One of my favorite professors ever was Reed Bradford who taught Sociology at Brigham Young University. After I graduated and went back for a visit I saw his picture in the library hanging with nine other individuals. The permanent display was to recognize the top 10 professors in the first 100 years of the existence of BYU. I felt privileged to have been able to take him for a class while I was working on my undergraduate degree.
He told us that when he was working on his Ph.D. degree at Harvard University he was asked to write a ten-page paper on "why are you the way you are." He said this assignment became one of the most difficult and painful experiences that he had ever had. The assignment forced him to examine himself very closely and to face those questions that always linger. Was I born this way? Was I socialized this way? Did I choose independently to act and think they way I do. He looked at both the strengths and the weaknesses he had and didn’t like what he saw.
He was still in the early years of his marriage and his children were still young. He said that realized that the communication patterns in his home were very strained. Dr. Bradford realized that he was the main problem because he was a yeller. If the least little thing happened to frustrate him, he would yell to let his feelings be known. Of course, this hurt his wife and small children's feelings, and they subsequently would not openly communicate for fear of his frequent outbursts. As he began to question his communication skills and the reasons for his difficulties, he realized that his own parents yelled in anger or just to get a point across. He remembered being angry with them and afraid to openly express himself for fear of being yelled at. He also remembered how much he hated this shortcoming in his parents, and became disgusted with his own behavior. He realized he was now carrying on the same bad traits he had seen in his home to another generation. The paper became a life changing experience for him as he tried to discover the influences in his life that had lead him to where he was.
One other interesting thing that he discovered was that his grandfather had also yelled to let his opinion be known which had a negative effect on their family. Through more interviews he discovered that this flaw in communication skills had gone back several generations. Isn’t it interesting that the very thing that he did not like in his family of origin was the very thing that he was carrying on? Unfortunately that is not unusual at all. Yellers usually produce yellers. Those who physically abuse their children often produce children you physically abuse their own children. Logically as Reed Bradford found out it makes no sense whatsoever to repeat the vicious cycle generation after generation.
At that point he made a vow that he would break the destructive family tradition that had been passed down to him. It took much effort and self-discipline but he was able to discontinue the yelling habit that had plagued his extended family over the years and began to develop a nurturing relationship with his own family. Reed Bradford was perhaps the most kind, gentle men I have ever known. He had a wonderful relationship with his wife and children and was a legendary professor who influenced thousands by his example.
It is not easy to break the self-defeating behaviors that are holding us back but paying the price it is always worth it. Thomas S. Monson: “The battle for self-discipline may leave you a bit bruised and battered but always a better person. Self-discipline is a rigorous process at best; too many of us want it to be effortless and painless. Should temporary setbacks afflict us, a very significant part of our struggle for self-discipline is the determination and the courage to try again.” (Ensign, May 2002, 100–101.)
Why are you the way you are? We should all examine ourselves closely to try and determine the source of our weaknesses. Once we figure out why we have our weaknesses we should vow to do everything within our power to change them. It could be that if you overcome the self-defeating behaviors holding you back it will affect generations to come. On the other hand if you or I fail to overcome our challenges we could also affect generations to come.
If you like my BYU professor have problems with communication skills for example make a vow to change. Perhaps you did not see effective communication in the home you grew up in. An obstacle to effective communication may be that our skills and attitudes toward communication are built up over the years without conscious awareness on our part. Even if we have been indoctrinated to communicate inappropriately we can change. Thomas S. Monson said: "The ability to communicate is not something we are born with. We have to learn it and earn it." (New Era, Feb 1969 p. 2)
Challenge: Pick one weakness that is holding you back and work to overcome it.
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