I have seen a battle with despair in those who feel they will always need to pretend to be something they aren’t. I’m talking here about people who want to change to be better and put on an optimistic face, but inside wonder if they will ever measure up. In addiction recovery work, I’ve come to find that a basic fear is that even if sinful desires are suppressed, they will always be there as a powerful force waiting to break through in a moment of weakness.
I’ve heard men use the phrase, “I will battle this all my life.” I applaud this resolution to keep trying, but it troubles me. While the spirit of man should remain vigilant in maintaining mastery over the flesh, the fruits of the Spirit include peace and that means that constant battle is not our goal. I submit that the battle subsides as one draws on the power of the atonement of Jesus Christ. He’s already won this battle on our behalf, and the battle will subside in our hearts as we really change.
One of my many dear friends who successfully worked through addiction recovery gave the following insight (shared with permission):
“When I first started attending addiction recovery groups and began my journey towards the Savior, I believed that the end result would just be a mask. I knew that what Heavenly Father wanted from me was the right thing, but I didn’t think anything about who I was would change and, if I’m honest, I didn’t want anything about my personality to change. As I progressed in my recovery and as my relationship with Heavenly Father grew, He showed me that what I thought He wanted from me was wrong. He didn’t want me to wear a mask. He had a plan for me. He was listening to all of those prayers that I didn’t have the courage to bring to Him. What I finally realized was that what Heavenly Father wanted from me was to become the best version of myself. He believed in me, encouraged me, and brought out who I really was and showed me who I could be. It turns out I was wearing a mask, and He took it off. I will forever be grateful for that.”
It was a privilege to have a window into this man’s recovery. He found the Savior’s promises fulfilled, that if we give him our whole heart, he will return it, “pressed down, and shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38). “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:25).
Real and lasting change comes when we seek the Lord’s will in everything we do. The real mask we wear is the one keeping us from our true nature as divine sons and daughters of God.
President Boyd K. Packer said: “The thought is this: the Atonement leaves no tracks, no traces. What it fixes is fixed. … The Atonement leaves no traces, no tracks. It just heals, and what it heals stays healed.” (Excerpt from Elder Allen D. Haynie)