"The Lord doesn't expect us to work harder than we are able. He doesn't (nor should we) compare our efforts to those of others. Our Heavenly Father asks only that we do the best we can—that we work according to our full capacity, however great or small that may be."Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Two Principles for Any Economy," Ensign, Nov. 2009, 56
We live in a society were we are taught to not take responsibility for our actions. I have often heard people make statements about how they made choices because of the way they were raised. They did not have an ideal life, so it is not their fault that they were caught stealing, lying or cheating. Their parents did not love them enough, they did not have family home evening, or scripture study. They did not have friends. I could go on and on.
When are we accountable for our actions? I am not trying to take away the things that have happened to any of us. I know that some people live or have lived, in horrible circumstances. I know from personal experience that life is often hard and heart breaking. But, I do not understand how we can be so ready and willing to blame others for the difficulties that we have caused ourselves.
Sometimes, it seems to me that we can be in a real hurry to get the blame off of ourselves and give it to someone else. We are in such a hurry to not be accountable, that we fail to learn the lessons and receive the blessings that our Father has in store for us.
Think for a moment about the story of Nephi. We read a lot about him in the Book of Mormon. I would venture to say that 1st Nephi is probably one of the most read books of the scriptures! (I can't tell you how many times I have read through 1st Nephi because I started to have a scripture study program, only to come back and read it again much later because I stopped studying and had to start over!) Do you think that Nephi had a perfect family? I know his father was a prophet, but what about his brothers? Do you think that Nephi ever suffered from having a disfunctional family? I do! In our life today, what would happen if your older brothers tied you up for four days? Or beat you with a stick? Sounds just a little abusive to me. In today's society, it sounds like an excuse just waiting to happen!
I don't recall reading Nephi and hearing him complain that he couldn't be the prophet because his brothers treated him so badly. I don't recall hearing him complain that no one would listen to him. I don't recall hearing him complain when his bow broke and he had to make a new one that wasn't as good. I don't even recall him complaining when Heavenly Father told him to build a ship! (How would you like to build a ship when you have never in your life done anything like that before!)
I think that Heavenly Father put Nephi at the beginning of the scriptures to help us realize that no one has a perfect life. There are really none of us that have it "easy". It might appear that way to other people, but it is probably not at all true. We all have bad things happen to us. Some are worse than others. We can't change the things that happen, we can't change illness, we can't change the decisions of others, we can't change what is wrong in our life, but we still have a choice in how we deal with the situations.
Our free agency does not stop others from using their free agency to do us harm. Our free agency can only help us to deal with the problem that is presented to us. Am I going to be like Laman and Lemuel? Two bullies who complained when they did not get their own way and tried to force others to do things their way. Or am I going to be like Nephi and go and do the thing which the Lord has commanded me to do?
The choice in how I behave is up to me.
"I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself."