In a BYU devotional address, Diane Strong-Krause taught how a gospel understanding of who we are grounds us and increases our capabilities.
PROVO, Utah (June 2, 2015)—“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”: This quote has been used often to point out the duality of life on earth. Diane Strong-Krause, chair of the Department of Linguistics and English Language, spoke in a recent Brigham Young University devotional on this concept and taught how an understanding of our spiritual nature gives us strength and makes us capable of greater achievement during our human experience.
Once, when walking through the park with her husband, Strong-Krause passed a group of kite-flyers, whose kites flew high overhead with one so high she could barely see it. The sight of those kites made her think of her colleagues and their achievements, as well as her students and the great things they were capable of. Like the kites, these and other people manage to soar.
Later, though, she thought of people who had come crashing to earth. They had failed to meet their potential or had put success ahead of everything else.
What separated those who flew from those who fell, Strong-Krause explained, was that they were anchored, “as a kite is with its string.” And one of the most powerful anchors is understanding who you are.
“You are a spirit daughter or son of our Heavenly Father,” Strong-Krause said.
“This knowledge is not new to us,” she continued. “We are both physical beings as well as spiritual beings. However, in order for this knowledge to provide an anchor for us, we need to not only know this in our minds but to understand it in our hearts and apply it in our lives each day.”
Strong-Krause said that, though difficult for some to achieve, understanding who we are has five powerful implications.
First, we are able to recognize our potential and face challenges with courage. “Our true selves are not fearful,” Strong-Krause said. Though the trials of life are real and necessary for personal growth, we can face them better when we have an eternal perspective.
Second, we are able to recognize that others are also spiritual beings with potential of their own. This means being able to treat others with compassion, Strong-Krause explained, “whether they are wealthy or poor, famous or unknown, sophisticated or simple, learned or uneducated, whether they have physical or mental disabilities, or whether they are just plain difficult to get along with.”
Third, understanding who we are leads to the ability to forgive others. When we can recognize that another person is both spiritual and physical in nature, it becomes easier to assign any faults or misdeeds to their physical side. As Strong-Krause put it, “With the understanding that we are all dual in nature and that at this moment, perhaps, the very imperfect, fallible part is taking center stage, we can take a step back, take time to pause, and reach inward to the true self, and forgive others as well as ourselves.”
Fourth, we give and receive freely. Understanding of self and others inspires feelings of kinship, which lead to giving of one’s time, talents, love and appreciation. Strong-Krause quoted Emily Dickinson, who wrote:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
Being able to give freely of ourselves increases our ability to receive freely and strengthens our sense of gratitude. “We recognize the gifts we receive each day,” Strong-Krause said. “We recognize the gifts from nature: a sunrise, a rain shower on a summer’s day, a blossom. We welcome gifts from others, be it a smile, a listening ear, a shared experience. We receive these everyday gifts and recognize the abundance that surrounds us.”
Finally, understanding leads to recognition of God’s love for us, especially through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, which allows us to return to His presence.
Whatever path students may pursue – in business or art, medicine or family – Strong-Krause encouraged them to find their anchor in knowledge of their true selves and to be unafraid in meeting their fullest potential, saying simply, “I encourage you to soar.”
—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)
Samuel covers events for the Department of Linguistics and English Language for the College of Humanities. He is a junior pursuing a degree in American studies with a minor in editing.
“Flying High” photo by rarbol2004; image cropped.