor which was everything he spent the entire story searching for, he gives it all up to go against his father and to do what is right. And, interestingly enough, it is just when he gives up this definition of honor that he does in fact find honor, like the honor listed in the first definition found in the dictionary: integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
In my life, I have seen how "seeking after the honors of men" or making choices based on selfish or prideful reasons instead of choosing God's will always leads to frustration and unhappiness. I have come to learn that when we are humble and obedient, then that is when we start to become the people that we are always meant to be. That isn't to say, however, that we will always be spared trials if we always choose the right. Sometimes trials are the greatest teacher in life, and help us become the person that God desires us to become. Such was the case for Prince Zuko. In the start of the series he was immature, arrogant and selfish. Through his endless amounts of trials he learned humility and most importantly the difference between right and wrong. We live in a fallen world, and we cannot escape affliction, but if we put our trust in God he can make these experiences beneficial for us and help us develop characteristics that make us more like our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.
President Uchtdorf gave an absolutely wonderful talk about this subject a few conferences ago, in his talk "Your Happily Ever After." He states: "Has there ever been a person who did not have to go through his or her own dark valley of temptation, trial, and sorrow? Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity...The scriptures tell us there must be opposition in all things, for without it we could not discern the sweet from the bitter...In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy...It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop."
Like Prince Zuko, we too are heirs, for "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:16-18) God knows the big picture, He has a plan. He know what is best for us and He know what He wants us to become. He knows how to change us, for He says "behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (1 Nephi 20:10) And He tells us, like Uncle Iroh tells his nephew Zuko, "You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience but when you come out of it. You will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be."
And so as I go through hard times, I remember this. I am searching for honor. Not the honor and glories of men, but I am striving to honor my God, to choose the right in the face of adversity, to bear my trials with humility and patience and to let God change me into the person that He always meant for me to become.