It was county fair time this past week, one of the most magical times of the year for me. I love it all! I love the lights and bells and whistles of the rides, the cotton candy and kettle corn scent in the air, the music from the live bans, and I love entering things into the fair to compete for a ribbon. I always say that finding a blue ribbon next to your name at the fair feels to me a little like what I imagine finding a golden ticket in a Willy Wonka chocolate bar would be like. I always get so excited. This year, I decided to try something challenging, homemade croissant rolls. It was a two day process and during making them I smiled thinking about another blue ribbon to put on my wall. Then I thought it would be really fun to make something additional to try for another blue ribbon. I made some fudgy butterscotch brownies and Tuesday morning, I entered my stuff into the fair. The croissants hadn’t turned out as well as I had wanted, but Thursday morning when the fair opened, I still hoped that I would have two blue ribbons to add to my collection. But when I entered the home arts building and looked for my entries, there was no blue. My brownies received a 2nd place red ribbon and the croissants were a 3rd place white. My four year blue ribbon winning streak had come to end. I was pretty disappointed but then my inner critic kicked in. I started cataloging all my mistakes and felt embarrassed for even trying. I walked back to the car thinking that I wouldn’t enter the fair any more. Yeah, I was being pretty childish. I didn’t want to come back and pick up my ribbons on Monday after the fair closed. I didn’t want them. But today I went and got them because I want them very much. It turns out I was about learn a master class lesson in pride. Do blue ribbons matter in the long term? No, but this lesson was life-changing.
It started when I was at work. I was in the middle of filing some papers when suddenly a phrase came to my mind, “It is the comparison that makes you proud.” It was a line I had heard before, from Ezra Taft Benson’s masterful talk “Beware of Pride.” I had always understood it to mean that you were prideful when you were comparing yourself to others, imagining yourself to be better than others. Suddenly I understood that principle in a whole new light. It was pride in me that was comparing my results this year with the years passed and pride that was condemning my efforts this year because the results were less than perfect. And it was pride in me as I looked at myself as a new trainee on a difficult new job and unfairly compared myself to how I could be if I knew all there was to know about the job. It is pride that compares myself during times when I am weak to times when I am stronger. It was a fascinating revelation. I know it was revelation from the Spirit because when I feel revelation from the Spirit about ways I can be better I feel hopeful and not condemned. I know that with the Savior’s help, I can change.
If that was not enough, I was driving home the next day from work when another impression filled my mind. “In order to be humble, you must be teachable.” Again, it was nothing I hadn’t heard before but I came to understand it so much more during that drive. I could literally feel the proverbial “light bulb” coming on! It was amazing! I thought of my croissants and how I had studied that Martha Stewart magazine article before I made them but I had expected them to come out perfect the very first time. I had expected them to be like Martha’s. But what I had forgotten was that Martha herself probably had years of trial and error croissants before hitting on the perfect recipe. How could I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I cooked to be perfect the first time? How can I possibly be teachable and learn from my mistakes if I expected everything I did in life to be perfect the first time? I love what Thomas Edison said when asked if he was discouraged after “failing” so many times with his inventions and hadn’t received many results: “Results? Why man, I have gotten many results! If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward.” As I drove home that day, I thought about a lesson I learned several years ago when I was going through probably the most difficult time of my entire life. I was getting ready for church one day and I was praying “Heavenly Father, I just want to do the right thing. I really just want to do the right thing.” Suddenly I felt a very distinct answer. “That’s not entirely true. You don’t want to make any mistakes, and there is a difference.” In order to be teachable, we have to know that mistakes are a vital part of the learning process, whether you are making croissants, inventing something that will change the world, or striving to become what Heavenly Father wants you to become.
So I went and picked up my ribbons because I wanted them very much. They are a reminder that I should never stop trying, never stop taking risks even though the results may not be what I had hoped for. They are a reminder that effort, even if it is less than perfect, is something to be celebrated. They are a reminder that I am doing okay, even though I have many life lessons to learn and that I’ve still got lots of time to learn them. Isn’t it wonderful that we have so much help us overcome or weaknesses?! It’s amazing! I know that I can pray and overcome my issues with pride with the Savior’s help even though it may take a while. And it just so happens, I know of a pretty great “how-to” book on overcoming pride too! :)